investment partnerships

Getting Business Funding Is Easier Than the Dragons Den

Real World Funding for Entrepreneurs

There is a wealth of opportunity for today’s entrepreneurs to fund their business dream without having to face the ridicule of the TV Dragons.

Dragons Den has been one of the TV success stories of the past decade, and has been the inspiration for the similar Shark’s Tank in the USA. But while it has made plenty of money for the broadcasters, this is, at heart, entertainment first and business funding second.

Back here in the real world, there are certainly angel investors around, and according to research by Nesta, they make around 22 percent per annum. In today’s economy that is stratospheric compared with other forms of investment, but as any business finance brokers in Essex will tell you, that means they are extremely choosy about the businesses they invest in.

Fortunately, the businesses themselves can afford to be choosy too. There are plenty of other ways to raise finance, so let’s take a first principles approach.

Look before you leap

Before you start searching for investment, it’s vital that you lay the groundwork. You must understand your business completely, and have a clear vision of what you need and why you need it.

A carefully crafted business plan, complete with realistic projections for the medium term is the perfect way to wrap it all together. Take your time over it, and don’t be shy about asking friends and associates for their input.

Government initiatives

The government has been vociferous in its support for entrepreneurs and there are numerous government grants available for a variety of purposes. This is why it is so important to be clear about how much you are after and what you need it for.  Most grants will match the amount that you are willing to put in so if, for example, you are seeking a £10,000 grant, make sure you have the same amount available.

There are also government-backed business startup loans whereby you can borrow up to £25,000 at a rate of interest that is vastly lower than anything you would find from a conventional lender. The typical repayment period is five years, and you also get some free business mentoring for the first 12 months as part of the deal.

Do you really need a loan?

Most small business and startup owners look at debt financing, or loans, in the first instance. It’s a logical enough place to start, and most of us are familiar with how it works from our domestic experiences. But for a new business that has no history or track record, it is not necessarily the best choice.

It could be that equity financing represents a more sensible option. There are tax relief opportunities that can help make your business a highly attractive proposition to some investors. Examples include the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), both of which permit investors to receive significant tax breaks.

Another form of equity financing that might be worth considering is crowdfunding via a platform like Crowdcube. Just be aware that this type of funding works better for some enterprises than it does for others. It is most effective with consumer-facing businesses, but it takes energy and involvement to really make it work.

animated images

Discover The Latest Marketing Design Tricks

Keeping Your Printed Content Contemporary

Brochures, advertising banners and product catalogues can rapidly look outdated unless you keep up with changing trends in design and style. This can give the subconscious impression that your business is outdated too, so it is important to keep your media and marketing materials looking fresh and contemporary.

Here, we have spoken to a leading provider of digital printing services to understand the most popular graphic design trends for 2018 that will help your content look cutting edge in the year ahead.

Hand drawn effects

Standing out from the crowd is more important than ever in the modern age, and is also harder to achieve. People look straight past stock images, and 2018 will be the year of custom, hand crafted illustrations. The beauty of it is that the possibilities are limitless and you are guaranteed a result that is absolutely unique.

Make the typography stand out

On the same theme, there are so many ways to play with fonts these days, there is no excuse for typography to look standardised and boring. Unusual typefaces are a good start, but you can take it a step further by having the lettering cropped, or subtly misaligned, to create a look that is all your own.

Be bold

Pastel shade might look great in your conservatory, but for attention-grabbing graphic design, bold is beautiful. Even in small splashes, bright images in statement colours like red and neon capture the eye. Don’t be shy, the bolder the better!

Metallic effects

Of course, there are some circumstances in which you want to steer clear of bold colours, for example when you need to create a sombre or serious effect. That doesn’t have to mean boring, however. Metallic elements add a wow factor without looking frivolous or childish.

Transitions and gradients

2017 saw a shift away from flat colours and a move towards gradients and transitioning. It produces some interesting effects, and you can expect this trend to increase over the coming year.

Beautiful-blonde young woman wearing sunglasses shorts green top and handbag standing on the street

Marketing For Fashion Designers

Your Four Keys To Success

When it comes to marketing for the fashion industry, there are a few steps you can take to stay ahead of your competitors.

Marketing is essential to the success of every business, and it’s right for a company owner to invest a lot into it. In the highly competitive fashion industry, a great marketing campaign is even more vital, and will give a designer an edge on their rivals. So where should a designer start? With just a few small changes, you could be seeing results in no time at all. Whether you are a newcomer or an established name in the industry, there is never a wrong time to give your marketing strategy an overhaul. So, let’s get started!

Paid media

First things first, think about your paid media. This is advertising that you take out, and it’s usually either online, in print, on the radio or on television. Whether you opt for all of those or just one is entirely up to you, but you need to plan carefully first. Think about the message of your fashion brand, and who you want to wear your clothes. Then target the sites, publications, radio stations and channels they favour. If you are advertising across multiple platforms, something to unify your campaigns would be great. A slogan would work, as well as a recognisable logo or colour scheme.

Beautiful woman white skirt high heels and jeans jacket sitting the bed on the rooftopImage models

Image models for hire are a great way of helping your fashion label to make a good impression. If you are planning to throw a launch party, then some gorgeous girls wearing some of your latest designs would be a fantastic addition to your guest list. As well as looking beautiful in your clothes, image models will also work the room and get guests talking, helping to create a buzzing atmosphere. When you want to make a good impression in person, then image models should be part of your party plan.

Social media

@shantigriffinSocial media is one of the most powerful tools a fashion designer can have at their disposal. With millions of users across sites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, you’ll be able to promote your fashion label to a huge audience. Instagram is particularly suited to those in the fashion industry, as the images do the talking. Take a look at some of the most successful fashion designers in the world and how they run their accounts for inspiration. Most social media sites are free to use too, so you’d be silly to not take advantage of all that it offers.


Last but not least are public relations. A celebrity wearing one of your designs could transform the fortunes of your fashion label overnight, so be sure to send some goodies to their management teams or P.O boxes. Personal appearances by you, the designer, can work wonders too. Many people struggle with whether to keep their PR efforts in-house or not. There’s no right or wrong decision, just do what feels right for you and your brand. If you do outsource, then be sure to liaise with your PR team on a regular basis.

Take the next step today

With so many tools and resources at your disposal now, putting together a really good marketing campaign is easier than it’s ever been. With image models available for all kinds of events too, you can add an extra, more personal layer to your marketing efforts. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to introduce your label to the world!

2018 Graphic Design Trends

How To Embrace The Hottest Stylistic Approaches To Graphics

Chaos and disruption are big themes in graphic design this year. Learn how to layer your images and use tricks such as colour channels to great effect.

If you want your visual communication to really ‘pop’ this year, then it’s important that you incorporate the latest styles into your creative images. Whether you’re putting together website images, marketing materials or album covers, there are various trends that are red-hot at the moment. By using some of them, you’ll send out a signal that your brand is relevant and hasn’t been left behind in 2017. Here are some techniques to try.

Embracing Typography

Graphic design isn’t all about the images – text is also key to keeping the audience engaged. There are a number of popular typography techniques to play around with this year. Cropped typography removes part of the letter, making it more challenging for the message to be delivered to the reader. A skillful Essex web design team must be able to erase just enough of the letter while keeping it readable, which is no easy feat.

Chaotic typography also approaches text in a similar way of forcing the eye to do a lot of work. Instead of sticking to the traditional rules of alignment, the text is placed haphazardly across the design to create a mish-mash which both attracts and excites the viewer.

Illustration Over Photography

In the past there has been clear competition between the use of photos or illustrations in graphic design. Both have their advantages; viewers are easily able to visualise themselves in photographs as the surroundings are often familiar, whereas illustration is effective because it can break the boundaries of reality and push creativity to the edge.

However, why choose one over the other when you can have both? Artists like Justin M Maller have been experimenting with a combination of both art forms, often using a photograph as the background and then layering a delicate illustration on top.

Asos glitched graphic design methodGlitch And Ruined Effects

Imperfection is central to this gritty style which has been adopted by big brands such as ASOS in their advertising campaigns. The glitch effect refers to a photo file that seemingly looks as if it has been corrupted, as parts of the picture will be sharp while others are pixelated and blurry. Horror movie enthusiasts will be familiar with this trend, as it has long been used as a popular after-effect in this genre.

Similar to the glitch effect, the ruined effect takes this one step further and has pieces of the image ripped, scraped or broken away to reveal a ruined version of the picture. This destructive trend is extremely fashionable in 2018.

Seeing Double

Graphic design loves to play with colours and techniques, and while it may be time to say goodbye to stylistic approaches such as duotone, this classic trick has evolved into double exposure duotone instead. The eye is immediately caught by the overlap of two different, but often similar images that are displayed using monochrome colours. By using colour channels, which are another big hit this year, the artist is able to achieve a shot that looks as if it’s depicting a time lapse.

spotify first

Double light is another variation of this theme. A simple composition has two sources of coloured light hitting it, which gives it a modern, edgy appearance.

If you’re looking to update your graphic designs, then the key is not to use all of the trends in each image. By combining one or two of the hottest techniques with basic design principles, you’ll attract attention for all the right reasons this year.

paper cups

Keep Promoting After The Event Is Over

The Hard Work has Only Just Begun

Just because your event is over doesn’t mean that you should stop promoting it. In fact, you should up your efforts.

Lots of work goes into planning a great corporate event. How then, do you keep people interested? The buzz of an event fades pretty quickly once it’s over, and if attendees frequent a lot of them, it’s going to be hard to make yours stick in their minds. So apart from creating an incredible atmosphere at your event and investing as much as possible into great speakers and resources, plan for when it’s all over. You need to put just as much effort into your post-event strategy so that you can keep those conversations going long after the doors have closed and everyone has headed home.

A feedback questionnaire

One of the most effective ways of keeping your guests interested after your event is asking them for feedback. Not only will you be getting valuable insight into their experience of your event, you can also continue to promote your brand or product (and encourage attendees to spread the word). The key is to leave a short amount of breathing room between the end of the event and your follow up questions. A week is a reasonable amount of time, as they aren’t likely to have forgotten too much.

Branded paper cups

Paper cups are another great way of promoting your event. Inviting your guests to take a hot drink as they leave is going to earn you serious kudos, and they’ll be taking something home with your branding on it. Printed paper cups will deliver your company’s message and raise brand awareness. You could also send some paper cups out along with other branded material in goody bags a short while after your event. That’s bound to impress!

Newsletters and blogs

Set up a newsletter or blog to keep your target audience interested after your event. Posting regular, quality content is one of the best ways of keeping your attendees engaged with your brand. Interviewing key speakers at your event, detailing the behind the scenes action or keeping people updated on the organisation of your next event are all good places to start. You should also encourage guest blog posts from speakers and guests detailing what they gained from attending your event.

Connect on social media

A good social media presence is vital in business. It’s also a great way to keep in touch with the people that you want to impress. Whether it’s Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, you have a huge audience waiting right there for you. Social media is a great way to show a more relaxed, informal side to your business, and this is what people connect with. So share some snaps, follow the right users, and use it to reach out to people who couldn’t attend your event too.

Set up a LinkedIn group

To stop everyone drifting apart once the event is over, create a LinkedIn group. The most famous networking website in the world can be a really effective tool in your post-event strategy. Promote your LinkedIn group during your event to ensure plenty of people join, and then after it’s over routinely promote blog posts and articles relating to your event. You can also invite members of the group to share their thoughts and expertise, further strengthening your relationship with them.

Keep that conversation going!

So there you have it – five simple ways you can carry on promoting your event even when it’s over. Having a solid plan before your event even begins is the best option, so that you can really hit the ground running in the days and weeks following. By continuing to work hard after the event is over, you’ll disguise yourselves from any competitors who have no clear strategy.


Your Business System Must Be Integrated

Integrated Systems Lead to Business Success

If your business relies on multiple systems to carry out day to day tasks, the time is right to reap the benefits of integration.

Increasingly, a modern business relies on its IT systems to get by. It is worth taking a step back and thinking about those letters for a moment. When it comes to Information Technology, it is too often the case that the technology is haphazard and the information is inaccurate, incomplete or just plain missing.

For most organisations, the IT systems have evolved at the same rate as the business. This means that there is an accounting system, a client database, an inventory and ordering system and so on. These typically contain overlapping and sometimes contradictory data, and have little or no integration with one another.

Worse still, ageing legacy systems are not the most intuitive things to operate, and can be a real drain on morale, efficiency and management time. If any or all of this sounds familiar, it is high time you used systems integration to bring your business into the 21st century.

What is systems integration?

As the name suggests, systems integration is a process by which your diverse IT systems and applications are integrated to work together as a single coordinated system.

Using a modern and intuitive user interface, it allows you to enter data into one central location, and from there it will be shared across all applications. Even if you think your existing systems are beyond the reach of modern technology, you would be amazed at what systems integration experts can achieve – and if your legacy systems really are beyond salvation, they will be able to recommend an effective alternative.

Why integrate?

If your business is using siloed systems that all operate independently, the result will be duplication and confusion at best, or outright mistakes and angry customers at worst. Furthermore, your staff will feel frustrated and jobs that should take two minutes can end up taking 20.

Systems integration improves productivity, relieves the frustration and brings a host of other benefits:

  • Easy adoption

Introducing a new staff member to an ancient IT system can feel like inducting them into some ancient magical code. It can take weeks to get fully up to speed, even when the speed in question is a snail’s pace. And that is just for one system. With integrated systems, the user interface is intuitive and looks familiar from the outset. And best of all, you only have to learn it once.

  • Better insights

Today’s businesses rely on their data to make the right strategic choices. With an integrated system, you can run reports and view correlations that would simply not be possible with separate legacy systems.

  • Reduced errors

If you have a client’s details entered five times in five systems, it is five times more likely that a mistake will creep in somewhere, leading to misunderstandings, delays and making your company look unprofessional. With an integrated system, you need only enter it once.

  • Reduced storage

One data set also demands far less storage space than five. And with modern cloud-based systems, the storage demands can be reduced to practically nothing.

  • Better security

Just see it from the customer’s perspective. Where would you prefer your personal data to be stored – on one modern system or on five ancient ones?

Stop the pain

Intuitively, every business knows that system integration makes sense, but many continue to do nothing, fearing that business will be in some way compromised. It is easy to find reasons not to do something, but by taking action now, you can bring manifold benefits to your business.

Conference speaker

Planning A Brand Launch Event?

When it comes to planning your event, consider hiring a coffee bar to supply your guests with delicious hot drinks.

Are you planning an event to launch your brand or business? No doubt you’ve researched all the usual options, but what about something a little different? Standing out from the crowd will help people to remember your brand, and you’ll be able to establish a good reputation and customer base much more quickly. A coffee bar is a great way to bring your guests together at your launch party. After all, what boosts someone’s mood quite like the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and some great company? Here’s how a coffee bar rental could totally transform your upcoming launch event.

Setting the scene

Using a coffee bar as a starting point, set up a space that’s far from the usual corporate launch. Instead of the impersonal setting of an expensive restaurant or fancy bar, create something that’s welcoming and warm. Cosy armchairs, soft lighting, calming music – the coffee shop of your dreams basically! While this may seem like a dramatic departure from the standard launch party, it’s really going to make you stand out. Just ask yourself, which kind of event would you remember – an impersonal, indentikit launch, or somewhere where you can enjoy a coffee and really get to familiarise yourself with the business?

Baristas suitable for any business launch

You don’t have to be in the food or drinks industry to have a coffee bar at your product launch. You could be launching a new online business or re-branding your existing building company, it really doesn’t matter! There’s no need to worry about how to run your coffee bar either. If you hire your bar from a trusted company like Henry’s, you’ll be hiring some experienced baristas too. They’ll be able to create some truly delicious coffees, as well as other hot drinks, including exotic creations like chilli hot chocolate! Your baristas will serve up these drinks quickly and expertly, leaving you free to network and forge those all important business connections, no matter your industry.

Bring out the branding

There’s a way that you can take your brand launch to another level, and that’s with branded cups to serve your coffee in. These will be a great point of interest for your guests, and are a great conversation starter. They will also allow you to really tie in your business with the event by having some strong visual branding for your guests to focus on. So if you have just had a new company logo designed and are looking for a really effective way of getting your message out there, this is it!

Here’s to a successful launch party!

In the world of business, offering something different to your rivals is essential. By throwing a product launch event that’s a little more unusual, you’ll establish yourself as a company who aren’t afraid to think outside of the box. Your attention to detail when planning such a special event will earn you kudos too. This will make you seriously attractive to customers and clients alike, who will remember you long after your brand launch has finished.

data resource planning

Accurate Data Is Key to Good Resource Planning

How Good is the Data Being Fed to Your Resource Management Software?

Every company needs effective resource management. But even the best software is only as good as the data it relies on.

Resource management is key to every business, whether it is a legal firm booking out its top lawyers by the hour and making optimum use of its paralegals; a supermarket having the right number of tills open at the right time; a restaurant allocating tables for Christmas dinner; or a car factory having the right number of engines to slot into next week’s production schedule.

In years gone by, the allocation and management of resources was fraught with inaccuracy, guesswork and waste. Yet today, every good business has state of the art resource management software that removes the guesswork, automates the process and optimises resource allocation to maximise revenue and minimise costs, right? Well, not necessarily.

We have all heard of the phrase “garbage in, garbage out,” and any IT system is only as good as the data it has to work with. It is certainly true that the right system can provide a genuine competitive edge through all the factors we mentioned above, but only if the data is accurate and credible.

Let’s take a look at three metrics you need to consider when assessing just how good your project management data really is. We call them the three Cs.


It is essential that the data you are using in relation to the project and resources is consistent across all the schedules. In other words, there must be agreed metrics and timescales in place across the board, and every project manager must be singing from the same hymn sheet.

Look at it this way – if two projects include the same piece of work but have completely different plans for its completion, the overall picture will make no sense whatsoever.

An effective way of ensuring consistency is to create templates that include the tasks, skills and jobs that are likely to be involved, along with standardised work patterns. That way, everyone can see what is expected.


However good your resource management software is, it does not have psychic powers. If there is data missing, the outputs are certain to be inaccurate. Make sure routine, ad hoc and departmental work is all logged in the system, as well as the formal projects.


Data decays at a faster rate than you would believe possible. Unless everyone is committed to processing timesheet data regularly, the output from your resource management system will consistently be working on yesterday’s news.

As well as keeping the system constantly updated, Project Managers must also ensure they progress their plans according to the agreed deadlines. Any changes in scope need to automatically trigger a re-evaluation of the entire project.

Keeping the guesswork out

Pay attention to the Three Cs and your resource planning software can deliver all the benefits and competitive advantages that we mentioned earlier and more. Ignore them, however, and your business will be plunged back into the 20th century world of inspired guesswork.

tax accounts

Accounts Advice for Web Start Ups

Always Remember the Numbers

There are a million things to think about when starting a new web venture. Remember to take care of the basics to ensure success.

Despite the tough financial times we are living in at present, there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. In some ways, the increased spirit of free enterprise has even been helped along by the economic downturn that started around nine years ago.

As major businesses struggled, many individuals felt there was nothing to lose in going it alone and were prompted to take a step that they might have thought twice about in better economic times.

Today, small business experts Linda Carr Accountants see no indication of the trend slowing down. The technological age means almost anyone can start their own business, and those who operate predominantly online have minimal startup costs and therefore very low barriers to entry.

The great juggling act

Of course, starting a business is one thing, making a success of it is something else. According to an oft-quoted statistic, some 85 percent of new businesses fold within the first 18 months.

Anyone who takes the plunge will be working tirelessly to ensure their company falls into the 15 percent that go on to succeed, and that means keeping a lot of balls in the air. Managing the day to day operation, developing new business, gathering customer feedback, steering the medium and long term strategy, ensuring the marketing is effective and on brand – these are just a few of the topics that will be keeping the business owner busy all day and wakeful all night.

It is easy to take your eye off the most important ball of all. In the end, a business is there to make money, and if there is a problem with the accounts, it could spell disaster and an early bath.

Accounts advice

It is essential for any business to keep a close eye on the finances, but particularly so for a start up. The vast majority of new business failures are brought about by a problem with the cash flow rather than any deficiency in the overall business model.

You therefore need a skilled accountant onboard from the word go. To try and fulfil this role yourself is a false economy that will more often than not end in disaster.

For a small business, that does not necessarily mean hiring – even larger businesses often outsource the accounting function these days, so it generally makes sense to use the services of a local accounting firm.

Relationship building

You cannot keep secrets from your doctor, and similarly, your business needs to be completely open with your accountant. Relationship building is important, and they will be able to help you grow the business into one that is healthy, viable and efficient.

There are a number of different accounting methods that can be used, and these depend on various factors. It is far easier to start out on the right foot than to try and change horses midstream, which is another reason it is so important to have good financial advice from the get go.

With this in place, you have the freedom to focus on those other aspects of business development and strategy building to drive your business forward.

building the web

3 Ways To Drive More Website Leads

Use Web Design To Give Your Site Conversions A Boost

If you’re looking to get more out of the daily traffic that lands on your site, then take a look at your design layout and content to drive more leads.

Search engine optimisation and social media have become the foundation of any company’s approach to gaining a strong digital presence online. When used effectively, both can help a website acquire thousands or even millions of visitors. However, such traffic is arguably useless if you are unable to capture the attention of these users and convert them into leads or sales for your organisation. An effective web design can help you do just that. Here are some essentials to consider when trying to drive more website leads.

Call To Action (CTA)

Each page of your website should have a goal for your end user to meet. Are you trying to get site visitors to commit to a sale? Request a callback? Submit their contact details in return for a free download? Whatever your marketing goal is, be sure that it is obvious to your visitors. Include obvious CTA buttons that are easy to locate and offer clear guidance.

Clean Layout

Gone are the days of using fancy Flash features which slow down and irritate your users. Instead, site visitors want to obtain information rapidly. With this in mind, ensure that your layout is uncluttered and menus are intuitive and easy to navigate. Users should be able to find the info they’re looking for, ideally within 2 clicks. An award winning web design agency is essential for advising you on how to choose an effective layout for your business.

Compelling Copy

An attractive web design can only take you so far, the content of your site also speaks volumes about the professionalism and knowledge of your organisation. Pay attention to the headlines you use, which should aim to grab the attention of your audience. A copywriter will be able to assist you in putting across your message and establishing yourself as an authority within your industry. You might also want to include testimonials and positive client reviews which will help to solidify your reputation.

Whether you’re putting together a brand-new website, or are revamping the appearance and set-up of an existing one, always have your marketing goals in mind and remember the needs of the user when they’re visiting your site.