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The IT Donut is born

August 26, 2010 by John McGarvey

IT DonutAfter a lot of hard work, more than a few donuts consumed, and assistance from a whole bunch of helpful experts, we're really pleased to announce that the IT Donut has launched.

We're really excited about getting our new site out in the world, so head on over to http://www.itdonut.co.uk to get your fix of IT advice and information for small businesses.

What do you think?

To use a bit of IT jargon, the IT Donut is currently version 1.0. We're pleased with it, but we're still looking for feedback and help so we can make it even better.

If you have any comments on the information the site contains, or how it looks and functions, send a quick email to info@itdonut.co.uk. Alternatively, leave a comment on the IT Donut website to tell us what you think.

Be one of our experts

We're also working hard to expand the information on the IT Donut. To do this, we're recruiting IT experts to help us.

If you're knowledgeable about any area of IT, we'd love to hear from you. Again, just send an email to info@itdonut.co.uk and we'll see how we can get you involved. In return you'll get exposure on the site, plus the warm feeling that comes from knowing you've helped out lots of small businesses.

Finally, don't forget that we'll be continuing to update this blog as normal alongside the main IT Donut website. You'll soon be able to see all the latest posts directly on the IT Donut homepage, but in the meantime, do keep checking back here for news and information too.

 

If you missed last week's, catch up here and below you will find the highlights of episode seven.

Quote of the Episode: "Not all good ideas are money-making ideas." Theo Paphitis

Idea 1
Product:
Gift Card Converter – online marketplace for buying/selling gift cards.
Investment sought: £50,000 for 25 per cent equity.
Handling: Confident pitch. They want investment to increase their marketing efforts and develop the business further. Duncan Bannatyne doesn't think it will make any money while Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden questioned the legalities of the business.
Outcome: No investment.
Verdict: Confident pitch and confident at answering questions, but the Dragons were concerned about whether the business was actually legal. No deal.

Idea 2
Product:
Surviva Jak – foil jacket for walkers to help prevent hypothermia.
Investment sought: £75,000 for 30 per cent equity.
Handling: Good initial pitch but lost their confidence when Duncan Bannatyne questioned their financial calculations. The male Dragons interrogated them over their market research but Deborah defended them, saying she could see they had made mistakes but didn't understand why they were coming in for such harsh criticism.
Outcome: Deborah Meaden offers them £75,000 for 45 per cent equity, they try to barter it down to 40 per cent but she won't budge. They accept 45 per cent. 
Verdict: A rocky pitch, they struggled under questioning, but received a good investment.  

Idea 3
Product:
Citidogs – Dog Crèche.
Investment sought:  £75,000 for 20 per cent.
Handling: Starts out seeming like an investable idea. Duncan Bannatyne suggests they go away and work out their financial projections – they haven't evaluated the true cost of their business as they're not taking a salary and haven't registered for VAT.
Outcome: No investment.
Verdict: Started well but need to think through their finances in more detail.

Idea 4
Product:
The Wand Company – buttonless remote control that works on movement.
Investment sought: £200,000 for 10 per cent.
Handling: Theo Paphitis looked impressed by the demonstration of the magic wands – a special take on remote controls. Product cost £50 when sold directly to customers but just £10 to make. Confident with their figures even under questioning. They received offers from all the Dragons. 
Outcome: Accepted Duncan Bannatyne's offer of £200,000 on a sliding scale starting with 30 per cent share and going down to 10 per cent if they make £1.2 million.
Verdict: Strong pitch and product demonstration. Interesting to see all five Dragons make offers.

What did you think of the episode?

Related articles:

Too much information! Where's the line between sign-up and turn-off?

August 20, 2010 by Emily Leary

I thought I’d take a moment out to tackle a personal bugbear of mine: excessive sign-up information requests.

Many websites quite reasonably ask users for sign-up information in order to access specific features like forums, or to join mailing lists, but sometimes, they just go too far:

  • Mother’s maiden name?
  • Annual net profit?
  • Favourite after dinner mint?

It’s very understandable to want to know as much as you possibly can about a customer so that you can serve them better, but if you ask too many questions, you’re encroaching unnecessarily on their time, and if your questions get too personal, you’re encroaching on their privacy.

Remember, by its very definition, sign-up information is usually requested at the beginning of your relationship, so why ask in depth questions about a person’s business practices and personal life that you wouldn’t dream of asking at a first face-to-face meeting? At best, your customers will plough through the questions with a feint feeling of resentment and at worst, they’ll change their mind and go somewhere else.

Of course, asking for too little information may make it difficult to follow up with customers and target future marketing campaigns, so think carefully about the core information you need to know, and ask for that and only that. Otherwise, prepare yourself for a barrage of aborted sign-ups and false information.

Emily Leary is director of Emily Cagle Communications

Notes on a Donut

August 18, 2010 by James Ainsworth

Some of you may know and some of you may not but this is my last day with BHP Information Solutions and so 15 months of being ‘the one behind the Marketing Donut Twitter account, the joint number 1 ranked Twitter account in Bristol and the one that did that 24 hour election live blog thing’ must, for me, come to an end.

I have enjoyed every tweet of my time here and getting to know what makes a small business tick has been a great education. We have had some great conversations online, you and I. We have created some brilliant articles together and shared some notable success. I am sure that with the help of the Marketing Donut (and the other Donut websites too!) you and your business will go on to have many future successes also.

For the Marketing Donut and @MarketingDonut, it will be small business resources and communication as usual and you will notice very little change from this day to the next. I wish the Donuts the absolute best for the future and know that I am leaving a resource that is truly valued by small businesses.

Best wishes

James Ainsworth

Dragons' Den digest - Week 6

August 17, 2010 by James Ainsworth

If you missed last week's, catch up here and below you will find the highlights of episode six.

Quote of the Episode: "Problem: Doesn't make money. Solution: I'm out." Peter Jones

Idea 1
Product:
Peel Engineering - The world's smallest production car with an electric engine
Investment sought: £80,000 for 10 per cent
Handling: They have an initial product but too many 'flights of fancy' revenue streams. Requires focus and a stronger business proposition.
Outcome: A hard fought negotiation saw them secure £80,000 for 30 per cent of the company. James Caan also secured himself one of every design of the vehicles.
Verdict: With a strong business partner and savvy investor, the pair could make a good go of their business.

Idea 2
Product:
Angel Cot - a multi-purpose baby unit.
Investment sought: £150,000 for 40 per cent
Handling: A relatively straight forward presentation suddenly descended into a ridiculous pitch with the second half being performed through the medium of song. Product was trying too hard to be all things.
Outcome: No investment
Verdict:  Pitch poor and then there was the singing...

Idea 3
Product:
Advanced Building Designs - A variety of products for the plumbing and building industry
Investment sought: £89,000 for 15 per cent
Handling: A beautifully choreographed presentation. They would be great on a TV shopping channel. The product was deemed unnecessary and 'fixing' a problem that did not exist.
Outcome: No investment
Verdict: James Caan said, "You are just going to burn my money"

Idea 4
Product:
Funky Moves - Interactive play equipment
Investment sought: £120,000 for 20 per cent
Handling: Set the cat amongst the pigeons revealing costs for tooling to create more stock and disclosing that he had received £140,000 in Government grants to establish the product. Some Dragons were well and truly riled. Duncan threatened to go offshore. 
Outcome: A joint investment from Theo and Peter saw Funky Moves give away 50 per cent of his business in order to secure £120,000
Verdict: Once Peter Jones saw the bigger picture, the investment was always going to be forthcoming.

What did you think of the episode?

Related articles:

Reuse, Recycle, Reinvent

August 12, 2010 by Ben Dyer

It’s holiday season in the UK, the time of the year every company dreads, but every employee looks forward to. For business owners it’s a bitter sweet time of the year. I am no exception having just returned from an excellent weekend break to watch the F1 in Budapest.

In between the trips to the race track I did what tourists the world-over do, which is to explore. During one trip with friends we discovered a fantastic bar called Szimpla (http://www.szimpla.hu/). The Szimpla ethos is brilliant. When a building is deemed unfit for purpose, instead of knocking it down they take it over and set up a bar. Szimpla, by my reckoning, is an excellent example of how to turn something old and unloved into a business that is both exciting and profitable.

In business there can be a huge temptation to simply consider everything that appears past its sell-by-date as completely irrelevant. I know I have done this many times in my career, sometimes to my cost. This is especially important in the tech market, which a colleague of mine often refers to as nothing more than a fashion show!

We can really learn from this. I am a massive advocate for innovation, always looking for the next big thing to invent or focus on. However innovation should be twinned with a focus on reusing and recycling what you already have. Especially in this economic climate, it just makes complete sense.

Ben Dyer is director of product development for SellerDeck

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