Innovation and enterprise blog

Introduction

This blog is written by members of the Business & IP Centre team and some of our expert partners and discusses business, innovation and enterprise. Read more

09 April 2021

Jennifer Earle, with her enticingly named Chocolate Ecstasy Tours, founded her business back in 2005 by doing the things she loved best; learning, London, meeting new people and tasting delicious food, especially chocolate! We caught up with Jennifer, a recent graduate of the Innovating for Growth programme, to find out how her business came about and an exciting new opportunity underway.

Image of Jennifer-Earle-Taste-Tripper-Founder-London

What was your background before starting Chocolate Ecstasy Tours?

I ran the tour's business alongside full-time work, including a role as a Food Buyer at M&S and a Food Developer at McDonald’s.  I was already writing about food part-time and from 2006 I started getting invited to speak on the radio, to be on TV, to judge food awards and to speak at events.

I finally began working full-time on Chocolate Ecstasy Tours in 2013 and added more tours, more dates and more workshops and events – including teaching chocolate workshops in schools and running food innovation days for companies.  The tours gradually became premium as the experience and knowledge of my guiding team increased and we reduced the maximum number of guests on a tour reduced to eight.

This commitment to quality was always going to restrict how large I could grow the tour's business. I really wanted to make something that could reach more people and promote more of the amazing food businesses we have in London, but in a way that still hit the core values of quality, discovery, effortlessness and fun.  I’d been mulling over the options for years but the idea for Taste Tripper didn’t all click into place until one evening in 2015. I shared the idea with my husband who was so enthusiastic about it he wanted to get involved.

What makes Taste Tripper unique?

Taste Tripper is – as far as I know – the world’s first self-guided tasting tour business.  Our Explorer Packs are a really effortless and flexible way to discover part of London’s amazing food scene.  The partner locations in the Taste Tripper Explorer Packs all offer something delicious for you, just for turning up! And, like a VIP, you get a special deal on any extra purchases, too. 

What we hope will keep us unique is our commitment to quality.  We will only ever send people to places that we believe are fabulous.

What challenges has the business faced along the way?

Being a new concept meant that we had to convince businesses to work with us.  Mostly in principle, this has been easy but, as we mostly work with small businesses that have a lot on their plate, it can take time to get them to send us the information we need and approve things.

We had some dire printing errors which were quite expensive and I don’t think we could have done anything differently to have avoided them.  We also had our trademark challenged by a big company which meant thousands on lawyer fees before we’d even made a hundred sales.  There were tough decisions to make but we are proud that we stood our ground and won!

Through the British Library Innovating for Growth programme we had fantastic, honest feedback and we called our first customers for more of the same.  It’s been so enlightening and inspiring and made us go back to the drawing board on quite a few significant things.  It’s been quite frustrating that it has taken us some months to get the changes ready, but we hope to be bringing these big improvements to market in September and finally start promoting the business again!

Image of Chocolate-brownie-notting-hill

What advice would you give to any small business owners thinking of developing a new product?

The most valuable thing for us was contacting customers and asking them to speak with us and give us feedback.  The sooner you can do this, the better.   Trying to sell as soon as possible will show you there’s a market.  But then you need to ask those people who parted with money if they are happy and how they could be happier.

We probably would have benefited from discussing our ideas with more people and listening harder for their suggestions.  But people will tell you different things so try to focus only on the things that keep being mentioned.  It’s important to have the courage of your convictions over the smaller stuff, especially if you think you know your market well. 

I would also advise anyone that good products don’t happen quickly.  Whatever time span you had planned for launch or growth: double it.  And maybe double it again. 

You grew the business with the help of our Innovating for Growth programme. What specifically did the programme help you achieve?

 The honest feedback from experienced people was invaluable. It forced us to really look at what was working, what wasn’t and what was important.  We got clearer on what we wanted the business to stand for, how we could communicate that and what changes we needed to make.  The technical advice for ensuring we have a watertight business was also brilliant and so useful.

During the three months we decided to change the redemption from tear-off paper strips on the cards to online redemption, whilst still keeping the attractive giftable Explorer Pack (it all seems so obvious now!) and we also decided to add a map to the homepage so customers could create their own London Explorer Pack.  We’ll eventually offer neighbourhood Explorer Packs, too.  It really feels like we have a much more solid business with real potential for growth. I’m so excited!

The retail industry is changing at a very fast rate and so are the services linked to it.  

Approximately 87% of British consumers have made an online purchase in the last 12 months, and the United Kingdom only comes after Norway for buying online in Europe. 

With the increase of e-retailing, the photography needs of a brand or a retailer have changed.  Advertising campaigns for print media, point of sale displays, billboard advertising and TV commercials are now sharing their budgets with the increased needs for a stronger web presence both on the website of the business and on its social media network.  

At Kalory Photo & Video Studio, we have seen a marked change in our client’s requests since the beginning of the year across all the different industries we are working with: multi-brand e-retailers, jewellery, watch, cosmetics, chocolate, drinks, furniture, sports brands, etc.  The same trends seem to be valid for both start-ups and established businesses too.  This is an empirical analysis of our field experiences in the last 12 months. 

Image watch on type-writer

More qualitative packshots

The first trend which seems extremely strong is an increase in the quality of product photography. For many, a packshot is a packshot, but there are actually different levels of quality possible and the quality of lighting and retouching can vary tremendously for the same product, and so does the final image.  The camera used has an impact too.  Since the beginning of the year, we have noticed a real change in the way clients approach pack shots. Budget allocated to this important visual section of the website has been increased and even outside the luxury industry, brands are upgrading the attention to details for all their e-commerce photography: positioning, colour correction, control of the reflections, visibility of the branding, etc. 

Professional Instagram pictures 

The development of Instagram stories allows businesses to keep in touch in a more relaxed and spontaneous way with their followers, while they are paying more attention to the quality of photography posted on their main feed. Instagram stories are perfect for quick snapshots taken by the communication teams to keep their audience posted on what is going on.  The feed is increasingly becoming a visual platform showing what the brand’s values are. The colour tones (cold or warm), the type of images posted (lifestyle, architectural lines, etc.) are key elements to consider in order to create a consistent feed that attracts followers.  Posting again and again about your products is not enough. The trend we have observed since March is to organise short photo shoots of 1h to 4h with a selection of products and props and to shoot a series of creative images with a basic to medium level of professional retouching. This enables us to create a large number of images on a small budget. The images are controlled and professionally lit, but still natural and not overly airbrushed which is the perfect blend for Instagram. This is especially effective when a mood board and a shooting list and schedule have been carefully prepared: it can be interesting for example to create a series of images with a certain colour tone followed by another series with a slight change in colours to create waves on the feed. 

Image of 2 diamond rings embedded with 3 jewels

Videos & moving images

Videos have been growing fast in the past few years: product videos and event videos mostly, but we have recently seen a surge in social media videos (which are usually around 15 seconds), as well as cinemagraphs.  They are mostly visuals without interviews or any sound takes,  and with a simple story, but need to be efficiently edited to get the right social media interactions. 

An increased involvement and commitment from brands.

An increasing number of clients are more involved, prepared and put more thoughts in their photography brief.  This is a clear sign of the importance photography and video has gained in the marketing and communication mix.  A larger number of members of the PR and marketing team is involved and mood boards, stories and precise creative ideas and angles, as well as a good analysis of what the competition is doing, is definitely becoming the mainstream rather than the exception.

The usage of photography is definitely changing fast. Everyone is taking pictures.  The life of a picture is both very short, almost instant, and very long: the image itself has to be impactful immediately, but it is also part of an overall visual display (Instagram feed, Facebook page, etc.) that will remain online, so the thought process when creating it, is definitely key. 

Knowing how fast visual communication and social media are changing, there is no doubt, that new trends will emerge soon, and brands and retailers need to keep a close eye on what is happening in this field of communication if they want to stay on the top of their game. 

24 March 2021

Design for a better life – the legacy of William Morris

Have you ever bought anything artisan made? It might be something like a beauty product, organic food or even sustainable handmade furniture? Or maybe an ethically made fashion item or you’ve sampled an exotic craft beer locally made by an independent brewer?

Our love for high quality products with an ethical heart can be traced back to a man and a movement. Step forward and take a bow, William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896). Pioneer, polymath and prophet; you changed our world and made it that little bit better by creating a lot more beauty.  

Image of Kelmscott Manor, William Morris' Bedroom

Morris was a founder of what became known as the Arts & Crafts movement and was its most well-known proponent.

Among his great achievements was to make high quality design a desirable commodity, and the world never looked back. It’s what Morris is most famous for today.

How did he do it and why? What role did design production and protection play in guaranteeing his success and reputation? When we explore these questions we discover a man and his time, eerily similar to our own.

He was a pioneer pushing against an age of mass-produced, badly designed factory products. ‘Made in Britain’ was an embarrassment and he wanted to change it. The country could (and would) make better and more beautiful things. Especially for the domestic home, a place of rest and recreation from a harsh and polluted world outside.

The rapid pace of industrialisation and manufacturing had come at a cost, not least a social one. It was widely felt that society had lost contact with the natural world and age old skills and crafts that connected us to it. Factories, those ‘dark satanic mills’, had crushed the artisans by sheer scale of efficiency. It had made the factory owners a ton of money.

Perhaps then it’s no surprise that the medieval age with its community guilds and love of nature and beauty represented a pre-modern innocence, a paradise to be regained. That’s why the middle ages gripped the imaginations of artists, writers, architects and social critics for much of the century.

Image of Bird and Pomegranate illustration

Morris lived in this world and he wanted to re-shape it, radically, by returning to the best of its past. This would be achieved through traditional ways of living and working, by changing the process of creating decorative arts. The craftsperson and artisan would become the centre of production.

So he founded a company with fellow artisans, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, later to become simply Morris & Co. Businesses today have vision statements and so did they. Theirs was, ‘art for all’ and they fully lived their vision.

Image of Daisy illustration

In a strange way, the world was ready for a new generation of entrepreneurs. The Victorian age was also the great age of reform. Historic Acts of parliament established a modern state and created a world recognisable to us moderns.

In the late 1830s, there was much talk in parliament to protect industry from unauthorised copying of designs and products, which was endemic and costing industry terribly. But there was also a need to safe-guard future exports from countries with a strong design heritage, such as France.  So during this time a system of design registration was enacted that we recognise today.

New legislation, such as the Ornamental Designs Act of 1842, expanded the coverage and copyright protection for proprietors of more crafted design, to recognise artistic originality as being of high value.

There were many other changes of significance such as the promotion of schools of design and public galleries to expose more of the public to works of ‘good taste’, thereby encouraging consumers to demand better designs. All of these reforms set the stage for William Morris.

He and his company would soon benefit from the intellectual property protection the design registration provided, as did many of his contemporaries.

Image of Trellis illustration

Some of his most famous wallpaper designs were registered by Morris & Co and are now held at the National Archives, the main repository of designs for this period. This includes illustrations such as ‘Daisy’ (171341) the first wallpaper by Morris to be put into production and ‘Trellis’ (173081) both registered in 1864.

Other examples registered for design protection were textile designs including ‘African Marigold’ (304147) 1876, and ‘Pomegranate’ (311179) also designed by Morris and registered in 1877. Also furniture fabric such as ‘Anemone’ (298226).[1] Here at the Business & IP Centre we have indexes of design for this period.

African Marigold illustration

It was soon apparent that there was an ‘alternative economy’ emerging. Morris understood something fundamental, people recognise and even demanded good design, and they will pay for it. He also understood the commercial importance of protecting it, not least to promote his work as well as to benefit the company and achieve its vision.

Morris’ extensive design portfolio included wallpaper, furniture, tiles and even stained glass windows, for the more affluent. He also recognised that people desired natural more than the synthetic, so natural vegetable dyes were used in printing rather than chemicals. We can all relate to that.

So by providing consumers with a choice to buy good design and crafted works of art, he forged an industry that would only grow bigger and bigger into the 20th Century and to our own.

Image of Kelmscott Manor

We live in a craft age.

Morris looks modern to us simply because he helped create our world. His priorities have become our priorities.

Today we value exceptional design more than ever and prioritise how it’s sourced and made. These values complement each other. The designer has retained their status and their creations are just as valuable to us. I wonder what Morris would think of the latest debates around design? In 2016, section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988) was repealed giving ‘works of artistic craftsmanship’, produced industrially, the same length of copyright as works of art, the life of the creator plus seventy years. A helpful boost for designers creating contemporary icons, just like Morris did.

Designers of today live out Morris’ original vision, “have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Now we all share his vision. We too can own a little work of art, thanks to a man and his movement.

 

[1] Selected works sourced from Halls, Julie. ‘Questions of attribution: Registered Designs at the National Archives’. Journal of Design History, Vol 6. No. 4.