Friday, 31 October 2008

Time for another Picture

So what do you think? This is what the home page should look like sometime very soon except that following feedback the text will be darker to make it easier to read.

It is not just what you are good at...

The feedback from my questionnaire is flooding in. It is fascinating to hear the feedback. I was initially a little cynical, thinking that it would just be good for data capture, but it really is influencing all my plans. (As is this blog, as following a comment I may well go to Zoomerang rather than Surveymonkey in the future - thanks Rob).

The thing that is most interesting is that it is highlighting some real weaknesses that I had not considered. Chief amongst those are my spelling and grammar! At school I was a scientist then since have done a couple of arts degrees, so it is clear that the humanities (and English) are not my strong points. It goes against the grain to say it, but this criticism is so worthwhile, it never crossed my mind that this would be an issue. Potential customers are saying that if they see a typo either they would log straight off, or they would just trust the sight significantly less.

It reminds me of a conversation that I had with...the head of the Swindon Festival of Literature (sorry, were you waiting for a good name for me to drop? as they don't get much better than that). He was saying how Will Self attended his festival as there were no spelling mistakes on any of the correspondence. Three things struck me, first being: my surprise this a critical issue and that standard documents must be littered with typos; secondly, that this should matter, and finally how smug the guy was to focus the conversation on a banal comment about his qualities. Apparently I should have taken note, as it is an area of concern that is deeply relevant to many people.

I am not saying that I will never make a typo, but at least now I know that I am crap at spelling and really must get someone to sub-edit. So apologies for my English, on this blog at least I will stumble on as before but hope that my honest approach to sharing information will compensate for all other errors.

p.s. Is is mitigating circumstances that fact that I have a dog who appears to relish licking my legs while I type? Yuck, it is off putting.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Legal Redress?

I have by now spent over a thousand pounds on lawyers fees. One of the things that persuaded me to get my lawyer to set up the company was he fixed me with his steely eyes and asked me if I understood what I had copy and pasted into my Memorandum and Articles; while he was impressed that I had read them his glare made my confidence seep from every pore and I commissioned him to do the job. I have just received confirmation from Companies House that it is all set up, but rather than merely not fully understanding the governing documents, now I have not even seen them!
I got the lawyer to help with my T&Cs (apparently in business you never say Terms and Conditions in full). I had wished that I had known that the FSB has down loadable T&Cs on its site available to members.
In retrospect I am not sure I should have commissioned such a large job - frivolous no, necessary, I am not convinced.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Bank Interest

Credit crunch or not I need a loan to start this business. I have been liberally using the banks' information as a basis for my business plan and cash flow forecast, and now it was time to go into battle.

I had heard that RBS was a good friend for start-ups and take an interest in helping women entrepreneurs and prior to this latest financial debacle they appeared sound. Alas the nearest appropriate branch is over a hundred miles away so on with the quest.

Quickly I narrowed it down to HSBC and Barclays. I have banked with Barclays since before I could say ethics (thanks Mum) and HSBC came recommended by many included my technical guru. Then I thought that I should pursue the ethical angle and contacted the Co-op. So with three in mind I started my inquisition.

Fortunately I contacted Co-op first as they proved an interesting bench mark and it was the start of another circuitous journey. Interest rates on a business loan would be 10.33% with an arrangement fee of £100. This sounded quite impressive, but it had strings attached - I could only get a loan if I had an account for over a year unless I joined the FSB. F S Who? Federation of Small Business, an organisation who thus far had escaped my radar. Membership of the FSB would be in the region of £150, but they could not confirm nor deny that until I met with a representative. They were darned evasive they required a face to face meeting to give me any real information. So, on with the quest.

HSBC had the telephone manner of a prison warder with tooth ache and thought that, if I was incredibly fortunate and clever, they would offer me a loan at 16% interest. However, both directors must sign away their lives for the privilege and that would cost an additional £160 to arrange. Onwards, there must be something better than that.

Barclays were keen to meet so I arranged to visit the manager of my local branch. They very much sell the expertise of their business managers as a bonus for banking with them, so I put on a shining suit of armour to do battle and prove my credentials. Poor guy, when you are pushing retirement it must be difficult to suggest gravitas wearing the corporate teal polyester tie and shiny black striped shirt. Nevertheless I attacked with gusto, and being a local branch in an undynamic area, I may have over-pitched. Suffice to say, I had the upper hand and he was determined to match if not improve on the C0-op's terms; I was being begged for my custom but he had to appeal to his boss / the central computer for decent loan terms for me. Sadly this coincided with Barclay's darkest liquidity day and he came back with an offer of 20% plus arrangement fees.

Back to the Co-op and the shady world of the FSB. I am delighted with the results! The FSB has enabled me to shortcut an array of difficulties. It did cost £150 to join but I get free banking for life with the Co-op so the subs should be covered with that alone. I also get a legal helpline that I have since used twice, and a range of other discounts. The best one is help with Internet payment, via Streamline. For many companies you need to be established a year to be able to take on-line payments but none of those hurdles apply and they have the lowest rates around.

If you have been reading all these posts you can see that the need for the loan is real, £100 here, £150 there and so far nothing real to show for it - but I am getting there. I am proud to be banking with the Co-op that is all set up, with Internet payment capacity and loan pending - but with only 10.33% interest and lovely friendly people things are looking rosy.

What does it do?

I have been focusing so much on the mechanics of the business I have failed to talk about what it actually does.

'Mothers of Innovation' is going to be the best website, selling cool and practical stuff for families that has been designed / sourced / invented by parents and thoroughly tested on our own kids.

When my daughter started to go to nursery I initially came up with the idea for a 'Rockin Hood' as we needed the warmth of a coat but with more flexibility. From that design and loads of compliments the concept of a resource for parents with similar eureka products emerged and then 'Mothers of Innovation' was born. 'Mothers of Innovation' will be selling loads of great stuff, as well as my 'Rockin Hoods' from where it all began.

Hopefully that will explain the two logos, which have been a source of confusion!

'Mothers of Innovation' will only sell stuff that I would buy, it will be as ethical as possible and will be looking for long term happy relationships with buyers and sellers. While at this stage I am really keen to find as many sellers as possible I am still turning people away if I don't think their products are up to scratch...(scary, bleeping scary).

The other thing that is really influencing the final format of the site is a questionnaire. My lovely Business Link lady recommended 'Survey Monkey' for on-line questionnaires. If you only want something simple it is a free service - and although the designs are a bit basic it is really user friendly. I now have a new vice, forget Facebook, checking Survey Monkey for completed questionnaires is far more compulsive. You can see what the survey looks like as, at present there is a link to the survey from my home page or if you need to type it in you can try the shorter version

Please feed back if you have any thoughts on the holding page - or anything at all really.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

My Marketing Postcard

Well, I needed something and a post card seemed so much more stylish than a flyer. Besides, there is a chance it may be used minimising the eco-extravagance of marketing.
Dot Com Dot did her usual magic and came up with a great design.
I did a fair amount of shopping around and settled on Vista Print, the big on line company as they seemed infinitely cheapest...then. Since settling on Vista I have got a little frustrated, the original appearance of 500 cards for £44 rose quickly to £82 once they had added on a range of expected and less expected fees - then they bored and frustrated me by the endless attempts to get me to buy more.
I'll update you shortly on my credit crunch discussions with a range of banks...I think I am going to have a happy ever after story there

Wednesday, 1 October 2008


I have just heard that the company has now been formed! Yippeee! It is now official! Welcome to the world 'Mothers of Innovation'!
Hard work and long hours await, but I am sure that this will be a success as it is a great idea.