The Innovate Group
Ilaria Cacciamani graduated in summer 2010 in Communication Sciences and Technologies and currently is a MA student in Advertising and the Creative Economy. Her role in the Innovate Group was of marketer and graphic/web designer. She likes to observe the environment that surrounds her and offer new solutions to everyday problems, giving a small contribution to this changing world.
Arinola Nnatuanya is a student at Kingston University in MA in Music and the Creative Economy: a combination of music business and production. She has a first degree in Computer Science and a few years ago decided to change her career part. She has a Higher National Diploma in Music Performance and has a passion for developing people musically. Arinola enjoys singing and is part of the choir in her local church. Her hobbies include drawing, DIY and swimming. she is responsible for PR within the group.
Camilla Dickson is taking an MA in Management and the Creative Economy. She also has a first degree in dance. Camilla hopes to own a dance agency in the near future. She is responsible for market research within the team. One of her roles was to deal with questionnaires and interviews.
Jide Onikoyi studied Business Administration at the University of Hertfordshire. The aim of studying the M.A in International Business Management with Entrepreneurship is to build on his existing knowledge base, increase his career prospects & experience the practicality of running of a business enterprise. His passion for experiencing different cultures and customs was the primary motivation for coming to study in the United Kingdom. His role in the Innovate Group was of Financial Adviser.
1. Description of Company’s Product/Service and what made it unique compared to its competitors.
Innovate Group provides a networking platform for Kingston University, especially for its students, Alumni and faculty members. The platform is available on the Internet anywhere at anytime. It can be found at the URL www.kingstonuni.biz and the official name is BizBoard (BB). The inspiration for this business comes from observing Kingston University lifestyle and trying to understand what is missing. Moreover, in todays economic environment, that is still dealing with the recession, it is very difficult to find a suitable job, so the idea that the Innovate Group is forwarding is “if you can’t find a job that suits you, invent it!” The aim is to help students find each other, work on projects or run businesses together, and seek assistance where required. This would hopefully create a 360° experience university life.
The initial page of the platform will look very similarly to this one:
Image 1: Initial Page (index) of kingstonuni.biz
Browse Calendar will be useful to keep yourself updated with what is happening in the University.
Use the Job Board is useful to find interesting job opportunities in order to pimp up the students CV, to share skills or make a little extra money.
Get Advice from entrepreneurial professionals that can help students to set up and run their own business. The world is full of people who can inspire and give advice, like mentors.
Get credit or training in order to find out about other modules and workshops that are available from other faculties within the university.
Find Funding can help students to set up their businesses.
Be social will help students to look for interesting clubs; students can read stories from other students and professionals who have become successful in their industry; competitions and opportunities will be available for students.
The service that Innovate is providing is unique because it is designed to bring Kingston University creative people together, by providing an environment where students, lecturers and Alumni of the university can meet others with similar passions or interests. Moreover, members can take advantage of job opportunities and various resources. It differs from all the other social networks today available because is specifically for Kingston University students and since it is exclusively for them, this will make them feel special and unique.
From our observations and surveys to Kingston University students and lecturers we realised that the university has a problem: Kingston University Campuses are all scattered around Kingston town and there is no space for students to find each other and share their knowledge, passions and interests outside the classroom environment. Right now it is very difficult for students to identify potential key partners in ambitious projects, help in academic work, job or internships opportunity, or just new friends. We are offering a solution with the BB online networking platform where students can find each other, create their own business, meet new people to work with, and stay updated with entrepreneurial events, competition and job opportunities.
2. Describe your customer segment and how you researched their needs. What was your value proposition to them?
There are over 21 000 students, and over 2 000 professors at Kingston University. In fact, the primary target audience are Kingston University students who are interested in entrepreneurial skills and events, but above all, it is for students who want to challenge themselves to set up and run their own business. Professors, who can also post requests for research or project assistants, are our secondary target audience.
Moreover, there is a tertiary target audience who are Alumni’s, who can post job opportunities that are available in their industries so that students are aware and can make use of the opportunities, or just keep updated with what is happening at the University even if they have left.
In a few words, the Innovate Group is targeting a market niche that requires special needs.
Moreover, the platform can benefit the University by improving its reputation thanks to the student relationships and the entrepreneurial skills that can be created and developed through the platform.
Innovate Group main research technique was of observing and talking to students about their university experience. In addition to this, we felt empathy with our end users, since we are students just like them. Our perception of things can be altered simply by the angle we choose to look at something and creativity arises from our ability to see things from a different angles.
We did different types of market research, which include questionnaires and brief one to one interviews and we found that:
- 85% of the Kingston university students we spoke to considered themselves to be creative individuals.
- 65% felt there were not enough opportunities for creative individuals to share their work and interests.
- 80% said that if there is an opportunity made available for creative networking and learn how to set up and run a business, they would participate.
We, as creative students, have found that there is a need in the Kingston University student experience: an opportunity for creative and passionate students to communicate, network and develop ideas into real businesses together. The value proposition is the unique value a business offers to its customers, and networking is the wave of web 2.0 and it will continue to be in web 3.0 and mobile web. In general, social networks are “connections with other people” and for Kingston University students BB will be a way to find partners and network if they want to set up their own business or just develop entrepreneurial skills.
3. What were your key activities? Key partners? Key resources?
As apart of coming up with the idea to create an entrepreneurial platform for students and faculty at our university we had some obvious tasks that we had to undertake.
Designing the website
Our whole idea and service is based on a website so this was obviously a fundamental part of the Innovate Group activities. We were involved in designing the website and orchestrating how it would look and the content that would be included in it.
Finding and building content
The whole premise of the BizBoard is to provide information that would allow students and faculty to gain access to knowledge and insight that would allow them to sufficiently create and run there own enterprise, so naturally the content of the website would be a very important part. We needed to create and find content that would be beneficial to our users and incorporate that into the website. We were able to do this through reaching out to different faculties, groups and societies around the university, such as Kingston Entrepreneurs, in order to find out what each section can offer to our users in the shape of events, workshops, mentors, contacts etc.
Marketing the website
Image 2: Poster for BB
Innovate Group main task was to find a strategic way to advertise the BizBoard to our potential users. Due to the nature of our service, publicity is crucial to its success because if we cannot create up enough buzz, no one will know about the platform and no one will manage to enjoy and benefit from it. According to our target audience, we used particular marketing strategies that we felt would be the most effective for each audience, i.e. if were targeting students, being attractive a colourful would be our main route. The main messages of the marketing strategies have been sent to the target audience through effective communication channels.
We have teamed up with the young entrepreneur society to create this service and they will continue with the service after we leave. They have been a great resource, allowing us includes some of their events and services into our calendar and site.
A key resource for the Innovate Group was the Kingston University, which decided to fund the work of the group with £5,031.00. Due to the huge benefit that the platform can bring to students, the university agreed to help us with the development of the service in terms of financial backing. One of the biggest assets of our website is that it allows for the easy communication between faculties and that is a huge benefit to the university reputation and its students. They provided all necessary funding that the group needed to create and continue to run the site, but above all to market it among the audience.
4. Describe your Branding and Design Strategy (logo, packaging, style, product, etc), what channels did you use to reach your customers? Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of what you did.
Branding and Design
The design of the platform was outsources to a designer, one of the reasons for this was to allow creativity with the design. We decided to outsource it because no one in the group had the skills needed to implement the platform.
However, within the group Ilaria was the designer, and she dealt with the branding side, concentrating more on the Innovate Group, rather than the BizBoard.
The Innovate Logo
Image 3: Innovate Group Logo
The logo is divided up in three different parts. The essential part is the group’s name: Innovate. This name means literally “I am innovation”, “I am change”, but above all, “I want to be part of this innovative network”. The message that we want to send is that the person participating is part of the change process through innovation; you and what you love and know are the innovation.
The letter “i” with the circular blue background emphasises the fact that the group is a sort of information centre. This also sends the message that there is more than the site. The colour of the background shows that the group is connected with Kingston University, since the colour used is very similar, even if not the same, due to copyright policies.
The Slogan Kingston University Networking was originally Innovation by you, This was changed to make the give more clarity about what the business is about. Kingston University Networking is quite straightforward, moreover it leaves many doors open: the group can work on Internet based networks, but also it can deal with networking events and PR that are held at the university.
Image 1 shows how the website is. In this case colours are essential and an important part of the branding and design in order to be eye catching and appealing. Another fundamental aspect of the design of the website was its user- friendliness: we decided to make it easy and fast to use. In order to reach our goal we made a few prototypes and tested it out with some students. In addition, we asked students what was missing in the platform and what could be changed to meet more their needs.
Our biggest target audience are the students and one of the most effective ways in today’s society to reach out to them is through the use of Facebook. We created a Facebook page about our service, in hopes of getting it seen by more people and were also able to get it sent to friends and have friends pass it on and so forth. We also put a link to the Facebook page on the business blog, so that we could see how many of the page visitors actually felt that this was a good idea, so we could better determine if there was a strong enough market for it. A major strength of using this method is the amount of traffic that Facebook has and its potential to reach a magnitude of people. On the other hand a weakness is that in order to reach the multitudes you need to create a following and that can be difficult when not many people know who you are.
We created a video advertisement for the publicity of our service, which was short depiction of what our service does. We put a copy of this video on YouTube, which is used by millions of people everyday. The main strength of the BB advert is its tune: it sticks easily the viewers mind, thus making it memorable and effective. On the other hand, just as with Facebook, reaching the critical mass can be difficult.
Word of mouth
We have on many occasions advertised our service around the university by talking to students and faculty and personally telling them what it involves and the benefits it has, especially through the two fairs in which we participated. This is a good way to advertise because you have the opportunity to personally speak with your potential customers and explain the personal benefits that the site can give to each person. On the downside, word of mouth can be limiting in terms of how many people it can actually reach.
We wanted to personally let the different faculties know about our website, so we wrote a short letter explaining the service and highlighting the uses that it has for each faculty. We felt this would be a great idea because by letting the heads of each faculty know about our service, they would be able to let there faculties know how they can correctly use our service.
The trade fair gave us a chance to set up a stall and “sell” our ideas to students and members of the public. The trade fair is a great way of practically demonstrating our service to potential customers and we were able to gain a lot of interest from students who gave us there details so we could contact them with further information. Though, trade fairs cant be done every week, so its not a regular advertisement method.
We also keep a business blog (http://kuinnovate.wordpress.com), which we regularly update, in order to keep our customers and potential consumers updated about what is going on with our business and its content. This is good resource for our customers so that they can be kept updated about the service and how we are nurturing it.
5. What were your company policies, IP and other legal considerations?
· The Data Protection Act (1998) applies to all users of this social network.
· Offensive or unauthorised comments or materials are not allowed on this site.
· No illegal activities or businesses are allowed to trade via this network.
· Innovate reserves the right to carry out regular security check on Kingstonuni.biz to monitor the activities being carried out on it.
· A member’s account will be disabled once the member has made a request to be removed from the social network.
· We always appreciate your feedback or other suggestions about Kingstonuni.biz.
· Failure to comply with these conditions of use for this site may result in the withdrawal of access to the social network site.
· Any breaches of the policy may result in disciplinary action being taken. In cases where criminal law may have been breached the Police will be notified.
6. Describe your cost structure, listing expenses and Income (includes number of sales or contracts, uses YE worksheet of Profit & Loss Statement and a photo of your product/service with details of how it was costed for each element)
The service provided by the Innovate Group, is free to its customers who are Kingston University students, lecturers and alumni.
However, Innovate Group was able to secure funding of £5,031.00 from Kingston University to design a central, social website that would encourage cross faculty collaboration between students looking to start their own business.
Corrine Beaumont, (University Lecturer) is an associated partner who worked closely with the company in networking, design & branding stages of the service development.
Below is a brief financial summary of the costs incurred.
Contract from Kingston University = £5031
Company Fund = £400
Total Revenue = £5431.00
Website Design = £49.40
Website contents = £98.80
Website Hosting= £25 per year
Marketing & Advertising Cost
Promotional Video Design = £197.60
Leaflets = £80 (800 copies)
Posters x 25(A3) = £40.00
T- shirts x 4 = £40.00
Pop up x 1 = £89.00
Winning team = £500.00
2x Second prizes of = £250.00
Trade Fairs = £98.80
Branding/design of website & Content added to the website = £1002.00
Wages for the directors of the company = £494
Future website developments= £2,216.40
Includes wages for animation, graphic and marketing students, and materials.
Total Trading Expense = £5,431.00
Innovate Group achieved break even during the trading period. Innovate Group will not have to pay the required 20% corporation ax as the company did not make any profit during the trading period.
7. What were the key challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them?
Managing and optimizing time has posed some challenges to the Innovate Group, as most of the directors have work and academic schedules. Allocating sufficient time to the business especially toward the beginning of the year has being somewhat problematic. This is largely due to other factors that compete with the directors time, these factors include – family matters, course work, dissertation, work commitment, social life and religious obligations.
Covey’s time management matrix has been applied by Innovate directors, to help identity and organise tasks according to their level of importance and urgency. This has produced some improvement in the company’s effective use of time.
Gaining critical mass
Gaining the critical mass necessary for the website has been a key challenge. Although the company was able to create awareness about the service and sign up interested students at the trade fairs, much work still needs to be done to get the required amount of traffic.
Critical mass will determine if Innovate, will get future funding from the University for further development of the business. This shows the importance of creating awareness and getting a large number of students to use the website. Getting the heads of departments and lecturers interested in the service could help alleviate the problem. They could make Biz Board part of the curriculum, were lecturers could post relevant information on the website that students are required to access. This should help overcome the challenge of getting critical mass.
Kingston University Bureaucracy
The Universities bureaucracy and administration had an impact on the group’s creativity. Since Kingston University was our main and only client, it was important to keep to the regulations of the university and their and needs. The university gave the team essential funding, but the group had to give enough time to allow for their ideas to be processed inline with the Universities regulations. This made the process of delivery slow.
8. What would you have done differently?
First of all, the Innovate Group would have done the market research in a different and deeper way in order to understand what the target audience really wanted. These could have been through questionnaires, interviews or focus groups to gain better understanding of the end users needs.
Firstly, the marketing strategies could have been more intense, in order to create awareness about the BizBoard and easily reach the critical mass. Secondly, a deeper market research would have helped us to create our marketing strategies around the end user, to demonstrate how BizBoard solves the problem of networking and how finding a business partner within the University can be of benefit to them.
We should have networked more with Kingston University administration and other companies outside the university. This would have helped a lot in order to understand exactly what we had to do, in terms of running a business and implementing the website.
Another thing that we could have done differently was to fake the networking platform more through prototypes, so that we could have the clearest idea possible for the website.
9. What was the most successful part of your business?
The idea of setting up a business network that forges collaboration between the four campuses, alumni’s and an other entrepreneurial bodies within the university is in itself a successful venture based on its relevance to the University.
The most successful part of our business was the creativity within the team. The ability to make something exciting and different without holding back played a key role in the formation of the Kingston University Business Network.
Our idea started off as a social network for students to advertise their skills as well as network but a few weeks into the into the project, we found out that another team had a similar business idea which pushed us as team to come up with something new and different.
Another successful aspect of the business was getting Kingston University to fund the project. These funds have made it easier for the team to explore various ideas that would other wise have been a limitation due to financial resources.
10. How did running a business prepare you for future entrepreneurship?
As a team, the setting up and running of a business was relatively new to us individually. It has been an exciting venture for us, and the wealth of knowledge and expertise that we have acquired through this experience is priceless.
Through the setting up and running of Innovate, we have gained more insight and understanding into the dynamics of how a successful and sustainable business is setup and run. The various processes involved that act as boundaries to ensure sustainability and the crucial role that the consumer plays in the creation and sustainability of a business idea. The emotional, cognitive and physical aspect of meeting the needs of the consumer has been very insightful and enlightening.
Looking at the Kingstonuni.biz social network project, there are a few main points that we all agreed was a learning curve for us towards our future aspirations. These points are listed below.
· Thinking but also doing something about those thoughts. Putting ourselves and our ideas out there.
· Dealing with real life scenarios and having to apply practical steps to those scenarios. Coming to terms with last minute changes that made need to occur for the success of the business.
· The importance of teamwork and the dynamics of working within a team of people with different personalities and views. Learning how to manage each other’s expectations. Showing consideration for each other and the business project.
· Being open to other people’s ideas and to be willing to take risks by trying something new and different.
· The importance of creating the right image and perception of a business when branding.
· The awareness that a business idea can change and take a different form from what it started off as. As a team, we had to modify our initial ideas slightly to meet the needs of Kingston University. We started off with the idea of providing a social network for students to advertise their skills as well as network but the end product has been the Kingston University Business Social network that forges collaboration between the four campuses, alumni’s and other entrepreneurial bodies within the university.
Through exposure and networking, we met and communicated with various members of out partnering companies and we wouldn’t have ordinarily met or made contact with due to the difference in faculties and areas of study and professionalism. We met with members of young enterprise and communicated with the deans of faculties within the university. We also got to meet a diverse number of students through the fairs.
Thank you very much to the other members of the Innovate Group for this year great work: Arinola, Camilla and Jide