Hot House Case Studies

Vinco Marketing

The Client: Vinco Marketing is a marketing agency specialising in the hospitality, alcohol & spirits and retail & fashion sectors. Trading began in November 2015 and the Agency provides a full marketing service supporting clients with website design and build, graphic design, consultancy, social media, email marketing, market research, marketing training and much more. Its client base is mainly located around London and Surrey and includes Black Moth Vodka, D1 London Spirits, Select Apartments and Bernard Boutique. Vinco Marketing is run by Victoria Hilditch and her team.

The Situation/Background: After graduating Victoria moved to London and worked in marketing roles including being the Marketing Manager for Dolphin Square in SW1, a large hotel, residential, spa and fitness club complex. She then decided to return to her roots in Bognor Regis with the aim of setting up her own business when she felt she had enough experience and the right support. She worked for a number of marketing agencies for a few years and then took the plunge, setting up Vinco Marketing and becoming self-employed.

The Incubation Centre: Victoria met Gareth Sear, our Business Start-Up Manager, through Bognor Regis Hour. This is an online Twitter networking hour, set up by Victoria, that Gareth regularly tweets in. They set up a meeting and Victoria heard of the many benefits of using the University’s Incubation Centre as a business base. Victoria signed up in November and began using the Incubation Centre straight away.

Not only have I been able to use the fantastic facilities," commented Victoria,  "but Gareth Sear and the team have been on hand to sit down with me and go through my business plan, growth plan and much more. Working as a sole-Director sometimes you need someone from the outside to look in and advise you on business queries and Gareth has been there to do that, especially at the very beginning when the company first started.

The Results
Since starting the business it has achieved much more than Victoria ever expected. Initial turnover targets have been smashed ahead of schedule and Victoria hopes that this pattern will continue, with aims to double turnover in year two. Gareth Sear’s help with business planning has proved invaluable and he has also worked with Victoria to help her apply for business grants. In 2016, Victoria was awarded a business grant from Arun District Council to help grow the business considerably over the next year. Vinco Marketing’s greatest achievement to date is being accepted as a member of the Design Business Association, a governing body for design and marketing businesses. 

 “With the help of Gareth’s advice the business has grown a lot faster than I had expected and ever intended", says Victoria. "The events that they arrange are also fantastic and I have been to some very interesting talks and debates which has spread my knowledge.

 

Flavour Tastings

The Client: Flavour Tastings run cheese tasting events in Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire and London for corporate and team building events, private parties and social events. In addition, they run an online cheese shop selling individual British artisan cheeses and monthly cheese boxes. Flavour Tastings is run by Louisa Mason and her team.

The Situation/Background: Louisa originally trained as a scientist and whilst working in biotech moved to the business side, including arranging company team building events, and found that she really enjoyed this. Coupled with a love of cheese, Louisa looked to set up her own business. She investigated a number of options, including buying her own deli, but in the end it was the opportunity to combine cheese with business and events that won, and Flavour Tastings was born.

The Programme: Around six months after setting up Flavour Tastings, Louisa attended a University run business taster day in Midhurst called “Be the Business”. Gareth Sear, Business Start Up Manager at the University, was there and talked about the Hot House programme and Louisa signed up.

The Hot House is supported by the Regional Growth Fund and is a 90% government subsidised, 12 month long, business start up programme for people with great business ideas or new businesses in the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership area.

The Business Start Up Hot House Programme gives delegates opportunities that can make a real difference to their business development, thanks to intensive support from the University and access to the latest business knowledge and practical tools.

The Hot House Programme includes a range of stimulating and challenging business and personal development activities that suit people from all work and educational backgrounds.

“Having a group of like-minded people is invaluable. It’s different to other networking that I do as we’re at the same stage in our business -  they become your boardroom and sanity check and encourage you through the hard times” Louisa Mason, Flavour Tastings

The Results: Delegates are involved with the Hot House for a day and a half a month and Louisa said that it was a great discipline to spend this time working on the business rather than in the business.

The programme proved to be a combination of useful things: knowledge workshops, personal coaching sessions; and peer to peer workgroups. This tri-fold support was very well received and could prove costly if businesses used them separately.

Attendees found top tips all the way through the course and Louisa states that the single biggest thing she’s taken from the course that has enabled her to take her business forward is the business model canvas - a really effective way of planning your business that can then be implemented.

 “I’d definitely recommend the Hot House programme. You get out as much as you put in. On the course there was a real mix of experience and knowledge but we all learnt new things – you just need to be open to it. It clarified in my mind where I needed go, business wise, and where to focus the business. The Hot House gave me the confidence to put my efforts into key areas for growth, rather than the quick wins” Louisa Mason, Flavour Tastings


FarmUpwards

The Client: FarmUpwards manufactures an affordable hydroponic vertical growing system called Babilon, inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It enables 18 plants to be grown in the space one plant pot takes up saving space, water, food miles and energy. Suitable for businesses and consumers who want to grow more, Babilon means crops can be grown where water resources are limited or costly, and anywhere from arid plains to city roof tops. 

The Situation/Background: The company is the brainchild of Peter Williams, a freelance Graphics Designer who saw the potential in a friend’s invention a few years ago - the Babilon system is based on this. Bob Barton is the other half of FarmUpwards, having a corporate retail, IT and formal accounting background. Together they have taken Peter’s vision forward, sourcing a manufacturer who could cope with the demand for a new worldwide product. Having overcome the manufacturing challenges, FarmUpwards were encouraged by the initial trade and consumer feedback, which confirmed that they had something worth pursuing commercially. While machinery was being modified to produce Babilon in volume, they set up all of the back office systems to manage orders, fulfillment, stock, finances, customer relations and a website.

The Programme: The businessmen decided to sign up to the Hot House programme as Peter wanted a more rounded introduction to running a formal business and Bob wanted to update his Business School experience from the '70s, iron out any bad habits he’d developed and to establish a network of local contacts via the University of Chichester.

The Hot House is supported by the Regional Growth Fund and is a 90% government subsidised, 12 month long, business start up programme for people with great business ideas or new businesses in the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership area. The Business Start Up Hot House Programme gives delegates opportunities that can make a real difference to their business development, thanks to intensive support from the University and access to the latest business knowledge and practical tools. The Hot House Programme includes a range of stimulating and challenging business and personal development activities that suit people from all work and educational backgrounds.

We found the Peer to Peer sessions really therapeutic - everyone faces similar challenges and it was useful to share our experiences and receive honest feedback in a supportive environment. The range of expertise and people we met or were introduced to by the University team has been incredibly useful too and is already proving vital to our progress.” Bob Barton, FarmUpwards

The Results: Peter and Bob were very impressed with the Hot House capabilities and found discovering the Business Model Canvas, Marketing and Selling concepts, and the Power of Social Media in a ‘business to business’ context especially relevant.

FarmUpwards were initially deterred when they approached commercial growers with Babilon. A Hot House contact led them to explore the consumer market which they found encouraging and enabled them to understand the needs of the market better. They now plan to modify the product for that market when cash flow allows. Armed with a formal 'business case' using the feedback and experiences from the Hot House programme and with the help of another Hot House contact, FarmUpwards is now entirely focused on commercial growers again, in both UK and Export markets.

“I’d recommend the Hot House programme without hesitation! Starting a business from scratch is exciting and daunting in equal measure and the Hot House team help keep us grounded. They have encouraged all of the participants at every step of the way and teased out the key things we need to think about if we are to successfully monetise the Babilon idea.” Peter Williams, FarmUpwards