So, what do British Design Fund do?
The British Design Fund is an early stage investment fund that specifically invests in, and provides support for, early stage UK product design and manufacturing companies. The Fund seeks to work with extraordinary entrepreneurs, with scalable products, who are ready to accelerate growth and build long term value and thriving stand-out businesses.
What’s behind the business idea?
I identified that there is an astonishing lack of equity funding into early stage product design and hardware businesses. I spotted this problem after I sold my own manufacturing business and was spending time mentoring on business accelerators, some focussed on product, some on software. I noticed how difficult it was to find early stage equity investors for the product businesses on these accelerators, whilst the tech startups had huge equity funding options available. As a result, the British Design Fund was born.
Was it hard becoming a business owner?
I started my first product business when I was in my mid 20’s, after university, so I didn’t have too many responsibilities and was able to more comfortably take a gamble on starting out as an entrepreneur without a fully thought through strategy. I am in my late 30’s now, with a family to support, and I find that starting a business now takes a lot more consideration and planning, as well as investment. Although I have a wealth of experience compared to when I first set out, I still find that I spend much more time in the strategy, market and needs analysis and planning stages than ever before. And an important lesson I have learnt in business is that you are only as good as the team you have on board, and this takes time, and the more of this team you can line up ahead of launch, the greater your chance of success.
How did you recruit your employees?
The British Design Fund has not yet launched, we are currently fundraising and will be launching in July of this year. We have a crowd funding campaign currently open which allows investors to get involved at a smaller level of investment, whilst still enjoying access to the fantastic product businesses that the British Design Fund supports. We have had a phenomenal response and are already over 90% funded with more than 130 investors on board.
You can see our campaign here.
Was there a breakthrough moment?
As mentioned already, the penny dropped when I was mentoring on a number of business accelerators, and saw first-hand how little investment was available to the early stage product businesses I was working with. This along with attracting our 1st cornerstone investor, were the 2 major milestones in the early stages of the British Design Fund.
How is the company doing?
We are set to launch in the beginning of July, we have some amazing businesses lining up to invest in, and our fund raise has been very well received. We are now at over 90% of our target raise, and we hope to overfund in the coming weeks.
Do you have any regrets? If so how did you over come them?
I believe that a successful entrepreneur needs incredible perseverance and determination, and should expect more things to go “wrong” than to go “right”. But it is how you deal with these wrongs and turn them into positives, that sets a successful entrepreneur apart. So no regrets, but plenty of learning, and plenty more to come I am sure.
What makes you stand out from your competitors?
There is no-one currently offering what the British Design Fund offers to investors, or to investee businesses. So for the time being, we are very well differentiated, and I intend to build upon the fantastic momentum we have to further cement our position in the marketplace as we grow.
What is your definition of a positive customer experience?
I have a fairly traditional approach to customer service, and believe that the customer is always right. If I am willing to accept an individual’s or an institution’s money in exchange for a product or service, then I should make sure that they walk away with a positive experience. You cannot always give customers exactly what they want, but whenever you fall short of their expectations you should be able to honestly explain to them why that is the case, remedy the shortcoming to the best of your ability, and leave them feeling like a valued customer. If you don’t see eye to eye with a customer or cannot meet their expectations, then don’t take their money!
You’re currently reaching out for investors, what do you plan to do when you have raised this funding?
We will begin to deploy our funds into investee companies within a month of closing our fund raising round, which is due to close in early July.
If you could help a business now with a single piece of advice, what would it be?
Know your market inside and out, whether you are a product or service business. Know what makes you different, why that is important to your customers and how much someone will be willing to pay for what you are offering. And do this before you invest too much of your own and others’ time and money.
Finally, Damon what is your favourite biscuit?!
A Choco Leibniz chilled in the fridge.