British Council Creative Economy

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22 February 2012

Start Up to Success Beirut (CS)

Sarah Thelwall (MyCake.org) and Percy Emmett (NESTA) deliver a series of enterprise skills workshops for young creative entrepreneurs in Beirut.

This past November, the British Councilteamed up with Sarah Thelwall (MyCake.org) and Percy Emmett to produce Start Up to Success, a series of intensive and interactive workshops for creative entrepreneurs in Beirut, Lebanon. Developed by both trainers,and combining different existing UK methodologies, thethree workshops were delivered across a four week period, supporting participants withthemodelling of everything from their finances to their marketing plans.

The three cohorts of participants came from a wide range of creative sectors, including fashion, gaming, service design and architecture. Approximately, seventy five entrepreneurs attended in total. Each course ran for two days a week for two weeks, which gave participants an opportunity to reflect upon the learning from the first week, and to develop and hone their plans before the second week of teaching started. Within the workshops’ very intensive learning environment, participants’ ideas and plans could progress rapidly in high detail.

Thelwall and Emmett’s plan for the course was focussed on providing highly participative activities undertaken in pairs or small groups. This approach kept participants engaged and allowed Emmett and Thelwall to focus their attention on ensuring that the participants were gaining the most from the activities. ‘The fact that it was so interactive made it easier to grasp,’ agreed participant Yasmina Chebli, who wanted to attend the course to gain a clear idea of what it takes to implement a business plan.

The programme combedNESTA’s Insight Out methodologywith MyCake.org's financial management and marketing training. Both methods havesuccessfully aided hundreds of UK creative entrepreneurs over the last five years to develop their businesses.

The first and third workshops of the series were delivered in partnership with AltCity inBeirut's Hamra district. AltCity’s Beirut space is open in plan, which lent itself to the creative vibe and sense of potential surrounding the course, encouraging participants to move around and interact more freely with each other, the trainers and the AltCity staff. The diverse backgrounds of participants also added an extra dimension of variety to the lessons; the interactivity of the sessions allowed everyone to see how business models could be developed and implemented outside of their own market sector, which was a highlight for some participants likeReyya Morcos. These exchanges between the entrepreneurs also led to conversations about collaborating and the potential for client-supplier relationships even within the groups. Contemporary jeweller Malaika Najem found that this was particularly applicable to her business, providing ‘a great opportunity to meet people in…the fashion world’ who were also getting their businesses off the ground.

© British Council Lebanon

The four-day sessions started by looking at the values the creative entrepreneurs wanted to instil their businesses with and, via the process of ‘evidence modelling,’ they looked at how to define the goals they wished to work towards. Day two built on this, taking participants through ‘relationship modelling’ - i.e.plan out the types of relationships needed to successfully grow a business. By reviewing these needs at an early stage in their planning, creative entrepreneurs can discover the financial implications of these relationships; and, if necessary, make pricing adjustments to ensure that there is sufficient profit in the supply chain for enabling financial sustainability. In the afternoon of day two, Thewall and Emmett instructed the entrepreneurs on how to develop a pricing strategy that suits both their businesses and the dynamics of the market they operate in. By Cashflow modelling, participants created a three year cashflow plan with an associated review of the return-on-investment that this growth strategy would deliver.

Day three focussed entirely on the development of a marketing strategy and took participants through a process of reviewing their offer, the features and benefits of their products and services, the market segments they wished to prioritise, and the marketing promotional approaches that would best suit these segments. Wrapping up the week, day four took a macro level overview of each strategy, which was then developed into a micro level and highly detailed ‘blueprint’ of the activities they would need to undertake to turn strategy into reality.

As the course was tailored by Thewall and Emmett specifically for the needs and learning styles of creative entrepreneurs, participants really appreciated how applicable the workshops were for their businesses. The tutors’ experience and visions for the participants also contributed to the overall success of the course, which for attendee Yasmina Chebli helped made her business goals seem real and possible.

‘I started this course with preconceived notions that this was going to be a regular business plan course,’ said designer Ronald Abdala, ‘in fact, it wasn’t that at all. It was more interactive. It was more cohesive, it made more sense to me…to learn to work with [my ideas] and put them down on paper is very helpful.’

Start Up to Success workshops will be delivered in Baku, Azerbaijan in February 2012 and in Dammam, Riyadh and Jedda in May 2012. For more information about these courses, contact Rebecca.Shoesmith@britishcouncil.org

© British Council Lebanon