It has been less than five years since I started The Cambridge Satchel Company. My story has been told in many ways, not least by Google who featured it as part of the Google Chrome campaign with the tagline: 'The web is what you make of it'.
It truly is. The internet allowed me to take £600 and start a company that now sells to 120 countries around the world generating a turnover of over £1million a month. However, it seems that organisations and individuals are still to realise the opportunity that sits in front of them on their desk.
I have no wish to appear super-glued to a soapbox but I find it hard to understand why some businesses are not adapting, evolving and taking advantage of the age we now live in by developing a shop window on the web. This can be an identity of which they are proud and which represents their brand, even if it's not a base for ecommerce. Forget the Yellow Pages printed ad, the internet means brands can show who they are with a voice that feels right, and reach potential customers when it's convenient for both the customer and the brand.
When The Cambridge Satchel Company looks to source UK manufacturers it is so much harder than it should be. The Chambers of Commerce need to step up and create searchable databases of members showing their skills, profiles and representing them in a way that makes sense in today's climate.
The British Library runs a great event called 'make it, sell it' which enables designers to meet experts in different fields to help them take the first step to manufacturing and selling their products in a speed mentoring format. However, many of the experts and designers attending don't have a web presence. Gone are the days of large overheads associated with opening a bricks and mortar store and paying for lots for print advertising - it's now possible to dip a toe into the world of entrepreneurship with very little risk. I honestly believe there has never been a better time to start a business and judging from my inbox there has never been more desire to do it - so what's the problem?
I'd like to see the government take the old Businesslink online in a fun and approachable way. Let's see some template NDAs and manufacturing agreements on there and some blogs about IP, together with a friendly and approachable guide to modern business tools to help entrepreneurs to take the first step. There is a big temptation to over think and over complicate things when starting up, but what so many small businesses actually need is practical help to get everyday things done in an efficient way.
Courses to help young people to use their social media skills and apply it to business would be enormously useful to small, well established (in the conventional sense) businesses who need that injection of energy and modern innovation to keep them in front of their customers - on both a local and an international scale.
The Cambridge Satchel Company has much to thank the blogging community for - they got us noticed and have supported us ever since. In this economy it is survival of the fittest. SMEs need to be encouraged to be online and companies in general need evolve their business models in order to have longevity and, ultimately, to survive.