Pixie and Punk/ Eric and Rufus Children's Books

from Longshot Ventures Ltd

Developing Luxury Legitimacy

Product Development, START-UPS, Tips, LuxuryRamoutar Tagore

Goods need legitimacy in the eyes of the target consumer to be classed as luxury, otherwise they are just expensive. Luxury goods are always more than the sum of their parts or the value of their components. Luxury goods gain legitimacy through a combination of factors which burnish a product with desire and kudos.

  • Heritage: Very important for existing brands. For new brands this can only be gained by time or by allying/ partnering with brands or designers who can confer heritage.
  • Design / Designers: Luxury products are well designed, beautiful and distinctive. The designer is often part of the story and not anonymous. The product design and brand are intrinsically linked (you can often tell the brand by looking at the design). The designer marries design and craftsmanship to create unique distinctive products that have the brand identity embedded. The designers story is often a good way of compensating for a lack of heritage in new brands.
  • Brand positioning: Rigorous approach reinforcing all other elements of the mix and also communicating in a way and format that is recognizable as luxury and similar to other products. Only once a brand has been accepted can it be more innovative. It is important that a brand isn’t seen as trying too hard, luxury is often effortless.
  • Sales channels: Generally luxury products will be sold next to other luxury products, proximity allows potential clients to easily classify and identify a brand as luxury, and understand the pricing. The channels and the sales process are also luxurious experiences. Paris, Milan, London and New York are key for luxury positioning; Hong Kong, Shanghai, Moscow, Dubai and LA are key for sales.
  • Price: Luxury goods are expensive (higher than premium products). Price for hard goods is typically seven times bill of materials (BOM); for Jewellery three times BOM.
  • Longevity: Apart from fashion, luxury products last longer than premium ones - they have lasting value.
  • Rarity: Not accessible to everyone due to price, waiting time, scarcity of materials, membership criteria and being artificially scarce due to being a limited edition. Sometimes managed scarcity is an integral part of a products appeal.
  • Quality: Highest quality possible in the product category, perceivably higher quality than standard/ premium product.
  • Craftsmanship, Manufacturing and Materials: Luxury goods tend to be hand assembled/ hand-made. They are made from expensive materials and finished to the highest standard. You can tell the craftsmanship and materials by sight and often by how the product feels (e.g. weight in hand).
  • Origin: Location is important for a brand and a product; certain countries can confer a beneficial halo that helps confer legitimacy. Where a product is made is very important to end consumer. France, Italy and Switzerland and to a slightly lesser extent England are traditional areas for luxury / fashion and therefore a brand with origin from these countries has an advantage.Scandinavia is good for premium design and interiors.Other Europe, US & Japan have to work harder to gain luxury legitimacy; fashion brands can work or ones focussed on traditional crafts.

These 10 factors combine to give a product legitimacy as a desirable luxury product. Overall a luxury product is a “Symbol of success”, it confers“glamour” and generates “Pride of Ownership”.

Tips for First Time Authors

Tips, AuthorsRamoutar Tagore

Writing

  1. There is no time like the present! Do not try and block out whole weeks to write, just allocate one day a week. Do not get distracted by email and admin on that day.
  2. Plan out your chapters / contents at the start – it ensures a flow, helps you track progress and stops mission creep. It also allows you to write the chapters in any order you want.
  3. Do the introduction first as it creates tone and pace.
  4. Think of each chapter in terms of beginning, middle and end. I have a tendency to write an abstract for a chapter first as it helps to get my thinking straight.
  5. Don’t focus on spelling and/or sentence structure when writing the first draft – get your ideas down and keep the flow. At the end of the day or session of writing go back and re-read and do a quick first edit.
  6. Writing blocks: if you are struggling with a section or chapter – it is sometimes easier to go onto another and then come back to problem area later with a fresh eye.
  7. When re-starting writing after having some time off re-read the chapter from the start to get a feel of the tone.
  8. Get advice and input but remember to have the courage of your own convictions. You can’t write by committee.
  9. When starting set-up page dimensions and margins so that they correspond to the correct page size anticipated for the final book. It helps ensure pages look right and reduces work later.

Publishing: There are three options: get a publisher, self-publish or set up your own publisher.

  1. It generally takes time to secure a publisher and the easiest way is to get a literary agent. The easiest way to secure one is if you have one in your network. Even if you go this route having a finished book via self-publishing might help.
  2. Self-publishing is now the best way to quickly get your book published and can now be done cheaply, easily and high quality. Below are some topline tips:
  • If you can create a PDF you can self publish! All you need is to do write your book electronically.
  • Do not pay a lot for publishing support – you can do it yourself or do it cheaply.
  • Use CreateSpace, an Amazon company, that is very cost effective, easy to use and can get you an Amazon listing from which orders are automatically fulfilled. www.createspace.com.
  • Before starting check out the book sizes and margins and set up your document accordingly.
  • Buy books in a minimum quantity to get a unit cost that allows you to sell the books at standard prices. I generally recommend 100 books.
  1. Set up as publisher. This is relatively straight forward and is a good option if you want to publish multiple books. If you want support please contact me. tagore@longshotventures.com.
  2. The hardest bit is selling your book. Harness social media and get your book into as many hands as possible – go viral.

Spurious Accuracy (Forecasting)

Sales PlanningRamoutar Tagore

One of the biggest pitfalls when developing a forecast is “spurious accuracy”. Teams (and investors) become obsessed on building plans based on very detailed granular assumptions. For example an individual POS will sell “X” or “X+1” per week or indeed a sales person will secure 1 or 2 contracts. Individually each granular assumption is logical but can be argued up or down by small amounts. This process creates a granular plan that can only be precisely wrong as small decisions on a POS or sales person level are multiplied up. In reality a good planner avoids spurious accuracy and knows that any plan is likely to have compensating errors.

Good plans are build up from the bottom up and the top down. With the result sense tested. Early plans are better to be reviewed at the aggregated level where the broad impact of the planning decisions can be assessed and adjusted. Try and aviod getting bogged down (not seeing the wood for the trees) and take the "helicopter" view.

A good plan should be the most likely scenario with alternatives being covered by sensitivities or scenarios.

Crowdfunding - The basics

START-UPS, SMERamoutar Tagore

Crowdfunding is increasingly seen as the first point of call for entrepreneurs, but raising money is not straight forward and there is no guarantee of success. Entrepreneurs/ companies looking to raise money should treat crowdfunding as potentially one of many sources and research all of the options to make sure they make the right choice.

If crowdfunding is for you there are different types of crowdfunding to choose from. Each offers different benefits and each can work in conjunction with other sources of finance. The main types of crowdfunding are:

  1. Pledge or Project Funding: This is funding for projects, essentially pre-selling products to allow the project to create them to progress (best known sites are www.Kickstarter.com and www.IndieGoGo.com ).
  2. Equity Funding – Essentially a business sells shares in return for cash (example UK site www.crowdcube.com ).
  3. Straight Debt Funding - Peer to peer lending, applicants will be pre-screened and between 85% and 99% fail, once passed the loan requested is posted online for investors to review. (example UK site www.FundingCircle.com ).
  4. Specialist Debt Funding – Lending against assets or even invoices (example UK site www.marketinvoice.com ).
  5. Social Enterprise Funding - These focus on charities and for profit companies with defined social mission, often the reward for donors is doing something good rather than a financial return. (example sites UK www.crowdmission.com or US www.Kiva.org ).
  6. Donation Funding: Used for charity fundraising , with fees typically less than 5% (example UK site www.justgiving.com )

A new trend is the growth of specialist crowdfunding sites specialising in specific sectors e.g. green tech or apps etc. NOTE: all sites charge fees for fund raising projects.

Networking - Think of yourself as a Brand

Networking, START-UPSRamoutar Tagore

Everybody talks about the importance of networking; you often get the impression it is an immediate thing but often it takes time and focus. After 4 years I am beginning to see the benefits, this quarter I have used my network to: get advice for a planning appeal; find two potential distributors for project and a potential investor.
Getting benefit from networking takes effort, below are my tips to how to create effective networks
1) Create as wide a network as possible – use Linked In, Facebook and Twitter to create it. They all have different advantages
2) Make sure you understand each person (or as many as you can) you link with and make sure they understand you. If possible mentally allocate to each contact a “elevator pitch” summary. So when you need to contact someone you choose correctly. Don't assume you know someones CV just because you have worked with them.
3) Think of yourself as a brand – your brand needs building and maintaining – think of how you are perceived and what take away you want people to be left with.
4) When looking for support be specific. General calls out to everyone in your network do not usually create much response. But tailored requests to relevant contacts are very effective.
5) Keep your network current - use email, face to face meetings or even blogs. Have coffee regularly, a couple times a year, with key networkers in your network as it allows you both to update each other. This is the most effective way of getting or giving help.
6) The more you help others in your network the more your reputation will improve as a networker and ultimately the more you will get out of your network.
7) Remember the best networking is two way – both get benefit over time.

If you are an entrepreneur or working as an individual consultant networking is both your lifeblood and best way to keep sane.

Product Development: The Importance of Packaging

Product DevelopmentRamoutar Tagore

Packaging is a key part of the customer journey; companies ignore it at their peril. Done well packaging is brand enhancing and valued by the customer, done poorly it is expensive and is thrown away by the customer or even worse allows the product to be damaged.

Luxury and premium products: The packaging is part of the post purchase brand experience and customer journey. Typically, despite the importance of the packaging, the product is displayed without the packaging. The drivers should be quality and branding; packaging should be designed with the idea that a customer will keep it, the materials and feel should refelct the brand quality.

Every-day, mass and discount products: the primary drivers should to be functionality, price and brand. Packaging needs to be fit for purpose stand out on-the-shelve but be as cheap as possible. It should be recognised that this packaging is typically disposed of immediately so the packaging ideally needs to be simple and recyclable. Typically the product is displayed in its packaging (often you see the packaging rather than the product).

Whichever type of product the packaging needs to be designed with the purchase journey in mind, for example:

  • Is the product bought online and shipped by mail? Therefore the shipping costs should be minimized (size and shape are paramount) and also the product needs to be protected.
  • Is the product going to be bought in an airport? Therefore needs to be small enough to fit in hand luggage.
  • Are customers going to walk out of the store holding it? If so it needs to be light enough to be carried comfortably.

Critical for getting cost effective fit for purpose packaging that enhances your brand is to think through the journey and purpose prior to design and then write a very clear brief.

    SME's / Start-Ups: Getting Support and when to use an Expert

    START-UPS, SMERamoutar Tagore

    Using experts is one of the most expensive things a new company or SME can do. Done correctly the advice / support is invaluable, done incorrectly or at the wrong time it can be very very expensive.

    Specialist services such as web designers, product development companies, IP lawyers, surveyors and tax experts etc. can provide invaluable support, but too many companies use them too early and therefore pay far too much. They pay for the companies to learn with them and not just to execute. The best use of “experts” is to advice on/ execute a tight brief with a clear outcome and ideally for a short period on a fixed cost contract.

    It is important to clearly understand your company’s business strategy, product strategy (including proposed range), packaging strategy and sales strategy before engaging “experts” as these will help inform any project and allow the brief to be written tightly.

    Often what a company needs before engaging multiple “experts” is SUPPORT from a general strategic advisor or consultant who has done this sort of thing before. This person will act as a foil to test your concept and will help you define your strategy, refine your business plan and project plan so that when you use professional “experts” you will use them more effectively and also total cost will be reduced. A good advisor may even end up being long term part-time resource that will help your plans come to fruition. If you are involved with manufacturing grants may also be available to reduce the cost of both the generalist and the experts.

    Start-Ups: Too Many Chiefs and Not Enough Indians (Orginally posted on Linked In)

    START-UPSRamoutar Tagore

    Too many start-ups are packed with expensive full time chiefs (senior managers) and not enough cost effective indians (doers). The more I have worked with early stage companies the more I have come to the conclusion that the most effective structure is a fulltime founder and full time COO (business mind) and all the other executive roles should be part-time ideally paid on a flexible basis. This allows the start-up/ early stage company to keep down costs while still having access to an experienced knowledge bank. It has an added advantage of keeping costs flexible. Instead companies should look to ensure they have enough skilled doers. This ensures there are people to do the work and that egos do not get in the way.

    Start-Ups: The Pitch (orginally pub. on LinkedIn in July 2015)

    START-UPSRamoutar Tagore

    The “pitch” is a critical part of any new venture, be it to investors, potential partners or distribution. Getting it right is critical to the success of any venture.

    Many people make the mistake of pitching by themselves. Pitches are better conducted in pairs. You can show teamwork and solidarity just in the pitch. How you work together also shows how good a team you are and allows different strengths to come to the fore. Ideally one can be the charismatic story teller and one the solid financial and planning person. This gives your audience a chance to get carried away on the brand’s journey and value proposition, but can also reassure themselves that there is a solid well managed and deliverable plan behind it. It also means one person doesn’t have to remember everything and the second can also interject if necessary.

    Have supporting material but don’t rely on it – use it to annotate your conversation but not dictate it. Your audience should focus on you not a screen. Investor’s buy in to great people with great ideas, that they believe can be achieved.
    Remember to have a start, middle and end. Think of it as a journey from what inspired you / the market gap, through what makes your idea unique, your team, through to your business plan (financials and timing). Make sure you close gain a clear statement of support and clear way forward. Do not be afraid to ask if they are interested and agree a clear next step. Finally always follow up.

    Success of a pitch is measured in two ways:
    1. Have you created a brand advocate
    2. Have you got agreement to continue negotiations
    Occasionally you even get a “YES” at the first meeting.