On Tuesday 30th of June, we welcomed the publisher of The Challenger's Almanac to host an evening focussed on organisations that are doing things differently.
Published in 2014 following a successful Kickstarter campaign, The Challenger's Almanac is a curated collection of stories, gathered to change perspectives on how people do business. The publication’s luxurious design and inspiring content has proven popular, with a second issue now in production. Original contributors included David Hieatt, founder of Hiut Denim, typographer Jessica Hische and It’s Nice That’s Will Hudson.
The Challenger’s Almanac was the brainchild of Cornwall-based filmmakers and entrepreneurs, Mark and Emily Anderson. On the 30th of June, we welcomed Mark to YCN to host a conversation between three of the publication's contributors, exploring some of the book's themes. Mark was joined by Matt Lane who founded Beerbods – a service that, for a small fee, will introduce the subscription holder to 12 new beers over 12 weeks, each accompanied by the story of the beer’s origin. Also in attendance was Olivia Knight of Patchwork Present, a website that provides a new gifting option for weddings and other large occasions. By creating a Patchwork Present, friends and family can contribute in part to your big gift, allowing them to choose which particular piece of the present they want to pay for. And to complement both Liv and Matt was Helen Gilchrist of Stranger Collective, a writing agency that pools collective talents to create intelligently crafted content, while also helping fund vital literacy work in the developing world (through its partnership with Children in Crisis) and fuelling the creativity through its innovative Feed working model. We first heard punchy and inspiring presentations from the three, each telling their stories so far and sharing their accumulated learnings. Following their presentations, Mark lead an open conversation with both the speakers and the audience exploring some of the broader topics covered in the Almanac, and what it really means to be a ‘challenger’.
Things we learned
1. Success isn’t always growth
The Challenger’s Almanac was born out of disillusion. Mark and Emily were running a filmmaking business that experienced fast growth and attracted wealthy clients. But during a particularly uninspiring project that required the duo to work in to the early hours to meet the deadline, Mark was faced with a render time of over 13 hours – and at that point he didn’t feel successful or happy with what they had achieved. So he and his wife made the decision to do what they believed in, which meant starting up a new business, turning down clients and creating something that meant something, which turned out to be The Challenger’s Almanac. The point that was reiterated throughout the evening was “money doesn’t inspire you in the middle of the night.”
2. Make your business out of your hobby
Long before Matt started Beerbods, beer was his hobby. He got his taste for the drink though his dad. A pre-teen Matt would accompany his dad along to his local pigeon racing club on a Friday night – not because he liked birds particularly – but because he was allowed a slurp of his dad’s ale. All through university Matt was trying to persuade his student pals to ‘drink better beer’ and ended up hosting beer tasting evenings in a shed. By the time the shed was overflowing with keen beer-drinkers, Matt realised that there was scope for a business and set about starting Beerbods.
3. Be good
Traditionally, business has always been cutthroat – we’re all familiar with people beating you down on price or putting financial gain first. Liv Knight, along with all the other speakers, wants to challenge this preconception and prove that business can be good, decent and human. When Liv’s website wasn’t working as it should and payments couldn’t be accepted, Liv personally kept all her customers updated daily and – once the site was back up and running – bought each person a part of their present as an apology. This considerate, human approach gained her loyal customers and excellent reviews, even though something had gone wrong.
4. Make time for creativity
Creativity can’t be managed, it can only be encouraged. At Stranger Collective each staff member benefits from its pioneering Feed scheme: after every 9 days of work, employees get one day out of the studio to pursue their own interests to fuel their inspiration and sharpen their creativity, whether it be working on a self-initiated project, learning new skills or immersing themselves in a new experiences to inform their work. The only proviso is that after each Feed day they write a blog post must be written to share their findings with others, from team members to clients.
5. Explain your idea as though it already exists
Even if your business idea is at the very early stages, talking about it as if it already exists is the best way to bring it to life – both in your own mind and in the mind of others. Matt talked of sharing his idea initially and being met with a generic positive response, whereas when he presented Beerbods as though it was already up and running, most people immediately asked ‘Where do I sign up?’
6. Ignore what people say
Doing business differently and finding your own way of doing things is really what being a ‘challenger’ is all about. Helen spoke of an ‘intelligent naivety’ which defines the way in which all challengers approach business – with creativity, imagination and a beneficial lack of knowledge that allows you to make the rules.
We’d like to say thank you to Mark and all the speakers at this event, and to Sam Bush for taking photographs.
The Challenger’s Almanac is available for Members to borrow from our Lending Library at 72 Rivington Street.
Location:72 Rivington St,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:30th June, 2015 at 6:30pm
End:30th June, 2015 at 8:00pm