Entrepreneurs Exchange Part 2: Q and A with Anya Hindmarch and Cassandra Stavrou, PROPERCORN.

On Thursday 2nd March, we went to Manchester Town Hall for the Entrepreneurs Exchange, a national event hosted by HSBC where some of the UKs most prominent business men and women explored their journey to success. In Manchester, we were lucky enough to hear from designer Anya Hindmarch from her eponymous brand and PROPERCORN’s founder Cassandra Stavrou, both completely inspired and captivated the audience with their stories and top tips.

Following on from the two great talks, from two equally inspiring women, the floor was opened up to questions; which lead to some more great insights into the workings of two of the UK’s most successful businesses.

When asked about business mentors, both Anya and Cassandra said that they look to family for all kinds of feedback, as family are both the most honest and always available when you need a shoulder to lean on. Cassandra also explored the idea of pulling together a non compete collective of similar businesses to support each other and share burdens and motivation.

A big question of the evening was surrounding budgets, pricing strategies and marketing; when asked about the percentage of turnover which should be attributed to marketing and both Anya and Cassandra reiterated the idea that the budget should be attributed based upon the phase in which your business is in, if you are emerging into a new market or trying to reach a new demographic, you need to invest and overspend. When you are finally established, you can then find what strategy is best for you. Interestingly, Cassandra explored the idea what when you are in the early stages of your venture, you will choose your marketing budget (and other other areas) more choiceful, whereas, when you are more established with larger budgets you have more room to experiment and therefore make mistakes.

Something which Cassandra presented, and I personally found rather interesting, was the thought that you should never be so ‘arrogant’ to assume that what works in the U.K will work elsewhere. Really, when thought about, this idea could be taken into any form of complacency and reiterates the need to keep forcing yourself, and business, to try new things.

When questioned on the idea of team, both made it clear that culture is everything and that their teams are filled with people who are hand picked and treasured. If the culture isn’t right, the relationship just doesn’t work. Anya put forward the idea that emotional intelligence should be seen as a priority over IQ — if you have one person who is perfect on paper and one who is the perfect person, go with your gut and pick the best fit.

Cassandra told the audience of an early mistake of misunderstanding shelf life, and running the risk of making the bankrupt within one of the first retailer distributions. This simple mistake left the business in an all or nothing situation and the team worked tirelessly to contact anyone they could think of to ensure the stock was shifted and sold, instead of laid to waste. Quite a reminder that sometimes the fine line between success and failure is perseverance.

‘When you leave the office each day, fire yourself and then they next day return as your successor’ An interesting idea presented by Anya to ensure that you push yourself daily to really achieve your biggest goals and desires. Anya also explored the thought that you should only work with people you want to go to dinner with and are naturally aligned to, if you aren’t able to hold a good conversation with someone, there is very little chance you’ll build something which will thrive with them.

Finally, Cassandra delved into the stance that PROPERCORN never speak badly about their competitors, nor do they ever look at their activity or check out their social media — as this will only ignite copycat behaviour, which there is no space for.

Massive thanks to HSBC, Anya Hindmarch and Cassandra Stavrou for a great evening exploring all things entrepreneurship.

Want to hear more or get together to discuss all things start up? Tweet us at @wooldigital

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