Ignite Athens

On 20th September 2012, a fantastic event happened in Athens, Greece. Entrepreneurs, business start ups, VCs, angel investors and mentors all gathered at the Onassis Cultural Centre to share their passion for innovation. I was honoured to be invited to speak about My Fail Tale, making failure positive.

Ignite Athens place card

Ignite Athens a fast-paced geek event started by Brady Forrest, Technology Evangelist for O’Reilly Media, and Bre Pettis of marketbomb.com, formerly of MAKE Magazine‘ was organised for companies and leaders to share innovation. Based on a pecha kucha style presentation, each speaker was given 5 minutes (20 timed slides, each 15 seconds long) to talk.

The morning session…

The day opened with a message from Nellie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission who talked about the Digital Agenda for Europe and the importance of supporting entrepreneurs in Europe.

Neelie Kroes video message

The morning then heard a number of speakers all connected with entrepreneurship either as mentors, business support, interesting initatives or with successful companies.

Here is a summary of the insights I picked up from the speakers:

  • Tolis Aivalis, (@aivalis) a business mentor and serial entrepreneur kicked off the event by talking about the important characteristics of an entrepreneur. Autonomy, strength and liberty were interesting key words.
  • Ryan from The Ink Factory (@the_ink_factory) demonstrated (via an animation) their amazing talent at graphic recording. ‘You talk, we draw, it’s that simple.’ Well, they make it look that simple but actually, they are fantastic at capturing the essence of your talk in a matter of minutes. Here is a photo of one of the boards they created throughout the morning.

Graphic recording by The Ink Factory

  • endeavor(@endeavorGR) gave an interesting talk about growth and how to support entrepreneurs. Apparently only 15% of entrepreneurs in Greece are female whereas only 8% are female in the EU. Why is this? These numbers are both incredibly low.We need to be more realistic about where we are and what we can achieve: aim high, dream but make sure you can reach that dream!
    Explore the power of corporations; but don’t boycot and create issues and share you ideas.
    Have a strong commitment to your start-up: solutions are not handed to us!
  • Ydir Vissers from Monitor Group explained their view on the paths to becoming an entrepreneur.
    – You could set yourself up in Silicon Valley and immerse yourself in the entrepreneurial surroundings.
    – Spawn off others through an anchor model path.
    – Follow heros that represent entrepreneurship.
    – Be put into an event driven environment where you have to succeed!
  • I added to the conversation by presenting the My Fail Tale project (video below), working to create a movement of change people’s attitude towards failure. The great news it that the subject was warmly welcomed and people were happy to discuss their failures. Well, more their fear of failure as most people in the room were entrepreneurs about to fail! The Ink Factory created this great representation of my talk:My Fail Tale

The afternoon session…

The afternoon session introduced a huge list of budding entrepreneurs in Greece. There were so many of them that it’s best you look them up yourselves if you’re interested. Here are some of my favourite:

Healthster ‘The smartphone app Hippocrates himself would endorse. Be CEO of your own well being. Taste health one bite at a time with Healthster’ @healthsternow

Gnostix ‘Social Media Monitoring & Analytics tool for results driven Social Media Marketing’ @gnostix

Weendy ‘Share the action, fun and conditions from any spot as it happens. Simple. Social.’ @weendyapp

Suibee ‘Suibee collects inspiring posts from people like you’ @suibeeapp

WOTgroup ‘helping women find mentoring in business’ @WOTgroup

Buddy Traffic ‘Buddytraffic is a fun and exciting crowdsourced app that helps you and your buddies report and avoid traffic’ @buddytraffic

Fashinating ‘Fashinating is online window shopping! Thousands of fashion products – apparel, shoes, bags, accessories, jewelry – from the best online stores worldwide are gathered in one place, to enable you to easily discover and buy the items you like.’ @fashinating

To sum up…
Ignite Athens did a great job at bringing entrepreneurs, innovators, business minded, inspiring people together in one place. The passion and excitement in the room created the foundations for business initiatives and forward thinking. I met people from all types of business with different skills and different dreams. I wish them all the best of luck and thank everyone for the insights and contacts I took away.

The talks can all be found here on YouTube.

You can watch Louise speak about My Fail Tale below:


Made In Brunel: Pecha Kucha 2012

Made In Brunel banner

I was honoured to be invited back to the Made in Brunel 2012 exhibition to give a Pecha Kucha presentation at the Barge House on London’s Southbank. Not only did I do my undergraduate degree in Industrial Design (back in the Runnymede years) but I helped organise our end of year exhibition and have always been a fan of the Brunel end of year shows.

It was a hard task to speak along side this list of inspiring people!

However, the theme ‘journeys fuelled by ideas’ did allow me to present how I went from an undergraduate in Industrial Design to being a social innovator today. Here is a summary of my 20 slides (each timed at 20 seconds long):

  1. I started my talk by urging everyone to read Victor Papanek’s ‘The Green Imperative’ – a book that changed by view on design, made me question the world of consumerism that I was experiencing and think about what the future will look like.
  2. This new way of thinking inspired me to see if I could wear/buy only second hand clothing for a year. It would be a challenge but a good challenge – I would need to think creatively about my wardrobe, it would help me save money and give me peace of mind that I was preventing unwanted clothes from going to landfill.
  3. Of course, buying only second hand clothing meant I spent a large amount of time in charity shops – then came Mary Portas!
    Pecha Kucha slide - Mary Portas
    Mary Portas presented a tv show where she transformed a run down charity shop into a fantastic retail experience. It made great tv and raised awareness around charity shops but… I didn’t feel it was true to reality. Not all charity shops have money, a film crew or a tv celebrity!
  4. I wanted to see if I could use my design thinking to help improve local and independant charity shops with little or no money.
  5. So, I immersed myself in a local charity shop and became a volunteer to see what it was like to be on the receiving end of donations. I steamed clothes to join in the back room conversations, I worked on the till to speak to customers and I hung around outside the shop to get a feel for what the community was all about.
  6. These insights, volunteer stories and community help allowed my to come up with a tool to provide recommendations for changes to the charity shop. The recommendations ranged from renting out the shop windows to community groups needing advertising space to changing the opening hours to attract a different type of customer.
  7. I had a real love for second clothing and wanted to learn more about the subject so I went with [re]design, the social enterprise and their ‘Chalky Van’ to the Vintage Festival. We facilitated sessions to find out how people might give an old shirt a second lease of life – the ideas were brilliant. My favourite was ‘blow my nose on it’.
    Pecha Kucha - Chalky Van
  8. I also ran a swishing event (where people come together to swap their unwanted clothes) with a twist. I wanted to see people’s reactions when a rack of clothing was placed in a busy street and people were allowed to swap their clothes. Some people swapped the clothes they were wearing, others negotiated with friends to swap and some went home to get something else to swap. It proved that people do like second hand clothing – it just needs to be displayed and presented in an interesting way.
  9. It was becoming clear that my passion was around behaviour change and encouraging people to swap bad habits for good ones and began to focus on using my design to do this.
  10. I became a design ambassador for the Design Council‘s Water Design Challenge and worked with a group of girls at a school in Southampton to enter the challenge. Their enthusiam, creativity and interest in reducing in their water consumption amazed me.
  11. I got involved with the People’s Kitchen in Dalston helping provide ‘food for the people by the people’ to encourage people  not to waste food.
    Pecha Kucha - The People's Kitchen
  12. Some people come to learn new cooking skills, others come to share their recipes, some come to eat an affordable meal and others come to meet like minded people. The best part is that everyone is helping to eat what would be unwanted food and change the attitude towards waste food. A People’s Kitchen has opened in Brixton which is fantastic news.
  13. And now, I’m Director of Behaviour Change at Ecoinomy helping large companies engage their staff to change their habits.
  14. It’s often hard for companies to create change within the organisation. Either the message is top down which feels like a stick is being waved to enforce change, or the message is bottom up and unheard.  Ecoinomy offer a system that motivates employees to change their habits by rewarding them for their actions and in return, money is given to a cause of their choice.
  15. Changing behaviours can be challenging and I spend most of my time working with the end users to find out how our system can be improved, discover what language needs to be used and how we can dig deeper into the world of good sustainable  habits.
  16. An area I had been wanting to work in was health and as a result teamed up with four other designers to enter the Design Council’s ‘Living well with Dementia‘ challenge.
  17. We decided to focus on helping improve the lives of the primary carer by encouraging families to collaborate to share the necessary care.
  18. This meant spending time with primary carers, speaking to people living with dementia and really finding out what life is like for everyone living with dementia.
  19. I am a real advocate for OpenIDEO – the platform where people collaborate to design better, together and recently ran an OpenIDEATION workshop with the Kingston University MA Design for Development students. We came up with concepts for the challenge looking at ‘how might we design an accessible election experience for everyone?
  20. And my latest concept ‘TED positive – sharing failures‘ for the OpenIDEO ‘how might we support web entrepreneurs in launching and growing sustainable global businesses?‘ is being developed as one of the winning concepts.
    Pecha Kucha - OpenIDEO conceptDo you have a failure story relating to your work/business/journey that you would like to share for others to learn from? If so, please let me know – I’d love to hear it!

And lastly, I’d like to thank Brunel for inviting me to speak, not only did it give me an excellent reason to reflect on my journey over the last 2 years but I got to meet plenty of interesting people and many old friends.

I also want to thank the lovely, Laoise Casey for taking photos while I spoke!

Sustainable business models: Green Growth Business Boot Camp

I was invited to take part in a panel at Kingston University for their Green Growth, Business BootCamp. The aim of the sessions is to address the increasing need to develop environmentally more friendly products and services and help enterprises & entrepreneurs make the most of the opportunities created by increasing consumer demand, resource costs, and regulatory controls in the eco-field.

The second event in the series was looking at sustainable business models and innovation; What business models are available, and how can they be introduced? What are the elements of a business model?




The panel session included myself talking about Ecoinomy – the behaviour change company who motivate employees to use less energy in the workplace, GoCarShare – helping people car share by hiring out the spare seats in their car and Makers – connecting designers, manufacturers and retailers with the very best UK manufacturers.

All three companies have strong values, focus on a sustainable business model and have society and the environment in mind.

  • I discussed how Ecoinomy have had to approach different stakeholders in different ways to explain the value of the system and about the importance of using the correct language to engage with people. The business model relies on direct cost savings being made; the system produces opportunities to reduce energy consumption, opportunities to motivate employees and ways to change general office behaviour – we call this a win-win-win system – the environment gains by CO2 emissions being reduced, the economy gains by people being efficient and using less and society gains by employees forming community groups to save money for a local cause of their choice.
  • goCarShare encourages people to think about sharing car journeys to help reduce the number of empty seats on the road (and in turn reduce the amount of CO2 and pollution) and help share costs. Drummond Gilbert (founder of goCarShare) opened by saying that he learnt there are 38 million empty car seats in Britain everyday and he wanted to do something about it. Based on a Collaborative Consumption model which uses swapping, sharing, bartering, trading and renting to create business, goCarShare rents car seats on journeys. The environment gains because there are potentially less cars on the road which means reduced emissions, the economy gains because the driver gets help with petrol costs and society gains because….well, I car shared once with Craigs List in California and had a great experience. Whether it’s a case of having help stay awake, potentially sharing the driving or just enjoying the company, car sharing is a great way to change attitudes to the way we use our cars. goCarShare had a lucky break last summer when they partnered with UK music festivals to encourage festival goers to share the driving to the events. The Secret Garden Party even taxed people who had empty seats in the their cars!
  • Chris Pett of Makers discussed how important it is to make the designer the heart of any manufacturing process to add value to the end result. Keen so use local materials and a sustainable supply chain, Makers turn sketches and prototypes into real products making sure that the product has not travelled miles to the end user but made the product where the end user is – while making sure their products are tested to international standards. The right supply chain and pricing is as important as the look and function: Makers’ design service is focused on producing commercially viable designs ready for manufacture. Our design clients can also use the Makers production service to produce the finished product.

After the panel discussion we answered questions from the audience. This is what I took away and hope everyone will remember when developing their sustainable businesses:

Do you believe in what you do? It is essential to believe 100% in what you are trying to achieve. The ‘green’ and ‘eco’ world can be a tough place to succeed in if you want to quickly prove that you are sustainable. You must persevere, be articulate and not let people put doubts in your mind.

How are you adding value for the end user? You need to remember that although you believe in your business, service or product, you still need to think about why the end user will use it. Whether you are changing behaviours in the workplace, offering a sustainable supply chain or helping provide cheap car journeys, you need be clear what makes you different to your competition.

How do you explain what you do? Not everyone will understand the language you use to describe your business. You probably talk to like-minded people most of the time but there will always be people who either don’t want to understand or who are unfamiliar with eco focussed business. Think about changing the language you use to target the person you are talking to if you want to engage with them.

How many times have you written your business plan? It’s important to have a business plan that you are happy with but it’s also important to not be afraid to veer away from it. If an opportunity comes along to collaborate with others, partner with another business or change your model, then do it if it feels right. With the changing economy and people becoming more environmentally conscious, it is sometimes worth being ready to change your business if it will help you reach your end goal quicker.

Who did you last speak to about your business? Networking is essential. You never know who you might meet who could help you and your business. Not only at networking events or conferences but everyday! A small link may lead you to a large connection which could open doors and even raise your profile considerably.

The Green Growth events is a great series for entrepreneurs wanting to be exposed to ways to succeed in business. Next week the session is looking at marketing. I hope everyone that attended the series is able to go away and set up one of the next successful eco-businesses.

Presenting ‘social cohesion’ to the Kingston MA students

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to present ‘promoting social cohesion’ to the current MA Design for Development students. It is a subject that I am passionate about and always great to be able to discuss the topic with fresh participants. The current students are impressively up to speed with service design and social innovation and we had a great discussion.

Promoting Social Cohesion

I have been working with a charity shop in Dalston to see how social innovation and service design methods can help improve the shop and it’s been a challenging yet rewarding project. The main topics covered in my presentation were the challenges faced with real life social innovation projects; understanding the end users and stakeholders, having empathy with the people affected by the project/service, thinking on your feet, having time to reflect and understanding how to use design thinking to tackle different situations.

We then discussed the barriers and enablers for the four projects I am currently working on: Ecoinomy, a work placed engagement system that motivates employees to use less energy, the Water Design Challenge;, working with a school in Southampton to help them use design to reduce their water consumption, The People’s Kitchen;, a food waste collection initiative which provides a meal for the community and the charity shop project.

The People's Kitchen

Barriers and Enablers

It was a helpful way for me to reflect on the projects I am working on and very satisfying that we all came up with similar words/themes.

Continue to learn: a project never runs as originally planned. It is stimulating to be open to a change of direction (often for the better) and to use the insights gained along the way to benefit the project.

Keep a fresh mind: It is very easy to get too absorbed in a project, especially when you are the only service designer. Taking a step back or speaking to people outside about what you’re experiencing is essential. It is amazing how people unrelated to your project or service design can be helpful with an idea.

Be confident: There will often be times when a project isn’t going as planned or in the direction you had desired. Barriers come up all the time, stakeholders can change their minds about decisions and time can run out. It is important to stay confident at all times (or at least appear confident!) so that the rest of the team/stakeholders do not worry about the project. It is always possible to involve new people if necessary or discuss how to face a certain situation with the project team.

Add value: There is no point in carrying out a project (especially as a service designer/design thinker) if you are not adding value. Remind yourself that as the project evolves, you need to be able to measure how the project is going, think about where value can be added and refer back to your original aims on a regular basis.