Last week the British Library Business and IP centre held an event in our “Inspiring Entrepreneur” talk series on the power of social media. These events have been running since 2004 and always attract a full house and this one was no exception (if you missed it you can watch the webcast here or read the live blog here).
On the panel were two young entrepreneurs, who at first glance, could not appear more different. Fraser Doherty is the founder of SuperJam a traditional (some might say old fashioned) business supplying 100 per cent fruit jam to the major supermarkets and other retailers. The inspiration for the company was Fraser’s grandmother who taught him how to make jam when he was 14. In her honour he has also set up a charity that organises tea parties for the elderly.
Ian Hogarth is founder and CEO of Songkick, a site for live-music fans that alerts them when their favourite band is playing anywhere in the world and lets them buy tickets direct. Songkick is everything that SuperJam isn’t: high tech; sexy; and backed by a several million dollars worth of venture capital.
The two entrepreneurs are also very different. Fraser looks even younger than his 21 years and comes across as modest, unassuming and a little shy, while Ian is focused and slightly geeky in the manner of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs in whose footsteps he is following. Let’s say it came as no surprise to discover that he has a master’s degree in “machine learning” from Cambridge and, to quote his biography, “loves dystopian robot takeover narratives” (no, I don’t know what they are either).
However, they do have one important thing in common: they are both fantastic ambassadors for their companies. Both radiate passion and belief in what they are doing and both are clearly on top of every aspect of their business. They are also highly articulate and charming.
This doesn’t mean that they “are” the brand in the way that Virgin is a continuum of Richard Branson or that Bernard Matthews was inexorably bound up with the processed poultry products that bear his name (although Fraser is probably closer to these models), but they do understand the value of showing a human face. By speaking at events like ours, they are harnessing the power of their personalities to engage the audience with their companies. Fraser even encourages visitors to his website to book him for speaking engagements.
For those two entrepreneurs, the real value of our event lies in the “multiplier effect”. I am prepared to bet that a very sizable number of the people who listened to Ian and Fraser talk have since not only visited Songkick or bought SuperJam for the first time, but have also have told their friends and family about them and they, in turn, will tell their friends and family and so on.
I have certainly done both and now, of course, I am telling you. So if you are an inspiring entrepreneur, however modest, do remember to take every opportunity to talk directly to the people who matter to your organisation, whether they are customers, suppliers or potential investors. This can be through speaking events, social media or an interview in the local paper. Remember: people relate to people not a url or a jar of jam.