Friday, 23 December 2011

Best wishes to our companies from Interiors & Lifestyle Futures

The team at  Interiors & Lifestyle Futures send their best wishes to those celebrating Christmas or enjoying the holiday period. We hope  to all our West Midlands companies, partners,and participants on the ILF Venture programme  have a very Happy New Year.We'll be back in touch in January with more blog news and details of all our latest workshops, activities and exciting business opportunities. Our offices reopen on Tuesday 3 January 2012.

Let's hope it isn't like this. No, really!

Contact details
Tel nos:
Birmingham office 0121 331 7925
Stoke office 01782 415210

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Lord Stafford Awards for collaboration

Thanks to Interiors & Lifestyle Futures' member Katy Helps of  Love Me Interiors for spotting this useful celebration of the collaboration principle.  This focuses on collaborations between companies and Midlands- based universities  - with an attractive £5,000 prize to boot!

Lord Stafford Awards - 2012 Round Open to Entries (Midlands)

The Lord Stafford Awards are now open to applications for the 2012 round, with a prize of £5,000 available for the winners.
The Awards recognise and encourage the development of collaborative relationships between businesses and universities, highlighting the value and importance of such partnerships. The objective is to generate increased competitiveness, knowledge, support, growth and economic prosperity.
Universities across the Midlands can compete in the following four categories:
1.     Innovation in Development.
2.     Innovation Achieved.
3.     Innovation for Environmental Sustainability.
4.     Open Collaboration.

Winning an award can provide businesses with extra drive and opportunities to expand. A £5,000 cash prize is awarded to the winners, together with a commemorative trophy. The winners also receive associated publicity to help their business reach potential new customers.
Private sector businesses or clearly identifiable business divisions of larger organisations may apply. They must have collaborated on a defined project with one or more of the Midlands' universities or higher education institutions.
The closing date for entries is 28 June 2012 (12 noon) and further information can be found here
Any companies working within the West Midlands interiors and lifestyle sectors with a strong idea for a collaboration with a university can email Interiors & Lifestyle Futures here or call 0121 331 7925

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Fantastic opportunity to get your product into retail

Here's a fantastic opportunity for Interiors & Lifestyle Futures companies to pitch their ideas to Mary Portas’ business partner, Peter Cross. Successful applicants will win the chance to have their products or ideas sold or showcased in the Mary shop within House of Fraser.

If you have designed a beautiful new homeware product or have an innovative interiors idea that you feel her shop could benefit from please complete the application form found here and return it for your chance to meet Mary’s team of experts and pitch your ideas to them at next years show in January.

Pre-screened applicants will have a 10 minute slot to pitch their product or idea to Peter at the INTERIORS UK show. If you are interested, please complete the application form and return to the address detailed on the form by the deadline: 6th January 2012.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Collaboration continues: The Great 28 Day Exhibition

Made in the Jewellery Quarter – an Interiors & Lifestyle Futures’ inspired collaboration of four Birmingham companies – will be showcasing the results of their combined design and manufacturing capabilities early in 2012.

The Great 28 Day Exhibition will take place throughout February 2012 at Artfull Expression in the Jewellery Quarter. Made in the Jewellery Quarter’s aim is to: “let the people of Birmingham and the wider region know what is made on their doorstep, plus give them the opportunity to buy a piece of craftsmanship and a contemporary product from artisans, designers and most importantly locally based businesses.”

Work by Alabaster & Wilson of the Made in the Jewellery Quarter Group

Made in the Jewellery Quarter comprises: Alabaster & Wilson; Capricorn Coating; and LJ Millington. The group formed following an Interiors & Lifestyle Futures’ collaboration workshop and with ILF help they took part in the 2011 Pulse international trade fair in London.

For further info please see Made in the Jewellery Quarter and Artfull Expression

Don't forget, Interiors & Lifestyle Futures is always keen to hear from West Midlands companies who have proposals for collaboration projects. Please email or call 0121 331 7925.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Awards for start ups

StartUp Britain, the private sector initiative launched in March 2011,  "designed to celebrate, inspire and accelerate enterprise in the UK" has just circulated a list of competitions of interest to start up/growing businesses.

Guardian Digital Innovation Awards
The 2012 Megas have launched with a new range of award categories, to celebrate and recognise creative achievements and inspiring entrepreneurial spirit within the field of technology.
Award categories include:
  • Young innovator of the year (sponsored by Wired)
  • Best StartUp business (sponsored by Taylor Wessing)
  • Best StartUp Leader / CEO
  • Best use of technology for social change
And many more…
Further details about all the categories, the full judging panel and information on how to enter are available here
If you are entering before 2nd December, the early bird discount of 25% will be applied at the time of payment.
£1,000 Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Awards
Shell LiveWIRE have 4 x £1,000 prizes to give away in December to the most innovative ideas submitted by new businesses!
  • Entrants (and any business partners) must be aged 16-30.
  • Entrants must have been trading for less than 12 months.
  • Entrants must be based in the UK.
  • Entry to the December Awards closes on midnight 31/12/2011.
Entries are made via the Shell LiveWIRE website here
The Stake
The Stake is a unique competition for 16 to 21 year olds, which gives you the chance to decide how £100,000 is spent AND allows you to turn a bright idea into a reality. What are you waiting for?
Using Facebook you can enter the competition by either pitching or backing an idea with the chance of making it a reality. Either way you will get one stake, which you can use to back your favourite idea – even if it’s your own!
The top 20 ideas with the most stakes by 23 December at 11.59pm will be shortlisted and judged by a panel from Channel 4 and Barclays. Apply now.
 Get 1k in cash for your Christmas Party
Huddlebuy are giving away £1,000 for your Christmas Party! This is open to all entrepreneurs, SMEs and home workers so that the winner can have a great Christmas. A link to the competition entry form can be found here

For more information about StartUp Britain please click

Monday, 28 November 2011

Sitting pretty: ILF Venture's Jo debuts company at NEC

Jo Hancox, from the first cohort on the ILF Venture programme, has set up her company ‘Sit On My Face’, launching it in style at the NEC’s Festive Gift Fair.

Jo Hancox, second from left, with her stand at the Festive Gift Fair

Jo’s uses her artistic skills to apply quirky portraiture to cushions and soft furnishings. Interiors & Lifestyle Futures caught up with Jo as she recovered from an intense and long four days on her show stand.    

How was the show for you?
It was great to gain experience and see how people reacted to Sit on My Face.  The feedback was so positive and it was a massive high making so many people giggle. It was really enjoyable seeing people’s reactions. I think the market at the show only had a handful of people that really appreciated the price, the time and the materials that had gone into the product. People seemed to be there for a bargain –long legged Santas hahaha! 

Did you generate any sales, enquiries?
I have had a few enquires and an order of 10 cushions. I also had someone who wanted me to ring about them putting them in their shop, which I need to follow up. I think it has created a buzz and got the brand out there.

How did you find the overall experience?
It let me promote my brand and feel confident getting it out there. I found the actual selling a massive adrenaline rush. It was so enjoyable as people really loved the product especially the name. I definitely learnt a lot.

Jo's 'Sit on My Face' stand creates a buzz at Birmingham's NEC

What were the key lessons you learnt?
How to sell and talk to people. How to gauge people’s reactions – whether they were keen on the product or whether they would say the price is too high. I learnt that my market isn’t the NEC. My clientele are people with money. I should be going to more suitable fairs such as the Interiors Show, Grand Designs. I learnt that I need to create a logo instead of just the banners.

After the first day, I had to create some posters to explain to people that they could have their own portraits on the cushions, etc. I ran out of business cards though I had 400 to start with, so you need to be selective who you give cards too. I certainly learnt that people don’t want random faces they want their own face.

Finally, what would you advise other people who were thinking of doing an event like this to include in their planning?
Make sure they do the research. Make sure that the market is their target market.

You can keep up to date with Jo's company through her Facebook page

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Back to the Future: Contemporary West Midlands Glass Artists To Celebrate 400 Years of Stourbridge Glass

2012 will be the 400th anniversary of glass making in the Stourbridge area and a group of West Midlands’s glass artists and designers will be making sure the occasion does not go unnoticed.  

Back to the Future – an exhibition of contemporary work inspired by the world famous glass collections and archives of Dudley Borough – will open in August 2012 during the International Festival of Glass and run until the end of January 2013.

The driving forces behind the exhibition are glass artist Jackie Cooley and Kari Moodie and Roger Dodsworth from Broadfield House Glass Museum (where the exhibition will take place) with the support of The Friends of Broadfield House Glass Museum and Interiors & Lifestyle Futures.   

Glass artists on one of the guided tours 

“We are interested in creating a connection or dialogue between the contemporary makers/designers in the West Midlands and their historical counterparts,” says Kari Moodie. “We held a series of open days, during November, for artists interested in applying for the exhibition at Broadfield House, the Museum’s stores and library at Himley Hall, and Dudley Archives & Local History Service in Coseley.”

The aim is that inspiration for new work could come from glass objects, archival materials such as pattern books and other historical documents, or even the architectural features of Broadfield House.

"A dialogue between contemporary makers/designers and their historical counterparts"
Although an artist might be inspired by a piece produced using a similar technique to their own, we would encourage artists to look at items outside of their normal working techniques,” adds Jackie Cooley.

 “For example, a kiln former could look at a blown object or a cold worker might look at a lamp-worked piece. We are also encouraging artists to think about changes of scale as well as technique. The new work shouldn’t be an accurate copy of the original but could feature something of its essence.”

Successful applicants will be chosen by a panel in February 2012 and pieces that are selected as their collaborative inspiration will be exhibited alongside the new work or the new work will be exhibited alongside existing displays or features.

Celebrating 400 years of West Midlands glass making

Monday, 14 November 2011

Well done Will - winner of the pop up shop comp.

Congratulations to Will Cutler, winner of the Birmingham City Centre pop-up shop competition, we blogged about last month . Will is on the ILF Venture mentoring programme, which is supporting new West Midlands' businesses.

Interiors & Lifestyle Future is delighted one of the ILF community has won this prestigious  prize. Will will be running his own shop right over the festive period into the New Year, at The Square, Corporation St, in Birmingham City Centre.

Will, who is setting up F7 Jewellery to help jewellers and other new designers, has written us a blog all about it. Don't forget to pop in and see Will, especially if you are on the look out for a beautiful gift  at this time of year .

Post Will Cutler
My shop is running from 15 November until the end of January and it's a fantastic opportunity for me to try out one of the aspects of my business plan relatively risk free, as I had planned to use pop up shops as a method of retail in the future. This has given me the chance to see if it is a viable offer to make to the designers that I will represent, as well as hopefully making some much needed capital for the start of my business. If all goes well, the use of pop up shops will definitely become a part of my company in the future.

"Being on the ILF Venture programme has helped me to do this"

Although it's been quite a struggle to organise all my suppliers as quickly as I have had to, it has already shown me the importance of having a diverse network of people around you, with many of my go-to designers already booked up and busy over the Christmas period. It's also forced me to think about the other disciplines of craft I could represent such as ceramics, art and textiles, as the practicalities of filling a huge shopping unit with jewellery in such short notice is rather difficult. Caitlin Griffiths, a colleague on ILF Venture has been a great help. I've been able to ask her to source artwork for me and as she is an art professional I can trust her opinion on hanging and display.

Just three of the desirable gifts on sale at Will's pop up shop

Just by being on the ILF Venture programme has helped me to do this, as I wouldn't have even known about the competition, as well as all the help I have received, which has allowed me to take advantage of this opportunity.  

Contact Will:

Tw: or @F7jewelleryabout last month.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Exhibition by Midlands' artists and designer makers

Textiles and Paper (TaP) is a group of independent textile artists and makers living and working in the Midlands, who aim to showcase contemporary textile art around the region.  They have a seasonal show at the Pop up Gallery , New Brewery Arts, Brewery Court, Cirencester 14-26 November ( 10am-4pm daily). Ermine Jackson-Miles from the ILF Venture mentoring programme is one of the artists included.

TaP exhibition

TaP formed in 2005 to offer inspiration, support, and a network to its members.  Exhibiting members are Jane Freer-Wyld - weave, Jenny Fergusson - felt, Deb Roberts - felt, Barbara Fidoe - print, Ermine Jackson-Miles - constructed textile,s and Michaela McMillan - sculpted textiles.

Location details

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Is your collaboration SAFE: a simple model for collaborative viability

Post Ken Thompson, Bioteams

Most collaborative ventures don't turn out quite the way we envisage. It would be great if we could determine in advance if a particular collaborative project or joint venture will be worth the required investment. Here is a simple way you can assess the merits of any collaborative endeavour BEFORE you invest time, effort and money in failing to make it work.

The SAFE model of collaborative viability - a summary 

S is for SYNERGY
Is there genuine synergy between the parties? If you all do the same thing or do things which are too diverse to join up then you don't have SYNERGY.

Assuming that there is SYNERGY do the parties actually want to collaborate? If SYNERGY is the mind of collaboration then APPETITE is the heart. You can't have collaboration without APPETITE.

OK so there is SYNERGY and APPETITE but if it now requires monumental effort to collaborate or there are huge practical obstacles to collaboration then it won't happen. Is it Feasible?

Finally you could have the other three things but unless there are some good specific benefits to the parties, preferably economic, then any collaboration is probably not going to be sustainable.

Many thanks to Kathryn Burns of Birmingham City University  who collaborated with me to develop this model. 

If you are a West Midlands business working in the interiors or lifestyle markets and have an idea for a collaboration you'd like to pursue or would just like to know a bit more about how Interiors& Lifestyle Futures could help your business, please call 0121 331 7925 or write to

Don't forget to check out some of Ken's other collaboration models:

The Sustainable Network model 

The Fair Collaboration model

The 3 rings of commitment in any group

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Everything you ever wanted to know about social media but were afraid to ask: LinkedIn The Instant Business Guide

“People keep telling me I should be using social media. But, how does it work? I don’t know where to begin/don’t have the time/which format should I be using?”

Variations on that theme are heard regularly at various  Interiors & Lifestyle Futures workshops and events..

Make sure you are in with the In Crowd

Now, thanks to Nadia at Bioteams, we can now offer handy-sized and easy-to-follow instant guides. These will help social media newbies make sure they aren’t missing potential business opportunities and even launch themselves successfully into the Tweetosphere!

 For the Linkedin and other guides, please visit Bioteams.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Innovative and knowledgeable: Interiors companies' networking day 20 Oct

Post Kathryn Burns and photos Chris Webb
Over 30 interiors companies from the Interiors & Lifestyle Futures community got together on 20 October for a day of networking and shared thinking with experts in high-value contract and domestic interiors markets.

Delegates at Interiors & Lifestyle Futures'  high-value interiors event

The event took place at the Birmingham office of Aedas and included an interactive workshop  where attendees explored opportunities for accessing high-value markets.

Speakers & topics 
Phillip Handley, specifications director at Johnsons Tiles talked about  how adding a range of high value tiles and persistence  have helped penetrate new and lucrative markets.

Kevin Singh, described how his practice,  the space* studio, has developed relationships with West Midlands suppliers and customers to create innovative and successful interiors solutions.

David Rowe, a West Midlands furniture designer presented  his experience in a collaborative project to develop a new chair for educational environments. External forces such as a new European standard and technology changes combined with 30 years of seating know-how had influenced the development of a fresh and successful design.

Marcus Wilkins and Joe Huddleston,  Aedas provided a global trip through recent projects and gave an insight on how lessons learned worldwide are brought back into their UK work.

"Insightful, educational and motivational"

 Some feedback

"Very useful understanding of key criteria/specification decisions made by architects"
Chris Edginton Mobius Living Ltd

"Most useful finding a collective of people who can help each other  develop their businesses and networking"
Penelope Jordan, 3D Textile Artist

"The talks were insightful, educational and motivational. The other attendees were innovative, interesting, supportive and knowledgeable."
Katy Helps, Love Me Interiors

Thanks to Chris Webb Photography for the excellent photo record of the day.

Delegates at one of the interactive workshops at the Interiors event

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Playing the brand game

The Independent's SME section recently carried an interesting article drawing a comparison between game playing and branding. We'd like to share it with our Interiors & Lifestyle Futures companies. Author Rishi Dhir defines five principles to a successful brand and we've given edited extracts below plus a link so you can explore the original article.

" [The] core ideas of satisfaction, engagement and addiction [of competing in games] are similarly the holy grail of brand building and in recent years brand owners have applied the principles of gaming to enhance the brand experience. Boiling it down, there are five core principles that brands have borrowed from the gaming fraternity.

Make it challenging
Nike ID is a great example of the concept of challenge applied in the brand context: customers are given the tools online to design and create their own shoe, choosing the style, material and colour. Even though it's far easier to buy a ready-made (and probably better designed shoe) off the shelf, the task of building your own is somehow far more involving and satisfying. Nando’s challenges customers to avoid getting the hottest piece of peri-peri-coated chicken in a game of ‘wing roulette’.

Make it competitive
Ebay uses the idea of competition in its online auctions. By getting customers to bid against one another to ‘win’ their chosen product, they’ve injected fun and a sense of rivalry into the buying process.

Be the Best
Make it rewarding
Fiat’s Eco-Drive technology is [an] example: the system analyses driver technique, and gives a score on an eco-index, marking the drive out of 100. It provides tips on how to change braking, acceleration, gear changes and speed in a step-by-step tutorial to help drivers improve their economy. The system lays down a gauntlet for the driver to improve their driving style; the reward being the sensation of mastery, the knowledge that they have positively contributed to the environment (in some small way) and lower running costs.

Allow continual discovery
The best videogames take the player on a journey of discovery by providing an ever-evolving environment....... Even apparently 'simple' games, like Suduku, with a virtually infinite number of puzzles of varying levels of difficulty offer the gamer the opportunity for endless discovery.

Facebook and Amazon keep customers in a perpetual state of discovery. Whether it’s to stay in tune with what your friends are doing, or to discover a new artist, movie or book, as a result of a targeted recommendation based on your past purchases, the content is continually updated to stay fresh and exciting, which keeps users coming back for more.

Fun, games and branding

Incentivise collaboration
Online games, such as World of Warcraft require players to collaborate with one another, forging alliances and developing common strategies to overcome the enemy. The game itself is essentially reduced to a platform of rules and parameters, where success can only be achieved through co-operation with others. The environment encourages dialogue and creativity, both of which are intrinsically rewarding.

Groupon applies this principle beautifully: it encourages people to ‘buy together to save together’, collectively benefiting from lower prices on restaurants, spas, and other leisure activities in their cities. It works on the premise of bulk purchasing power and the whole idea of buying with your friends, makes the experience far more engaging. "

To read Rishi Dhir's complete article, please go here The Independent SME Now here

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Deadline extended- win your own pop up shop in Brum City Centre

We've recently learnt of this wonderful opportunity from the online Birmingham Post, which should appeal to our Interiors & Lifestyle community. If you want the chance of your own free shop, you've now got until Friday 17 October to get your application in.

"The Square, off Corporation Street, is running a competition giving fledgling retailers the chance to run a store at the shopping centre from the end of October right through to Christmas. The winner will not face any bills for rent, rates or utility costs.

"They will also receive mentoring from owners of other shops within the centre, along with the Square's management team.

"Anyone wishing to take part in the competition should log onto before the competition deadline of Friday 17 October, explaining their business idea and why they deserve the opportunity to win.

"A group of experts, including the Birmingham Mail’s Consumer Editor Emma McKinney and Paul Lewis, manager of The Oasis fashion store in The Square, will then review the entries before whittling them down to a short-list.

Those short-listed will be invited to pitch their ideas in a Dragons’ Den-style interview "

Read More Birmingham Post

An exhibition celebrating alumni of the School of Jewellery, Birmingham 1971 to 2011

Post Kathryn Partington
Terry Hunt has created an exhibition of work by selected alumni to celebrate his 40 years involvement with learning and teaching at Birmingham City University's School of Jewellery.

Exhibitors include designers, artists, makers, gallery owners, academics and retailers from all over the UK, as well as Germany, Italy, Norway, Israel, South Africa, USA, Chile, Thailand and China.
Each of the 100 exhibitors is represented by two items – one student piece and one more contemporary.

 Just a few of  the products by alumni from Birmingham City University's School of Jewellery
The exhibition is a brilliant confirmation of how the School has helped encourage links between creativity and entrepreneurship over the last 40 years; showing its significant influence not only on the business of craft and product in the West Midlands but also throughout the world.

Duration: 24 October 2011 – 25 November 2011 (Weekdays only: 10.00am – 4.00pm)
Free admission/ Catalogue available

Address: School of Jewellery, Birmingham City University, Vittoria Street
Birmingham B1 3PA
For more information see:

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Hereford Photography Festival Print Auction

Post Caitlin Griffiths, ILF Venture
Over 40 artists from across the world have donated works of art to help raise funds for the UK’s longest running photography festival. All auction proceeds will go directly to supporting future Hereford Photography commissions and exhibitions.

Photo by Martin Parr

Sir Roy Strong, Patron of the Hereford Photography Festival said: “As a committee supporter of this festival, it was exciting to hear that there is to be an auction of work by some of the really outstanding photographers who have contributed to its success. The proceeds will go towards supporting its future in what are challenging times.”

Auction runs from Monday 26 September with bidding closing at 8pm GMT on Friday 7 October 2011.  A final event will also take place on 7 October at London's Hotshoe Gallery where extra items will be for sale.

For more details please visit:

Photo by Corinne Silva

Monday, 19 September 2011

High value interiors networking event on October 20th

Date: 20 October 2011, 9 – 4pm

Venue: Aedas, Colmore Plaza, Birmingham B4 6AT

Cost: FREE to qualifying companies

Interiors & Lifestyle Futures would like to invite you to an exclusive networking event for interiors companies (designers, manufacturers, architects and interior designers).

The event will feature a morning session of expert speakers from high-value contract and domestic interiors’ backgrounds. The afternoon will involve an interactive workshop exploring opportunities for accessing high-value markets.

This is a FREE event for eligible small and medium size businesses in the West Midlands.

In order to qualify for any of these FREE business opportunities you will need to register with the Interiors & Lifestyle Futures community and take part in a company assessment.

To register your attendance please call 0121 3317924 or email

Monday, 12 September 2011

Product development and additive manufacture event

Frank Cooper from Interiors & Lifestyle Futures is chairing a creative industries seminar session at the TCT Live 2011 at Birmingham's NEC.

Frank's session on the morning of the 29 September (from 10.15 am) will include:
-What will designers do when everyone can be a designer’
-Bridging the physical and 3D worlds’’ about introducing CAD to the young.

Later that day (14.30 pm) in the main conference hall, Frank will also be presenting a research paper on: 'Quality castings from prototype resins, fact or fiction'

As explained on their website, TCT Live is aimed at those involved in "Product Development and Additive Manufacturing in Europe.

"It is the ideal forum for everyone involved in the concept, design, specification and manufacturing process to learn about the latest in Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing and other cutting edge product development software and technology. Adopting these technologies is of critical importance for companies wishing to stay ahead of their competitors."

Frank will be there for the three days of the event (27-29 September) and encourages any Interiors & Lifestyle Futures' companies to visit his seminar or just stop him for a chat.

Frank Cooper pictured left, June 2011 at Interiors & Lifestyle Futures' Show and Tell event

Friday, 26 August 2011

Business support and funding from ILF Venture

With our first Interiors & Lifestyle Futures Venture delegates successfully embedded, we are offering 15 people the opportunity to apply for the next and final phase of the programme.

This six-month intensive mentoring and development initiative is open to people planning a new interiors and lifestyle business in the West Midlands. It includes an award of £1,000 and will run from this October until March 2012. You mustn’t be trading the business yet and you’ll need to get your application in by 15 September.

“We are looking to help the best talent from the West Midlands start their own companies in the interiors and lifestyle sectors,” says Wendy Jones, from ILF Venture. “They get six months of expert mentoring and development workshops that really focus ideas and sharpen business skills.

Application deadline
15 September 2011 - interviews will be held on 26 and 27 September.

Percy Emmett leading a workshop for ILF Venture

Participants get
•£1,000 awarded on setting up a business
•Access to office space at Birmingham Institute of Art & Design’s Enterprise Hub
•Up to 18 hours one to one support from coaches and mentors
•Access to events and the Interiors & Lifestyle Futures business network

Workshops include
Compulsory five day workshop 3-7 October 2011: Vision and Values/Business Modelling tools ie evidence/relationship/blueprint
•Finances in business
•Intellectual property/Law
•Marketing/Social Media
•Presentation and negotiation skills/Networking techniques
•Finding customers/Selling and sales

One to one sessions
•Finance and accounting
•Selling techniques
•Monthly business planning meeting
•Evaluation meeting

Applications forms from . For more information phone Wendy Jones on 0121 331 7925 or Iain Acton on 0121 331 7922.

Jane White and Jade Debenham at the recent five day ILF Venture workshop

Qualifying interiors and lifestyle products and services
•furniture, lighting, heating, commercial art, tableware, garden products, kitchen products, fashion and clothing, jewellery and decorative giftware, technical products, disability products for the home, etc.
•interior design, graphic and brand design, packaging design, product design services.

ILF Venture is part of Interiors & Lifestyle Futures’ extensive portfolio of funded activity. This programme is run by Interiors & Lifestyle Futures and NTI Birmingham and uses NESTA-accredited trainers. It is funded by Advantage West Midlands and the European Regional Development Fund.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Instant Guides to social media. Part 2: Facebook

Many companies use Facebook as a business supporting tool. Nadia Thompson from Bioteams has created a guide that helps you quickly set up your own Facebook for business page. She's included some useful hints and flags up some of the pitfalls. Just click here to get started.

And, if you haven't already taken a look, don't forget the post below for Nadia's Instant Guide to LinkedIn.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Government and IT- "A Recipe For Rip-Offs": Time For A New Approach

Post Adrian Burns
Parliament’s Public Administration Committee has issued a damning report on SMEs’ experience in pitching for Government contracts. Time and again successive governments have favoured large IT suppliers/Systems Integrators (SIs) who have taken advantage of SMEs’ innovative input only to drop them once a contract has been secured.

The findings sit uncomfortably alongside David Cameron’s ‘Enemies of Enterprise’ speech at his party’s 2011 spring conference, where the Prime Minister slammed “the public sector procurement managers who think that the answer to everything is a big contract with a big business and who shut out millions of Britain's small- and medium-sized companies from a massive potential market.”

"Millions of SMEs shut out from a massive potential market"

Points 39 and 42 from the report are worth quoting in full.
"39. SMEs approached us informally to express concerns based on their own experiences of subcontracting. We heard of cases where SIs had involved SMEs in the bidding process so they could demonstrate innovation, only for the SME to be dropped after award of contract. In some of these cases SMEs felt that they have provided innovative ideas which had then been exploited by the larger SIs. We were also told by SMEs that by subcontracting with an SI they were barred from approaching government directly with ideas that might allow it to radically transform its services and reduce costs. This was because SIs did not want the Government to be provided with ideas that could result in them losing business, or having to reduce costs."

"42. We take seriously the concerns expressed by many SMEs that by speaking openly to the Government about innovative ideas they risk losing future business particularly if they are already in a sub-contracting relationship with an SI. The Government should reiterate its willingness to speak to SMEs directly, and commit to meeting SMEs in private where this is requested. We recommend that the Government establish a permanent mechanism that enables SMEs to bring innovative ideas directly to government in confidence, thereby minimising the risk of losing business with prime contractors."

"SMEs to bring innovative ideas directly to government"

The report should be good news for SME IT suppliers as long as there is a will to implement the report’s strong recommendations. And, while it doesn’t dwell on SMEs forming their own advantageous partnerships there are surely compelling reasons to collaborate. Not least due to turnover requirements, professional indemnity, required certifications, currency of recent experience and more.

Let’s hope the doors are opening, stay open and SMEs are no longer shut out of the bidding process.

If you have ideas for possible collaborations in the West Midlands or want to find out how Interiors & Lifestyle Futures can help you form successful bidding collaborations, please contact: Iain Acton on 0121 331 7922 or at
Navin Sood on 0121 331 7924 or at

For the full committee report please click here.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Luxury brands buck the trend

Post Adrian Burns
High value, one of Interiors & Lifestyle Futures’ linchpins for competitive success, gets a significant endorsement in the latest results of LVMH. The French luxury goods group (Louis Vuitton, Dom Perignon, Givenchy, Bulgari and more) wrongfooted analysts with a 13% increase in sales (to £9.1billion in the first six months of 2011) and has even a waiting list for its Louis Vuitton handbags.

Zoe Wood, in her Guardian report on the results, adds that: “While the high street remains in the doldrums analysts predict that sales of designer clothes, watches and handbags will reach a new high of €186bn this year as the jet-set release the purse strings following the self-imposed spending purdah brought on by the global financial crisis.”

The phenomenon, Zoe Wood adds, isn’t restricted to LVMH – Burberry and Herm├Ęs are also experiencing better than expected sales.

Luxury brands - time to celebrate?

For the Guardian report see here

To explore LVMH’s various documents on its six month results to 30 June 2011, see here

Interested in how Interiors & Lifestyle Futures could help your business? Please email us at or ring Birmingham 0121 331 7925 or Stoke 01782 415210.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Carbon Zero building

Almost any house is capable of achieving a carbon zero rating. That’s the findings of buildings' performance expert Dr Lubo Jankovic, as reported in an article in Green Building Magazine.

“Dr Jankovic says rather than concentrating on new build standards, the challenge will be to make 95 per cent of existing housing stock eco-compliant.”

Dr Jankovic, from Birmingham City University's School of Architecture and Centre for Low Carbon Research, has led a detailed monitoring of a zero carbon house designed by John Christophers of Associated Architects. The house originates from 1840 and is in Balsall Heath, Birmingham.

John Christophers' zero carbon house

Interiors & Lifestyle Futures can help West Midlands companies interested in pursuing a low carbon strategy. Just drop us a line at
For the full Green Building article, please click here. To learn more about John Christophers and the house please go here.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Designing the Environment: Conference 12 July

West Midlands' interiors companies interested in product development opportunities within the health sector may want to book for this event at the Charles Hastings Education Centre, Worcestershire Royal Hospital on Tuesday 12 July.

This full day conference will explore opportunities for new product development, furniture, and interior design within the maternity unit including labour rooms and delivery suites in hospitals and birth centres.

For full details and booking information please click here

Friday, 17 June 2011

FREE business mentoring programme & £1000 award

Are you thinking of starting a new business?

Interiors and Lifestyle Futures VENTURE programme is recruiting the best talent from across the West Midlands to assist them with starting up their company.

We are able to support a total of 30 people within interiors and lifestyle products and service sectors (see flyer for examples) .

The intensive 6 months of mentoring & business development workshops builds business confidence, entrepreneurial skills and develops focused business ideas. This is done by exploring the tried and tested NESTA business development models

Additional Information

£1,000 awarded on setting up a business

Access to office space at BIAD’s Enterprise Hub

Up to 18 hours one to one support from coaches and mentors

Access to events and the Interiors and lifestyle futures business network

Application Deadline

15th July 2011

To get an application form or for more details email:


Iain Acton

T: 0121 331 7922


Wendy Jones

T: 0121 331 7925


Monday, 6 June 2011

Visioning workshops – a creative approach for creative people

Post Adrian Burns
In Spring 2011, Laura Pollard, creative business consultant, attended one of Interiors & Lifestyle Futures’ visioning workshops to help her business development plans. She ‘s recently reviewed that experience on her blog.

“When you talk about planning for business development in the creative industries, it’s sometimes like reading French Vogue, the pictures look great and the products are to-die-for, but your schoolgirl French means you’re tempted to only read every third word of the article and skim over the real meaning.

“Luckily, the ‘visioning’ element of the workshop [provided] a visual and talkative way to approach the entire event.”

Laura Pollard at an Interiors & Lifestyle Futures visioning workshop

Interiors & Lifestyle Futures’ visioning workshops help a variety of West Midlands’ small businesses and sole traders, particularly in the creative industries, to focus on critical business opportunities. They are an excellent environment for people, normally spending days if not weeks working in isolation, to bounce ideas of others like them, to pool knowledge and to share useful contacts. The visioning workshops are also a great platform for growing a new network of colleagues.

Since posting her visioning workshop review, Laura has begun collaborating with fellow workshop participant, Victoria Delany, silversmith and product designer. Laura is helping Victoria with her upcoming product launch at Origin crafts fair this September, providing marketing/PR services.

Victoria Delany's 'candlestacks' and bespoke table ware

Don’t forget to read Laura’s blog and get an update on what some of her visioning workshop colleagues are up to fellow attendees are now up to.

Limited spaces available
Visioning workshop 5 Part 1 5 July, Part 2 19 July
Visioning workshop 6 Part 1 6 July, Part 2 20 July

If you’d like to book a place, register your interest for a future visioning workshop or want to know more, please email or telephone: 0121 331 7925

Friday, 27 May 2011

Private view invitation for I&L Futures companies

Post Gay Penfold
Interiors & Lifestyle Futures is delighted to invite our network of companies to Private Views of the work of this year’s graduating students from Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, Birmingham City University.

The private views are aimed specifically at industry/companies, giving you the chance to view the exciting work produced by students from our Fashion, Product and Interior design and Jewellery degree courses.

The Jewellery Show Industry Private View: Tuesday 14 June (6pm to 8pm), School of Jewellery Vittoria Street B1 3PA

Fashion, Product and Interior design Show Industry Private View: Wednesday 15 June (6pm to 8pm), BIAD,Gosta Green B4 7DX

Location maps are available here
To book for an evening please email:

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Business opportunity database to bring companies together

We’re always meeting new and dynamic companies within the interiors and lifestyle industries and many have synergies that could lead to collaborative opportunities. The trouble is that all this synergy data does not exist in a usable format that can help broker company relationships.

To this end, we’re working with collaboration expert Ken Thompson who has a track record of bringing together diverse communities of businesses to grow sales and enter new markets. He is helping us to develop an opportunity and business networking database to intelligently connect and match West Midlands’ interiors and lifestyle companies.

We recently ran a workshop with several Interiors & Lifestyle Futures companies as part of the development process. Given their very positive feedback we intend to drive this database forward.

Companies participating in the business opportunity database workshop

“The rationale of this database is to keep business alive within the West Midlands.” Chandru Ray, md Ecolec

“Growing sales is my aim and I’m happy to be part of this initiative.” David Hendley, md

We would welcome your comments and views. Is this the sort of thing that would interest your company? If so please get in touch with Navin Sood or 0121 331 7925.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Free promotion and networking opportunity 22 June

Post Frank Cooper
Everyone in the Interiors & Lifestyle Futures community is invited to 'The Big Show and Tell' on 22 June at the Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion FC.

This will be an excellent opportunity for West Midlands companies to promote their products and services to other Interiors & Lifestyle Futures businesses. You are very welcome to bring along samples, examples, brochures or anything else of interest to other Interiors & Lifestyles companies and individuals.

Don't miss this chance to exhibit your company for FREE and make some potentially lucrative connections!

I'm also delighted that renowned broadcaster and author, Dr Carl Chinn, MBE, Professor of Birmingham Community History at Birmingham University will be joining us. Carl will be considering the industrial heritage of the Midlands and why he believes we are still a major industrial force with much to offer British as well as global markets.

Professor Carl Chinn, MBE

And, if you know of any companies that could benefit from attending this event and becoming part of Interiors & Lifestyle Futures, make sure you let them know. All are welcome and everyone attending will be entered into a prize draw.

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet new business contacts. This could be someone that can offer you a vital new business opportunity or that missing link or contact you have been seeking. Or, they may know someone who you should be talking to about your products and services.

Time:22 June 2011 9.00-12.00 followed by a buffet lunch.
Venue: the Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion

To indicate your interest, please register at: Event Elephant

For more information phone 0121 331 7925
or email:

Friday, 20 May 2011

Showcase opportunity: Toronto Show 6-11 August

Post Pat Steele

This August there's a prestigious giftware and lifestyle show in Toronto. This is a wonderful showcase and collaboration opportunity for Interiors & Lifestyle Futures companies designing and manufacturing high quality, high value, innovative giftware and tableware.

Canada remains an important market for Giftware and lifestyle products, with a retail market worth approximately C$10 billion in retail sales. British made branded products have traditionally sold very well in Canada. British quality and design is recognised and appreciated, and there is always interest in products that offer something new and different to the current ‘mix’.

Benefits for companies
-participation in a group visit from within Interior & Lifestyle industries.
-opportunity to experience first- hand a high profile exhibition in Canada.
-opportunities to meet potential business partners or representatives in market
-excellent networking opportunity
-new contacts and shared market intelligence within the group.
-reduced costs through package offered.
-support of International Trade Adviser pre and post and during the event

Support Package includes:
-participation in Showcase stand at the CGTA show
-carefully targeted audience invited to the showcase stand
-in market support from staff of British Consulate Toronto and UKTI International Trade advisers
-travel grant subject to qualifying criteria

Any Interiors & Lifestyle Futures companies wishing to take part need to complete an application by Tuesday 31 May.

Please contact me, Pat Steele, for an application form and/or further information.

T: 01782 202222/224401

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Want to know how to make the most of tendering?

Post Adrian Burns
If you’d like to know a lot more about the art of tendering, there are a few places left on our expert one-day workshop, Maximising Tendering Opportunities on Wednesday 25 May.

Andrea Childs from Klick Solutions and Roy Casey, Success Train, are specialists in tendering and performance improvement.

Andrea will lead the morning session (9.00 -12.30), which will focus on sourcing business opportunities, responding to PPQs and the tender process.

Andrea Childs, Klick Business Solutions

Roy’s afternoon session (13.15-16.30) will address supply chain models, forming collaboration partnerships and strategies for winning tenders.

Roy Casey, Success Train

Venue: Birmingham Science Park Aston Holt St, B7 4BB

To secure a spot on this workshop, free to eligible companies, please go to:
Event Elephant or phone Interiors & Lifestyle Futures's Iain Acton on 0121 331 7922

Monday, 16 May 2011

Discount for I&L Futures members

Post Dawn Meaden-Johnson

Birmingham School of Jewellery is offering registered members of Interiors & Lifestyle Futures a 10% discount on its short courses this summer . Just click here to view all the courses in the programme.

To book please contact me, Dawn Meaden-Johnson, on 0121 248 4584 (Monday to Thursday 9am to 2.30pm). Remember to quote PWBCU10 and confirm you are a registered member of Interiors & Lifestyle Futures for your discount.

Here are some examples with descriptions, full fees and dates.

Tuesday 5 July Fee £175
3D SCANNING: FROM OBJECT TO COMPUTER TO MODEL: an ideal opportunity for hands-on experience of exciting new 3D technology. Gain practical knowledge about Roland LPX600 and Cimcore Infinite Arm scanning systems. 3D Scanning is not an entirely suitable for reproducing a complete item of jewellery but is an extremely useful tool for replicating a variety of single component items across various creative or manufacturing industries. No previous knowledge of CAD is required.

1-3 August Fee £345
CAD RHINO: AN INTRODUCTION: a reasonably priced Computer Aided Design (CAD) software package suitable for jewellers and other creative industries. Covers the creation of 2D lines and curves to produce 3D surfaces and solid models for client presentation, digital model making and/or manufacture. Generate a true 3D representation of your design and build your skills using step-by-step practical tutorials and tutor guidance. This course also covers Flamingo Rendering and Tech Gems. No previous CAD experience is necessary.

Image courtesy of Birmingham City University
28-30 June Fee £375
POLISHING FOR JEWELLERS & SILVERSMITHS MASTERCLASS: Precision metal polishing is one of the skills that can make or break in minutes a piece that has taken hours to make. Learn some of the tips and techniques of the trade that give a more professional finish to your work. Cover traditional methods, machinery techniques. Antique restoration techniques and the care of polished silver are also included. No sample jewellery items will be available for you to practise on, it is essential you bring your own. Suitable for students with jewellery and silversmithing skills, or those wishing to extend their knowledge from other disciplines such as design and sculpture.

Venue: Birmingham City University School of Jewellery or Jewellery Industry Innovation Centre, Vittoria Street, Birmingham B1 3PA