That moment when you realise you must fail in order to succeed.

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At 42 I had a second chance at life, I asked myself if you could have your life to live all over again, you couldn’t change the circumstances just you decisions what would you do

I made a list

1, Go to the beach more

2, Be directly involved in a charity to help kids

3, Use art as a tool to connect my past with my future

Sounds fair ! Its your life why not live it the way you please

I love the ocean, I am piscean a swimmer and a sailor , In my last job I had created various schemes and scholarships to help young people. I had seen the remarkable difference an education created I had also interacted with loads of incredible people who would have been a great asset to the nation if they had more of an education. I love art and had a shot at being an artist a couple of times in my youth

I had read a whole heap of business books and was working on a couple of “work” ideas while I cooled my heals I decided to turn my beach house into business laboratory a R&D hub for my ideas with out a job it was the only practical way to keep her and I loved her

From this laboratory one of the experiments would grow taking up a life of its own slowly but surely and would enable my dreams of having a direct hands on approach to impacting primary education.

This was the beach wear line. I was looking at things that would be original and unique, tweaks on simple mundane ideas things only I could do because of a unique insight knowledge and skill . I had a collection of board shorts I had acquired over the years for my water sport activities I love good design and I am not a natural consumer so I tend to keep things I like and get rid of those I.

I had 3 or 4 shorts I had enjoyed having shorts are pretty basic so if you decide to keep one for a while it must be pretty special

I am a chemist and comfortable in the labs after 20 years in the chemical industry , an artist a designer , I have experience in manufacturing brand creation product development, retail at this stage I swam everyday sailed once a week and liked to skimboard .

African wax print cotton is ubiquitous here and tailoring is a common profession . Ankara fabric was very much a part of the look and feel of popbeachclub and I knew there must be a way to make it water repellant . We began a series of investigations trials and errors which would ultimately give us a unique product. Popbeachshorts with a grant from a local bank a label was created .

Last year I found some trimming some piping that had been sent to me years ago made out of both hdpe and ldpe it cam in pink and yellow and looked like candy it appeared during a random conversation with my kids and sent me on a search for recycled polyester I had just a couple of meters we found some fabric and mocked up a pair of sample shorts we drew a blank in searching for more piping or manufacturers  but learnt a bit about the lead times required and the window for manufacturing

You must have heard of the numerous crowd funding campaigns and their unbelievable stories of business transformation . I myself had donated to many in support of friends, family, and social media acquaintances I had toyed with the idea of a crowd funded campaign but was always stomped by the video and the marketing a chance meeting on social media would lead to a meeting with a pr firm which would lead to meeting a video director all at affordable rates at this time we were quiet comfortable growing organically. With experience I was wary of an over night success and well versed in growing pains the danger of over trading and the cost of growth. Loans were not an option.

I setup a prelaunch campaign using kickofflabs.com and collected about 300 emails in short order an old friend out in Indonesia had been in touch having come across us on instagram and had gotten involved, I told him about my wish to close the loop by using recycled polyester and supporting education and he had a link to indorama.com one of the largest manufacturers of recycled polyester they had a 10,000 meter minimum order limit which was the basis of our target for the campaign. Ask and the universe answers.

Choosing your crowd funding partners , There are many platforms out there the most famous is probably kickstarter.com its great for projects one offs , it’s an all or nothing platform which makes things simple if you want to test out an idea . Indiegogo.com is one of the oldest it allows you keep all funds raised regardless of if you reach your target . We chose this being a going concern and having a deep conviction that this was something I wanted to do regardless of the outcome we went with this option. Gofundme.com is the third platform this tends to be used for medical emergencies school fees personal projects.

I setup a team of friends to help me get the campaign ready on indiegogo.com providing help with graphics and a sounding board and pair of eyes for the look and feel of the campaign and used a local internet retailer jumia.com.ng to take some shots of the shorts the best time to launch a campaign apparently is between November and January if I was to be able to deliver shorts in time for summer I needed to put in the orders by March

Less is more.

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We launched to a great start, I was surprised at the people who were paying attention to me on social media and reached out to support and spread the news our campaign got blogged and retweeted and reposted indiegogo.com asked to feature! Then the lessons started you have spent so much time working on the message you forgot about the delivery. To be honest I think I thought this was what PR agency’s do. Prep you up, write copy reach out to press …….No they basically get you in a #LBD put you in a room full of people turnoff the lights and walk out. A sparkling personality and a head for figures is what will be required to maneuver

Rules of engagement

The 1% rule states that 99% of your social network Lurk , there is also the 1:9:90 rule which originally states that 1 % create content 9% edit 90 % lurk both useful to know when setting your expectations. And this was important in deciding which platform we chose to go on. Because we were caught in such a tight window of opportunity we couldn’t afford to postpone that would mean shelving the product for another year, we would have to seize the day.We had hoped our 1% would get us to 30% of our target in the first week which would have kickstarted the publicity machine of the platform we were on, increasing our pool exponentially we got 50% there.

Scam alert the minute we went life we were inundated with PR agency’s offering amazing results for your wonderful idea. I find being short of money has its rewards. Do your due diligence! Google all information, pick up the phone and speak to a human being, ask for references or call success cases before you part with your money. I was looking for free information and was lucky to speak to a rather cocky guy from an agency who had run a few sports wear campaigns and had just closed on a big campaign. Ask and the universe answers.

The agency gives you a quick 5min critique of your campaign and tell you what they would do. Their fees were usury but their critique was worth its weight in bitcoins

Off with the blinkers.

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Basically we were all about the story and not about the product this is a school boy error but it couldn’t be helped It would take us another year to get to this same spot if we missed our chance we were an ongoing business so we knew any additional capital would pull us closer to our goal and in business the primary role of the ceo is to raise funds. In doing this you sometimes need to be narrowly focused and driven. But we also need to step back and view our offering from the customer’s point of view.

Autocorrect is not your friend, the difference between American and British english is the greatest threat to world peace, copy writing is a science not an art. Never post today what you wrote in haste! The guys at prweb.com have a great system that forces you to write like a pro I recommend you buy the basic press release package from them and use it to write your PR release. If you think you may one day like to run a kickstarter campaign I suggest you join Reddit and follow the specific subreddit and the kickstarter subreddit you will need your community in fact now is a good time to start building your 9% for your 1% that’s were the magic happens on the different communities and notice boards tumblr.com facebook.com twitter.com follow blogs reach out constantly before you are ready we had quiet a large community but it was local so most people couldn’t participate. Another great resource is greeninbox.com which helps you send out personalised messages to your twitter.com, facebook.com and linkedin.com contacts very useful

Money for nothing

Advertising is the best way to get the word out and Facebook is the best way to do this there are so many editing apps like ripl, pronto , studio, pixomatic and flipagram make this really easy. You need a clear strategy to your customer and you need product shots as many as you can get for every type of customer, segmentation is king differentiation key. I would suggest you run a prelaunch advertising campaign keyed to finding out the right tags to use during your campaign to reach your target audience, once you connect with your audience the money will rain like the song says

All this learning kept me busy, it was clear after we failed to reach the elusive 30% on our first week we were not going to meet the target but it was a great chance to learn and to reach out to our 9% base to get our message across to them and to get them to see our vision. We met so many people, we added on over 1000 new followers it was a crash course in marketing and copy writing it helped us see our business in big numbers. A light bulb moment was right at the beginning I had expected people will just support by buying the product or donating an equivalent amount that’s what I do ! We had some of my network donating a lot more, this got me scared yes 10,000 units is a super sexy number but you know you will be cool with 3000 units sold; how do you handle storage and fulfilment for the balance goods ? 7000 plastic shorts bobbing about in search of a home is the stuff of nightmares

A decision to fail ! At the end of the first week the big shot agency I had already spoken about called to tell me their plan to success. Yank the campaign off indiegogo.com speak to the backers to follow me to kickstarter launch at a much reduced easily achievable goal £4000 and move it to indemand on indiegogo and keep raising money that way. Thankfully I had my 7000 shorts in limbo moment and I felt this would be too risky to do. I felt it would be clear to any one with a head for figures that £4000 couldn’t achieve what I said and I wasnt comfortable with the lie. I knew the supporters I got were here for the idea more than the product we were both in the same boat and therefore I would have their backing to go forward, if I went on to kickstarter and couldn’t deliver on my promise I would have lost my integrity. I decided to dedicate my time to cracking this fund-raising marketing nut .and in the last days of the campaign I could see the way forward as our adverts started to resonate outside our immediate circle as our tags became more specific and it all began to make sense

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After the campaign came a couple of weeks of anguish and introspection where I reaffirmed my commitment to tackling primary eduction improvement and plastic proliferation to championing social enterprise as a business model personally while waiting to hear from he 100’s of emails seeking information on manufacturing. It would come eventually and we would agree a price for a short run by a manufacturer who would follow the campaign link and like what we are doing and is prepared to go through the bother we hope to have the shorts out by July in 12 colors 1 style and 3 lengths, It’s a start. I have heard the term speedos bandied around so often to describe what we are doing. And I am okay with this, I loved my speedos as a kid, it meant freedom, afternoons in the pool fun and laughter outdoors. I admire the company for its reach and distribution. But the companies we are really in awe of are Patagonia for blazing a trail others could follow, Toms.com for leading a way in social enterprise , havaianas.com for flying the brazilian flag so effortlessly Nike.com for leading the way in supporting sports in schools . And of course Muhammad Yunus and Grameen bank for his work on social enterprise.

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Colours of our boardshorts made from Recycled polyester its got a four way stretch and is totally water resistant

I have been asked several times are we going to set up a manufacturing plant to collect process and create the shorts ourselves. While researching on the idea I came across a few companies out there on a similar mission using recycled polyester like we do. I found they where mostly cagey about this and i’d like to be clear. No we are not. Our mission is to assist those already doing this on a large-scale, to grow their market and educate the public on conscious consumption. The stronger they are the quicker we will solve the problem. Every day thousands of empty containers make their way back to china, we can support local clean up and provide a demand for Rpet increasing demand for waste plastic which in turn will fill up these containers and solve the plastic problem. The best way to solve plastic proliferation is on a personal level, say no to single use plastic. Support recycling schemes. Boycott single use producers who are doing nothing to support clean up. Lobby governments to ban plastic bag production. Be vocal on social media and criticise supermarket chains who continue to support plastic bag manufacturers. Our main focus is primary education in Africa.

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Africa in the post factual age (be afraid

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I have always been interested in education at eagle paints where i worked last we started program which  gave no strings attached scholarship from OND level to MBA the only condition was you were not allowed to fail. Africa’s exploding youth population needs to be handled with care, our ability to reproduce with such vigor must be one of our greatest gifts; it’s also often the fuel for our worst nightmares .
Once more we stand at the precipice of the abyss, in the eye of the storm. Once again history is about to repeat itself but with knowledge there is power; hindsight is 20:20 vision
A quick trip down history I shall gloss over things as the timescale doesn’t allow for anything else . 300 BC and we were at the forefront of technology with the invention of the iron smelting technique by the Nok culture 600 years later and we’ve moved to an era of great agricultural wealth built on transfer of knowledge, free exchange of information, and an open society in another 600 years collapse set in but we didn’t know it . The invention of the self repeating rifle changed everything borders went up, we became a closed and secretive society! The gun changed the balance of power creating great wealth for Western Europe backed by the gold standard. And great wealth for African kingdoms who controlled access to the fabled mines . 600 years ago Africa especially the west coast was coming off the boil of an extended period of economic growth brought about by international demand for minerals and metals primarily gold . The new world had been discovered and the world faced a glut not dissimilar to the oil paradox we are facing .
The world was booming and we had lost our way in the scramble for resource control we had used our kids as fodder for internal wars and had failed to educate them. It got so bad that the world could no longer rely on us for our traditional products woven fabrics, oil for lubricants, spices , leather and metal works . The laws of demand and supply demanded drastic actions.
The slave trade was born it would keep a rotten and corrupt ruling class in gin and velvet the price paid in misery a debt still with us. We could have played it differently. At any point in time we could have said enough, we tried the Fon formed a republic to do just this. But we had shot ourselves in the foot way back when in the Age of Enlightenment we had remained largely in the dark access to education which was plentiful like now we had both the Latin based Greco Roman form of literacy competing with the eastern Arabic based educational systems but we chose to view education with cynicism and treat it like a casual luxury. This lack of literacy left us with a lack of a management class a middle class to help spread information. In fact we were in the throes of a post factual age much like we are now . Where the facts are ignored for hocus locus voodoo political crap . Take a look at the map above the places in white with the Least education were once the greatest states on the continent ancient Ghana kingdom ancient Mali and Songhai and the fabled Sudan the birth place of the Egyptian civilization. Be afraid! Be very afraid

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Developer creep !aka flattery will get you no where .

Help my developer wants to become my secret partner!!!

We had to go back to the drawing board our developers refused to sign off on the contract to build which included the “all source code and copyright belongs to us”

This had been the basis for all negotiations from the beginning but once they got further into discussions and saw the LoFi site they decided it would be best to try to shoe horn their way in by blackmail believing because we had gone so far down the product development specification line we would have no choice but to capitulate to their demands

Thankfully with the guidance of our advisers and the information already extracted from them we had a very high specification sheet and so we could go straight to www.elance.com and put the project up for bid .we have given the contract out but this has but us back approximately 2 months it also costs a bit more but we are getting a far better product all round .

Tips for engagement on http://www.elance.com

1, the better your specifications the better the quality of bids you will get in

2, stick to your guns ; be sure you have sorted out your budget and your technical specifications and your deliverables and time

3, Make a frequently asked questions document this way you can improve everyone’s understanding of the project by adding all questions addressed, to this document and allowing all bidders access

4, clearly state your terms for engagement i.e non disclosure, full copyright , source codes required! READ THE SMALL PRINT

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Does this interface make me look phat ?

Tackling developer coding and design web interface issues on a lofi iteration of our site our first we also get some feedback .

The last week has been a series of design meetings we have been trashing a lofi site we created taking it to pieces and putting it back together again while we configure the data base. We have also been sorting out user interface issues creating flow diagrams to ensure consistency and confirm logic while eliminating redundancy and also tweaking data model to incorporate a more robust revenue model and working on an international model harnessing the power of google’s interpretation tools , our site/app is mainly sign/icon based and word lite this last two issues/oppurtunities arose from the feedback on the lofi site our mantra through this has been  keep calm and carry on

It has been incredible testing the lofi site , and our list of people waiting to use the beta site has grown considerably which to be fair wasn’t that hard as we started from just me J but I am pleasantly surprised by the feedback , thoroughly ashamed of the product, and humbled by the reception it has gotten , fingers crossed the version that shall reach the testers will be considerably better than the lofi site

We are about 3 weeks behind schedule and I see this moving to 7 weeks as we shall build the fully functional html5 web application and then get the mobile apps built we hope to be able to wrap this html5 app for delivery to the various mobile platforms but I have my doubts on this as html5 being so new has issues on older platforms (which became apparent when testing on the lofi site ). It is without a doubt the future and the only way to proceed

Bless the creators of Kanban method they created a fortress that developers can run to in uncertain times our baskets are full and we are reassured in the knowledge that all we must do is wait

We have established contacts with typical users in walled gardens for our tests and hope to be ready by April fools day

We have also been immersing our self in tutorials from  @quicksprout tweets from @bbhlabs @kissmetrics @lalibizconsultt @mrpaladin

Reading “Inside intuit” how the makers of quicken beat Microsoft and revolutionized an entire industry Suzanne Taylor Kathy Schroeder and Amazon.com get big fast Robert Spector

So much to do so little time we stand on the shoulders of giants

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Houston we have lift off

Houston we have lift off.

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Houston we have lift off

Houston we have lift off

The build has begun in earnest hats off to our technical advisers who held our hands all the way and a round of applause for our design team who are giving us a great face .

We spent a week playing ping pong with the spec sheet which emphasizes the point you are only as good as your spec sheet and ours was pretty clear but still ….the vision is in your head as a founder and everyone thinks they know what you want and so you spend a lot of time dealing with subtleties and trying to educate on a need to know basis

In the end we are using local talent for the design and build . I’ve used www.elance.com and http://www.99designs.com in the past and can create wire frames and data models to help get the message across but outsourcing of work is a very exacting process to get the best results , it leaves no room for grey areas and when you are stepping into the abyss of startups  there is a lot of grey

 I felt at this early stage the need for some fresh views and some feedback also I knew there  was a gap that required a leap of fate on the part of the designers and so we went out and spoke to as many local people as we could find and then let fate take its course

There has been a lot of talk about having a technical partner , this is Akin to saying you need to be a farmer to sell milk , while I can see the obvious benefits there are so many talents required and so many skill sets in the technical arena that I can’t see how this is a necessity

What you do need is a basic knowledge of the industry, a hungry mind willing to learn, very good real life contacts that are highly skilled in their area of expertise and who you could call on for advice.

 I would suggest you pay for what you need done and move on , this would vary as you grow and the skills required will also change this way you are free to change with your needs and to follow the best possible technical path

Infact it’s possible that the lack thereof could be an advantage forcing you to bring out the leanest MVP your budget can take

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