Kubi Springer decided to become an entrepreneur at 17 after an injury ended her hopes of a dancing career. Rather than jumping straight into the fray after graduating from Westminster University in 1998, however, she decided to learn from someone who had already proved his business prowess: the hip-hop star Sean “P Diddy” Combs.
“I wanted to work with him because he was the biggest urban mogul at the time,” said Springer, now 37. “He was launching clothing lines, his record label was doing well . . . so I worked for him for three years at Blue Flame, his marketing and advertising agency. It was very small at the time and he was very hands on. I spent a lot of time with him.”
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The best tech start-ups are lean, agile and unafraid of taking risks in pursuit of new markets. By contrast, more traditional or longer-established businesses can struggle to do anything more than protect the status quo — an attitude that is limiting at best and could potentially leave them vulnerable to competitors who can respond faster to changing customer demands, according to Costas Andriopoulos, a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Cass Business School.
One of the main factors is that the bigger and more successful companies get, the less flexible they become. “Size leads to structural inertia, with layers and layers of management, and cultural intertia, which is the ‘this is how things are done here’ attitude,” Professor Andriopoulos said. “This can mean that the business will get set in its ways. It will try to protect the status quo instead of innovating.”
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Last Wednesday did not start well for Sally Preston. The founder of Kids Food Company arrived at her office expecting a normal day, only to be told that migrants trying to cross the Channel at Calais had sneaked into a lorry carrying five tons of fruit snacks from a Belgian supplier to her packing plant in Britain.
“They had been lying on top of the load and, well, there are no toilets on a lorry,” said Preston. “But they did have marker pens — who knew? — so they had graffitied funny little faces on the boxes.
“The order has been contaminated so we are sending it all back and talking to the haulier about different ports and different transport. We have great quality control so it was picked up immediately, but in the meantime we have no product to sell.”
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