Celina’s Reflective Essay: My creative business journey through design thinking.

Writing a note to my future self is exciting. Changes are happening fast and I have always found the unpredictable fascinating. As a member of the Creative Class (Florida, 2002, p.8), I follow my passions and look for new challenges. From September 2015 to 2016 a lot of things have happened. I put my life into two bags of 32 kilos and moved from Rio de Janeiro to Oxford with my boyfriend. I went freelancer, started my business and went back to study after nine years. I was accepted in five masters and was granted one scholarship. The business started to make a profit, I got married, moved to London, and began the MA in Managing in the Creative Economy at Kingston University. Not even if I planned it all I could have imagined this year. Think of a happy person: that was me. Also tired, extremely tired. Yet, it was a good train for what I had coming.

September to April 2016 was intense. A full-time master for a rusty student with a part-time job and a new life was challenging. In the first day of MACE, our assignment theme was “home”. Ironically, in that moment, my home was me, zero furniture, one air mattress and my husband. In groups, we had to use our sensibility and different design methods to provide a feasible and valuable solution matching the technology constraints and customers desires (Brown, 2008) inside the home environment. I had so many needs, hence empathising was easy. Being in the most diverse class I ever been to with twenty people from fifteen different nationalities, hearing their stories and perspectives on ‘what home is?’ was fascinating. This was my first contact with the concepts of the human-centered approach of design thinking. And my first impressions can be summarised by Guber et al. (2015 p.1) words:

“The process is highly interactive, as it moves back and forwards through the phases; it’s collaborative, involving used and other stakeholders in framing the problem, as well as scoping the opportunity for design interventions; and its interdisciplinary, involving technical, design and business disciplines.”

After a few exercises, it was time to form the team we would build a business with during the module “Design Thinking for Startups”. Arturo (cinema manager from Venezuela) asked me to join him and Michaela (stage and event manager from Slovakia). Our last spot was occupied by Halyn, (language background from Taiwan). Going back to that day, I always thank Arturo for bringing us together. We are diverse in skills, with distinct cultures and different personalities that supported each other. These work-group features (Amabile, 1998, p.82) helped us to encourage collaboration and communication. I could not have had a better team.


Our guest Lecturer Alison Coward discussed how people usually expect communication and collaboration to naturally occur in teams. For her, one of the key points for a successful group is to establish how your team will work from the beginning. Start Me Up had weekly meetings, used tools to keep track of work and a clear calendar to map the milestones. As I wrote in a previous post, to better manage for creativity and to promote equal collaboration, we followed Alison’s facilitation methods (Coward, 2015) and naturally conducted the stages of forming, storming, norming and performing (Tuckman and Jensen, 1977) to conclude our bigger goals.

Together we created Cutcorner Card Holder and marketed it. The six-month journey was a combination of IDEO’s methodology with classes from our professors Janja Song, Alice Comi, Richard Anson and special lecturers covering the topics of social media, finances, branding, pitching, Lean, customer journey, prototyping, among others. With this structure and the Young Enterprise program guiding us, we had all the support needed to found our creative business and apply the design thinking concepts to learn by doing.


Source: D.School and Both (2009)

Our business began when we first observed an elderly lady having trouble accessing her wallet. We empathised with the situation since we all have experienced something similar and decided to interview people to see if the problem was common. We soon found out that it was not an age issue, everyone who uses cards had a similar story. Additionally, we discovered that with the recent contactless technology, commuters were having trouble storing the cards without damaging them. We then pivoted from the elderly population and defined to target young Londoners commuters, especially from Kingston University since we have a more direct and constant access. Our solution should create value for these users by making their lives easier while commuting and paying by card. We didn’t know how or what the final solution would be, just why (Sinek, 2010) we were making it. The final result was reached through observation, analysis, evaluation and re framing an existent situation (Dorst, 2011).

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We did several brainstorming sessions in the ideation phase since there could be different solutions to the problem. We were looking for quantity, not quality. Our first version was a fold-out card holder inspired by the pop-up birthday cards. We had a lot of fun.

We struggled with prototyping since no one in our group had a background on product design. We had the idea, yet transforming the card boxes into a sellable card holder seemed impossible. After a few tests and hiring a professional, we had our minimum viable product (MVP) handmade in one piece, on fake leather. After experimentations, our first solution was simple and to the point.


Kingston’s first trade fair was our test and chance to monetise our idea (Howkins, 2001). We understood that there were many different cardholders in the market, including the card clash prevention. With prices going from £1.50 to £64, depending on their design and quality, our goal was to have a final price more accessible to our early adopters.


Cutcorner’s competitors. Source: Amazon

With ten MVPs in hand, we ran a “pay what you want” campaign looking for constructive feedback to enhance the product for the larger production. We found out that people would be willing to pay £5 and would like better materials, finishing and more variety of colours.

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First feedback received for improvement: user; judge and survey 

Cutcorner Card Holder is a simple, efficient, on-the-go storage design for your cards that allows you easy access to your basics and prevents card clash. We applied the feedback and started selling Cutcorner card holder in eco-leather in black and white. Each unit was sold for £5, with a £1.63 of costs, giving us a margin of 63%. More than 40 card holders were sold and we reached our break-even point.

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The pricing strategy was strongly supported by our presence on social media, a coherent visual communication and a YouTube campaign where we explored senses and emotions to connect with users and sell our product.

Cutcorner’s, graphic pieces and ad

We worked hard and we had fun. Our group was one of the finalists to represent Kingston at the National Competition of Startups and was awarded with the Young Enterprise prize for the best stand. No doubt the new forms of behavior and thinking were achieved by combining academic and professional knowledge with playfulness along the journey (Bateson and Martin (2013). I also was able to bring creativity and business together as I learned new skills in different areas:

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  1. Creative Confidence
    For Amabile et al. (1996, p.1155), creativity is “The production of novel and useful ideas in any domain” and for Cox (2005, p.2) innovation is when you successfully explore them. Believing in our capacity to change things and achieve our dreams were the core of being creative and innovative (Kelley and Kelley, 2014, p.6). If you still think that creatives have a lucky DNA sequence, you might reconsider and adopt the mindset proposed by Tom and David in their book or online tools.
  1. Entrepreneurial Behaviours
    Entrepreneurial behaviours were mandatory to finish the module solving our early adopters’ problems and reaching the break-even point. We took risks; identified networking opportunities; learned finance; believed in our idea and planned our steps working in a collaborative team. Our constant focus on KPIs and customer feedback made us improve the product and increase sales. Not knowing the result and accepting the process as the main part of our work made our path fun, intuitive and user-centered.
  1. New tools
    We were presented several tools that helped us build our business. I also discovered others along the way and I share below a few of them:
  1. Human 2 Human (Kramer, 2014)
    My crucial lesson was the importance of interacting with people.


Start Me Up [itching in the Dragons’ Den finals to represent Kingston University at the UK national competition.

The human-centered approach gives no room for staying in your shell. We talked to people before the idea, during development and after you (think you) have finished. Our team heard feedback from customers, teachers, mentors and business professionals during the first and second Dragon’s Den pitches and four trade fairs. That was hard. Not because of their comments but because public speaking is not my comfort zone.

  1. Peers & Collaboration
    “Peer recognition and reputation provide powerful sources of motivation” (Florida, 2002, p.74-75). Even though we were in our little group of four, all of our peers from class were in a similar journey. Counting with everyone’s support and sharing our dramas was comforting and encouraging. Our group addressed similar problems to Rana and Nora; Kristy and Nika were also concerned with their visual communications; Christie, Stephi, and Mick also had no idea on how to manufacture their products; Pond, Clara and Ogechi were fearing the pitches just like us; Jorge, Janja and Alex also tried to balance personalities in the team; and Andrius, Cristina and Helene were always our trade fair neighbours sharing the pre customer interaction anxiety. I feel like all of them were part of my team as well.


    MACE students and Dragons Den judges. Photo: Fernando Trueba.

I decided to study the MA in Managing in the Creative Economy due to my passion to bring closer business and creativity. I want to be able to work applying creativity into businesses and teaching business to creative professionals. These experiences made concepts and mindsets familiar and helped me evidence gaps. The module Design Thinking for Startups also encouraged me to be on the other side of the table as one of the mentors in the Oxford Startup Weekend powered by Google Entrepreneurs. I guided teams to apply creative thinking and visual communication to their businesses and I look forward to have more opportunities such as this.

Looking ahead, with the shift from manufacturing to experience economy (Gruber et al., 2015), creative professionals are being requested to get involved in different tasks. We are living the Fourth Industrial Revolution  (Schwab, 2016) and new skills will be needed, as my colleague Stephi Batliner reflected on her post ‘Do we have to become super humans?’. “The government (UK) recently chose ‘developing skills’ to be one of ten key pillars in its Industrial Strategy. This was recognition that skills development is as important to growth as infrastructure, investment and trade” (Sleeman and Windsor, 2017). There are two recent articles discussing these required future aptitudes: Schwab (2016) has written ‘10 skills people will need to thrive in the new revolution’ and Sleeman and Windsor (2017) ‘A closer look at Creatives’.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen creative professionals struggle dealing with business. The shift described above and the rise of creative professionals becoming self-employed (Fritsch and Sorgner, 2013 and Leadbeater and Oakley, 1999) triggered my dissertation topic. I am investigating how other creatives like me are learning their business skills and how they prefer to be educated to have interdisciplinary knowledge and fit the new economy. I hope my thesis will have a few answers for these questions by September 2017.

As my note to the future Celina: Go out there, talk and connect to people more often. Keep learning, don’t forget to play and never stop following your instincts and welcoming the unknown.

“Human beings are
works in progress that mistakenly
think they are finished” (Gilbert, 2014)



Source: Andersen (no date)

References and Bibliography

Amabile, T. (1998) ‘How to Kill Creativity’ , Harvard Business Review, 76(5), pp. 76-87.

Amabile, T., Conti, R., Coon, H., Lazenby, J. and Herron, M. (1996) ‘Assessing the work environment for creativity’ , Academy of Management Journal, 39(5), pp. 1154-1184.

Andersen, S. (no date) Comics and Illustrations. Available at: http://sarahcandersen.com/ (Accessed on: 22 of April, 2017).

Bateson, P. and Martin, P. (2013) Play, playfulness, creativity and innovation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Brown, T. (2008) ‘Design Thinking’, Harvard Business Review, 86(6), pp. 84-92.

Cox, G. (2005) Cox Review of Creativity in Business: building on the UK’s strengths. London: SMEs in manufacturing.

Coward, A. (2015) ‘Great  teams: a guide to better creative collaboration’ Available at: http://bracketcreative.co.uk/ebook/ (Accessed on 22 of April, 2017).

D.School and Both, T. (2009) ‘Bootcamp Bootleg’ Available at: https://dschool.stanford.edu/resources/the-bootcamp-bootleg (Accessed on: 23 of April, 2017).

Dorst, K. (2011) ‘The core of ‘design thinking’ and its application’, Design studies, 32,(6), pp. 521-532.

Florida, R. (2012) The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic Books.

Fritsch, M. and Sorgner, A. (2013) Entrepreneurship and creative professions. St. Louis: Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis.

Gilbert, D. (2014) ‘The psychology if your future self’ Available at: www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_you_are_always_changing (Accessed on: 23 of April, 2017.

Gruber, M., De Leon, N., George, G. and Thompson, P. (2015). Managing by Design. Academy of Management Journal, 58(1), pp. 1-7.

Howkins, J. (2002) The Creative Economy: How people make money from ideas. London: Penguin.

Kelley, D. and Kelly, T. (2014) Creative Confidence. London: William Collins.
Kramer, B. (2014) There is no more B2B or B2C : it’s human t human H2H. San Jose: PureMatter.

Leadbeater, C., and Oakley, K. (1999) The Independents – Britain’s new cultural entrepreneur. London: Demos.

Nesta (2011) Launch Your Own Successful Creative Business: Creative Enterprise Toolkit. London: Nesta.

Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y., Clark, T. and Smith, A. (2010) Business Model Generation: A handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers. New Jersey:John Wiley & Sons.

Ries, E. (2011) The Lean Startup.London: Penguin.
RSA (2015) ‘RSA ANIMATE: Changing Education Paradigms’ Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U (Accessed on: 12 of December, 2016).

Sebrae (2015) ‘Guia do Empreendedor Criativo’ Available at: http://www.bibliotecas.sebrae.com.br/chronus/ARQUIVOS_CHRONUS/bds/bds.nsf/e1bb929711a641ae93eb6dbb5853db3d/$File/5442.pdf (Accessed on: 22 of April, 2017).

Sleeman, C. and Windsor, G. (2017) ‘ A closer look at creatives’ Available at: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/closer-look-creatives (Accessed on: 27 of April, 2017).
Schwab, K. (2016) ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond’ Available at: www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond (Accessed on: 22 of April, 2017).

Sinek, S. (2010) ‘How great leaders inspire action’ Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4 (Accessed on: 22 of April, 2017).

Thomson, P. (2013) ‘Value Proposition Canvas Template‘ Available at: www.peterjthomson.com/2013/11/value-proposition-canvas (Accessed on: 23 of April, 2017).

Tuckman, B. and Jensen, M. (1977) ‘Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited’ , Group & Organization Studies, 2(4), pp. 419.

The two sides of the coin

In February I attended the entrepreneurship event Oxford Inspires. For the second year I heard exciting startup stories in the fintech, health, fashion, data, technology, social and many other categories. After connecting to people with common interests, I met a few organisers of the first Oxford Startup Weekend that would take place in one month. They were interested in my professional journey and passion for combining business with creativity and invited me to join as one of the mentors. It sounded like an amazing opportunity to meet and help people in their business strategy with a creative approach and also learn from being at the other side of the table.

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We were three mentors in a room from different areas and helped four of the teams from the Hackathon. I learned a lot and was glad to see one of those teams winning the final prizes.

Last September I started my first startup with three people that I had just met as part of my MA in Managing in the Creative Economy at Kingston University. In the module “design thinking for startups” we observed, interviewed, brainstormed, idealised, prototyped, manufactured, promoted and sold a product. A very similar methodology from the event above, but instead of a weekend, we had six months. We opened a company through Young Enterprise and successfully sold more than 40 products of our new idea. As the IDEO ideology preaches, there was nothing better than “learn by doing” and putting people in the center of the work in a human-centered approach.

This concept isn’t restricted only to customers or people that had the problem we were trying to solve. It relates to the whole perspective on human beings behaviours before, during and after the business is set. More than creating the product, our team pitched several times to lecturers, mentors, advisors, business investors and coaches. We were very happy to be one of the finalists to represent Kingston University in the international competition and also win the best stand award from Young Enterprise.

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 09.57.23

To build our business and to mentor people building theirs, there were several steps I had to take that were new and I had not initially foreseen. Most of them had to do with interacting with people. As a textbook introvert, that was always my number one challenge. After these experiences, I couldn’t agree more with Bryan Kramer‘s movement. No matter if one day you are pitching or in the other mentoring, entrepreneurship for me is all about people: connecting, sharing, collaborating, passion and bringing ideas into reality to be exploited.







We survived!

When I was a kid, I used to observe my dad painting and making amazing drawings. I wasn’t able to and never thought I would anywhere near as capable. For me, he was a genius with an amazing gift. I hadn’t “inherited the talent” and could never imagine my professional life would one day begin designing and drawing patterns for fashion apparels and interiors. Creativity took practice, hard work and was a skill I unlocked and conquered with time, sweat, tears, persistence, passion and fun.

Even though the idea of the creative genius still exists, I agree with Amabile et al. (1996: 1155) that creativity is “the production of novel and useful ideas in any domain” and Sir Ken Robinson (2001) when defines it as an “imaginative process with outcomes in the public world that are original and of value”. In my opinion, to be creative you need curiosity, empathy and action instead of the perfect DNA sequence. Innovation on the other hand, is when you take this new useful and valuable idea and successfully exploit them through new products, services or processes (Cox, 2005).

What you do with your idea and how you bring it to reality and exploit it is, for me, where the biggest challenge lies. This particular thought was what brought me to the Master’s in Managing in the Creative Economy and even inspired this blog’s name as business4creatives. Since October 2016, thanks to Kingston University, I’m living my first startup experience. My team observed a recurrent problem, had an idea, tested a prototype, developed a product and put it into market to sell. After reaching our break-even point selling more than 40 units, on March 17 we did a six minutes’ pitch of this idea to judges.

I could’t be happier. We overcame so many challenges as a group and also individually. Each one of us contributed on it’s on special and unique way and made the difference to our work. Preparing for interaction with consumers and judges were always our weak point and suddenly those six months of hard work had to be summarised in just 6 minutes. As final result, after we received important advice and feedback, we were selected as one of the finalists to represent Kingston University at the national startup competition and were awarded with the Young Enterprise best stand prize.

I learned that one, two or three “A-HA moments” won’t do much if you want to make your idea useful, valuable, innovative, and have a real impact in people’s lives. The journey and steps to reach milestones must be faced seriously. Nonetheless, we couldn’t have done it without passion, a lot of fun and a great collaborative team 🙂

Creative Collaboration: Managing FOR Creativity

This month, during a Conducting Collaborative Creativity class in my master we had a brilliant lecture by Alison Coward from Bracket on how to better conduct work with creative teams. Until now, I have led teams of creative professionals, yet everything I’ve done, I learned by doing. This was my first experience of understanding the theories of working with a creative group along with the previous practical lesson with Lego Serious Play.

I took two main lessons from Alison: if you have a good communication and a high element of trust in your team, you are in the right path. Creatives don’t like to be told what to do, they don’t want to be managed, but they like to be facilitated. Interestingly, everyone assumes that communication and collaboration will just happen, when actually, to improve work with your teams, you have to establish how exactly your team will work. There is no recipe, it changes depending on the people and the context. However, there are a few elements that should always be considered. Some of the points discussed during her lecture are being practiced in real time in our Start-up company in the development of the product Cutcorner. It was a great opportunity to reflect if we are performing high level collaborative group work and the improvements needed. 

One of the first things we did last September was to (1) discuss how would we work together. Dividing tasks using each individual skills in order to achieve the major goal was crucial. It was important also to split the “alone” time so the group meetings were productive and efficient. Michaela suggested in our firsts gatherings that we should begin all meetings by saying something we liked plus anything that might be bothering us. This simple act made us extinguish possible future disagreements and (2) build trust in each other. Additionally, this space made us respect our different personalities and cultures when everyone had their own chance to speak and contribute. To (3) make sure the work gets done we use AsanaSlackTrello, Google Drive among others to keep tasks and deadlines visible. These tools guarantee we don’t lose the good momentum after a class or a meeting.

I’m glad to realise that we are doing a good job so far on collaborationAnother illustrative example was during our ideation phase in October: we got stuck. To make ideas flow we changed the meetings to my place so we could (4) have better workshops and meetings. There, we could make it dynamic, stand up, have more space for silent brainstorms and think with our hands in a space out of our routine. We discovered we are following well (5) Tuckman’s stages of group developing: Forming -> Storming -> Norming -> Performing and using (6) IDEOT-shaped approach for having deep knowledge in our specialism while valuing and understands our colleagues.


Image from: James Royal-Lawson

Obviously, our team is not perfect. I believe our success so far was to take the most out of tense moments and (7) embrace the conflicts we faced regularly to learn. Harvard Business Review recently emphasised conflict as important for collaboration: “If your team agrees on everything, working together is pointless” and Chris Bilton also wrote on his book Management and Creativity (2007): “creative teams depend upon a tension between individual focus and collective process”. In the end, valuing the process of performing tasks in a collaborative way is the main lesson I will take from this experience. Failure is relative when you consider the accomplishments during the little steps of the journey.

We have one month to listen to customer feedback, launch our ad campaign, improve our product and grow our sales in the company. The expectation is to continue to (8) celebrate our small wins, to eventually have a big one in the “design thinking for start up” program closure. These celebrations are a powerful tool to feel happier and therefore more creative and engaged at work. Teresa Amabile has published the book “The Progress Principle” and is a fantastic resource to understand more about how small celebrations can help groups and individuals to better performances.

To full access to Alison Coward’s valuable resources, in her website you’ll find  a complete (and free) e-book to better creative collaboration along with other great tools to enhance productivity and collaboration such as the Big Picture Thinking: team workshop and Project Kickoff Template.

I’m very grateful to her for sharing her knowledge and resources. Many thanks!


The digital rise of a creative introvert

I instantly connect social media with exposure and that is not my comfort zone. It’s hard enough to keep up with my “offline life” and I’m still discovering how to balance it with my online presence through so many online channels available. As an introverted with few-but-good-friends human being, I can see both advantages and disadvantages of the virtual world. 

Born in the eighties, my generation saw personal computers arriving into our houses when we were kids, the internet making strange noises to connect and files taking two hours to download. Do you think MSN is vintage? When I began interacting with people through a computer connected to the Internet, we used  mIRC  , ICQ  and later on, my first social media similar of what we have today: Orkut. In 2005, after a real struggle, I had to change to Facebook simply because all my friends were now hanging in a different channel. Maybe this instability made me doubt the duration of any new platform and just save time by not being there at all.

In 2008, during a trainee program in Abril, a big Brazilian communication company, the CEO told us that in maximum two years we would be reading our emails in our “smart phones” and using the internet on-the-go. Although I’ve always loved discovering and exploring new technologies, I had a negative reaction to being connected all the time and wasting precious moments in a fictitious reality. Not that I didn’t want part of it, but I was fine reading my e-mails and chatting to my friends when I arrived at home. Nine years later, I get really anxious if I forget my phone anywhere.

During my Master in Managing in the Creative Economy, social medias are a crucial part of the course and I’m glad that I’m having the opportunity to see the importance of it’s use professionally while discussing current topics such as the impact of fake news in the world, the harm of catfishes and the anxiety of people showing how “perfect” their life is. This blog is part of it, along with Twitter and the strategy created from the channels and platforms. I had a subscription to these pages before the course, however I reformulated them and intensified the use of Twitter. So here is how my online life is now:

Linkedin: Easy! CV + networking. Very important to have it updated and not share everything. As our course director Janja Song said: save something for your interview.

Instagram: This is tricky. After making my account public, I hated strangers liking personal photos and decided to separate into personal and a professional accounts. The exposure scared me. Now my personal is private just for friends and family and in my professional I make new contacts and spread my print designer work to expand my reach.

Facebook: I use it for personal connections only. Mainly to keep in touch with friends from all over the world and now with my family and friends from Brazil since I live abroad. If I feel the need to use it professionally in the future, I’ll probably create a page, not use the same profile.

Twitter: I opened my account in 2012 and used pretty much to read news quickly and recently reactivated as part of my master. I share my experiences and connect to people and businesses related to my future goals. 

My concern until now was when I posted something, I ended up thinking: why did I do this? Why is this picture is so important that it had to be shared? Why will anyone care about where I am or what I’m doing? These questioning are crucial but resulted me being more reclusive and away from conversations. I was depriving myself from the amazing part of social media: collaborating, sharing, connecting, networking and exchanging content with friends, strangers and professional peers. All because of fear of exposure.

And now what?

Independent of your personal or business strategy choices must be made:
– What channels are you using and why?
– What are the differences between them?
– Why are you interacting with the people you are interacting? 
– How you are emotionally connecting to people?
– Are you really making a contribution?
– If you are trying to sell you product, is the “like” you are looking for going to be transformed into sales? Or is it just a metric that won’t lead you anywhere?
– Divide your strategy into: Platform / Audience / Objective / Content

Google offers online training to improve your skills into social media, develop a good website and grow your business or career in the project The Digital GarageHootsuit, the social media manager tool, also has a similar training program: Hootsuit Academy with online courses. For further and deeper understanding of the implications of social media in our daily lives and business growth, there are Erik Qualman’s studies results: his book and the website socialnomics.

And if you are an introvert like I am: challenge yourself, engage in interesting conversations, connect to people: clients, friends, peers, idols, family.

It works.

I did one experiment and decided to tweet to my favorite author at the moment: Richard Florida, from the book “The Rise of the Creative Class” and guess what:


Work hard & have fun

When I was a kid, me and my dad had a few favourite activities together: bodyboarding, autorama tracks, painting, video games and Lego. I grew up to be a very lazy adult (need to change that!) and although the bodyboarding stopped, all the others ended up defining my preferences today in both personal and professional lives.


Guess which one was mine?

My dad can draw! He was the big inspiration that led me to design and to illustrating for printed surfaces. We used to open a big A1 sheet of paper and spend a whole Sunday with different tools creating these amazing characters and stories. I never thought I could fill his shoes. However, I eventually ended up challenging myself everyday to this day, trying to represent nature, moods and aesthetics into textiles, wallpapers, porcelain among many other surfaces. After cleaning the paint from my hands, it was game time! I started with Price of Persia (MS DOS), Atari and moved onto Super Nintendo. I never got past it simply because Super Mario and Donkey Kong are the best games ever. And if you are wondering: yes, I still have the original console and play it in every now and then.

More recently, in one of my Master’s class, our course leader Janja Song reminded us the importance of PLAY in our lives. Our first lesson of Conducting Collaborative Creativity was all about representing stories and expressing yourself with one of the most amazing toy and tool of all time: LEGO. We used Lego Serious Play as the base for teamwork discussions, sharing stories and knowledge, understanding more about problem solving and decision making and mainly: to learn by doing.


The Methodology is simple: by building a model from the command of the facilitator, we give a meaning to a story individually and, as groups, we hear the perspective of the same command from our teammates. The result was a fascinating playful experience to understand ourselves and our peer work colleges better to cooperate more effectively into projects. The way the class was set helped my understanding of how collaboration will help me in my career as a creative business consultant.

Below is our team tower. We won the biggest tower in the room!! Two of us focused on the solid structure and the other two on making it as high as possible. We put together everything in the last minute and it worked. Someone pointed that maybe we had the biggest tower due to the fact that my teammates for this task are the same of my Kingston Start-up. Working together for the past four months have made us understand each other better and collaborate in a productive way.


This is the representation of my creative day:

This is the representation of my unproductive day:

Are we playing enough? Why play should come after accomplishments?

As Csikszentmihalyi described in the Psychology of Optimal Experienceflow is a mental state when a person is absorbed into an activity feeling energised, involved and enjoying it. That is what happens with us when we are playing: complete concentration to the one task performed. Even though at least two of my favourite fun activities from childhood remain until today there is still a lot of place for play. All of this experience reminded me of all that, and made me wonder two things: I need to have more fun while working and ask myself: what new ways of playing am I introducing to my life today that is going to build the future me?

Are you playing enough?







Monetising an idea and taking it into reality – Our first trade fair

The adrenaline and deadline pushed our company, Start Me Up to have an excellent first fair selling Cutcorner Card Holder ! We overcame our biggest fears as team and as individuals. We invested time, energy and created strategies to have a sellable product, a well rehearsed pitch together with a stand that could present our card holder in the best way.

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Simon Hulme has helped us with a fantastic finance class last year and Young Enterprise came to Kingston University on the 13th of January to reinforce important topics of creative finance. They guided us through their online program that helps start ups to organise their profits, losses and finance in general. We cleared what is, VAT, if we should we give receipts and how is the best way to keep track of sales and to organise the money whilst in a trade fair.

After the session we had to discover our unit price cost, decide the selling price and our break even point, which means basically: how much we need to invest to get the money back. This is definitely not an easy task and there are tools online from people and institutions sharing their experiences and providing help such as Pricing for Creatives and Design Trust.

Since our first batch of 14 products was not as perfect as we wanted, our team decided, after being mentored by professor Alice, to follow the strategy of “pay what you want”. This choice was important for three main reasons:
• Sell a product that is not yet with the desired finishing
Identify the ideal price and how much people are willing to pay for it: £5
Ask direct feedback from early adopters after first uses


Our decision was successful until now after working to prepare for the fair. People approached our stand curious about our product and idea and were overwhelmed after discovering that they could decide how much to pay. In the end, we had 4 sales: three of £5 and one of £1. Some suggestions and feedbacks were provided regarding the material and we are expecting to have more during the next week. Moreover, even though the product was not perfect for our standards, we had a honours mention from one of the judge of Kingston’s first fair on the Best Product category! Very positive day.

I take great learning from this journey so far: it is not that scary to deal with money in business practice; in early stages it’s not about how much you sell, it’s about talking to people and improving the products; believing in our strategies and adapting them along the way; but mainly: networking, taking feedbacks, adjusting and improving.

I have the feeling that we finally left the stage of ideation and started to actually see our business running. Following John Howkins’ thoughts, hopefully we’ll see by the end of the term “how people make money from ideas”.



The moment of truth

Back to classes and we had two weeks for our first trade show. This means having a very tight schedule for having the first row of Cutcorner production ready to sell. Deadlines ahead, few hours of sleep and it seems that it’ll be the new normal until the end of March.

As I wrote in the last post, I’m really shy and a lot of human interaction is foreseen ahead. I’m trying not to panic again in advance, counting on the fact that people will love our product and sales will be so high that I’ll not even notice the struggles of talking to them. If everything goes well, we are expecting to hear constructive feedback to help us improve our product in a near future for further growth.

After getting inspired, conducting interviews, shaping our idea, defining our target market  and designing our branding, our team is back on track setting group meetings to establish new milestones and goals. We need to book our places in the next trade fairs, create a website and social media platforms, buy raw materials, make the first set of products, design our stand and rehearse our pitches. We will be reporting our sales every week now and we need to create several sales opportunities that go beyond trade fairs.

Meanwhile, Thursday 26 of January we’ll be at Kingston “STARTUP A BUSINESS” trade fair selling Cutcorner card holder. This is my first time selling my own product and putting myself and our group’s work to the test with sales skills. As a designer and team manager, I’m used to be in the backstages of businesses and the feeling of changing roles now (as a start up we have to be involved with all roles) is very challenging. At the same time, I’m thrilled to have the experience of taking an idea to reality and figuring out how to make money from it.

Janja Song shared with us very useful advice for this first experience and I gathered a few insights from the web that also might help everyone. Our creative peers and colleagues that have been in this path for awhile have shared their visions and tips about their journey. Take a look at the links below. Hope they help you too.

Stay tuned! A lot is going to happen in the next two months.

MADE URBAN – 12 things I wish I knew before my first craft fair 

FOLKSY – Craft fair checklist

FOLKSY – How to sell more at craft fairs

It’s time. The Dragon and the journey.

No power point, no technological support. Just us, selling our idea to judges. Our first real pitch as a team and it was HARD.

I must say, one of my biggest challenges through all this experience so far was talking to people. I always considered myself shy and always created personas that would help me adapt and face certain situations in which I wasn’t comfortable. As a creative manager, I was used to having an idea, selling it to my boss, implementing (if approved) and analysing its effect on clients. What I’ve learned at MACE was to test the idea and ask people what they think and observe them before even implementing anything. That should save time, energy and make you create something closer to people’s needs, with a more human approach. It may seem easy but it made me panic and, at the same time, learn a lot during the past three months.

The journey was outstanding! From building a team, generating ideas, observing people, developing assumptions, testing them through interviews, finding the valueprototyping, pivoting , organising finances and reaching our first viable solution was quite a challenge. I am pleased to have accomplished our tasks as team but mostly to have built the dynamics as a group to overcome our personal fears and reach a bigger goal as a company from Kingston and Young Enterprise.

I know, we still have a lot to do and this was just the beginning. However, I now feel that we are capable of doing it with excellence, hard work and fun.

Dragons’ Den preparation was all about tools to help us sell the idea. We practice our speeches, created a branding strategy for the product, upgraded the prototype and printed a big poster. We did fantastic! The Judges were really helpful, making critiques for us to grow as a business. We now know where to go and we have our first fair to prepare for. Wishing all the best to our group, product and also our classmates groups for 2017!



Below you can read our team journey that became our pitch to the judges.

After observing an elder struggling to take out her card while purchasing a cinema ticket, our team suspected this was a common and recurring problem for the elderly. Through interviews and more observations, we realised that this issue wasn’t confined to a specific age group, but affected anyone who uses cards. We have also identified a need to organise cards more efficiently, as people nowadays have too many cards and struggle to find the right one when they need it.

We also noticed people who have adopted contactless technology experience problems with storing their cards together – their electromagnetic fields clash and damage the cards’ contactless feature. We then created a product that targets people experiencing a combination of these issues. People who feel frustrated by the amount of stuff they carry around and want to attain a more minimalistic lifestyle. Our user also lives an active lifestyle and has the need to be efficient with their time, as well as being a user of contactless technologies.

Have you ever had a problem of trying to take your cards out of your wallet/purse but you couldn’t because they were stuck inside their slots? Have you ever struggled to find the right card in a hurry when there was a queue behind you? Imagine a card holder that stores all your essential cards together and allows you to reach and pull them out quickly and efficiently, so you don’t have to struggle. At Start Me Up, we are developing a product that will help you keep your cards organized and accessible whenever you need them.

CUTCORNER Card Holder: A simple, efficient, on-the-go storage design for your cards that allows you easy access to your basics and prevents card clash.


Our first customers are young professional commuters who are attracted by the minimalistic and efficient lifestyle and trends of decluttering. They want to keep their basics on hand for easy access and efficient daily use, but don’t want to be overloaded by the amount of their possessions. Initially, we are planning to use an approach of direct interaction with our user online and offline – i.e. social media, but also markets and fairs. We would also like to reach our targeted user through a crowdfunding campaign and later on take on the approach of indirect sales through retailers and distributors.

There are many different cardholders in the market, we are not inventing the wheel, including the card clash. Prices goes from £1.50 to £64, depending on their design and quality. Secrid and Kin, for example, offer innovative designs for similar issues. However, their prices are between £24-60 and they still don’t offer a single solution combining all features. Our goal is to have a final price between £6-8 making it more accessible to our early adopters while maintaining a good design and quality.


We also want to offer customisation, use environmental friendly materials such as card boxes and cans and invest on branding. Firstly, we are approaching early adopters via social media, markets and fairs. Followed by a crowdfunding campaign. It has proven to be successful in this segment as Kin raised $280,000 in 40 hours on Kickstarter. And in the future, through gadget shops like tiger and bookshops. We believe that after studying the feasibility of the product, CutCorners will help people with their everyday payment problems and become a profitable investment for stakeholders. Our next steps are improving the design, manufacture the first MVP and detailing the sales and marketing strategies.



See you soon! Happy new year!