School for Creative Startups: Creativity, risk and Ed Vaizey's home truth

Caroline Burstein is a truly fascinating entrepreneur. She founded the Molton Brown brand back in the seventies, sold up in 1993 and now heads up the creative arm of Browns, the iconic fashion boutique founded by her parents, which launched the careers of everyone from John Galliano to Christopher Kane.

No one is more ably suited to comment on the state of creativity in the UK. She told the School for Creative Startups' guests a little bit about her business background and what she has learned about being a creative entrepreneur.

"I started my career a long time ago," she began. "My first start-up was Molton Brown. I was lucky enough to have the backing of my family. They gave me £5,000 to start the business and we managed to get a property on South Molton Street at an affordable rent. It would be impossible to do the same thing now with rates at such high levels. But even back then, the business was always strapped for cash."

"It was an enjoyable, fantastic, neverending struggle," she continued. "In manufacturing, you have to put your money where your mouth is. You buy up front and hope you'll sell. In fashion, it's easier to take small steps."

But Burstein doesn't believe that all creative people should take such business risks. "I see a lot of creative talent," she explains, "And out of hundreds of students producing design and art work, I only see a handful that are truly exceptional. Creative people that I think will go far. I think we have to accept that, like in any industry, some people are simply better than others. Not everyone will succeed. That's just life."

On the subject of risk, compere Seven Hills co-founder Michael Hayman handed to the conch to MOBOs founder Kanya King. "When did you know it was the right time to take the risk?" he asked. "How did you become entrepreneurial?"

"I started out in property," said King. "When you come from a large family - I was one of nine - you have to get on the housing ladder pretty quickly! I wanted a roof over my head and I wanted to contribute to our household.

"My mother was very risk averse. That's why we were always poor! She's been telling me all my life to be less entrepreneurial, but it's always been a part of who I am. Whether it was selling whistles at Notting Hill Carnival as a kid or launching the MOBOs, I accepted that sometimes you have to take a risk to be successful."

And while there's no magic formula for success, King cites the three 'P's as a good place to start: Passion, Perserverence, and People: "Surround yourself with brilliant people," she said. Libby Sellers added another 'P' to the mix. "Politeness goes a long way," she said. "Always follow up with new contacts, be courteous, stay in touch. You can meet the most useful people in the world but if you don't follow up, it's useless."

Over to Ed Vaizey, who stole the show with his tip to start-up business owners. His advice on growing a successful creative start-up: "Don't rely on the government," he announced.

And with that, the debate drew to a close. To find out more about the School for Creative Startups, or about sponsorship opportunities or becoming a mentor visit the website.

Read Part One: The School for Creative Startups launch: Cocktails, camaraderie and controversy

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