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www.nesta.org.uk/futureinnovators

Written by: Gerard Darby Designed by: Carly and Jonny at theFarm Illustrations by: Georgia Harrison With thanks to Helen Durham, Siobhan Edwards, Helen Gleaves, Katherine Mathieson, Liz Newton, Lucie Osborn and Christine Southwell.

Dare to Dream

NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts and our mission is to transform the UK’s capacity for innovation. Our Future Innovators programme aims to develop in young people the skills and attitudes that underpin innovation so that there is the best possible fit between the needs of the UK and the skills, personal attributes and behaviours of our future innovators.


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We all have dreams. Some of us dream about making music or creating a new fashion, some dream of starting a new business or mini-enterprise and some dream of making the world a better place.

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Most of us have our dreams in our bedrooms where we can shut out the gloomy world and let our imaginations go wild and come up with ideas. It isn’t enough to have an idea. You also need to work out what you’ll need and who you’ll need to know in order to make it happen. This is a guide to inspire you to have ideas and help you start to turn them into a reality. It won’t answer all your questions but hopefully will deal with a few. It also highlights some of the amazing ideas that young people have taken from just a passing thought in their head to an enterprise that is now in their hands.

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My bedroom was my own little world – a place to escape and create stuff, a place where I submerged myself in music, art and Newcastle United. Jimmy Turrell, Graphic Designer. It wasn’t just a bedroom for him you see. He did all his thinking and dreaming in that tiny room. Yoko Ono, talking about John Lennon’s bedroom.

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‘Now why didn’t I think of that?’ Have you ever said that to yourself? You hear about a new product, service or way of going about something and you wonder why nobody has come up with the idea before as it’s so simple. The best ideas are often the simplest.

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Take, for example, these ideas developed by young entrepreneurs. Charles Adakwa-Yiadom has a scheme to provide kiosks for legally downloading music in busy public spaces such as shopping centres, airports and hospitals. Celia Gates has come up with an easy grip handle for saucepans to help elderly and disabled people and Philip Robinson has developed a bike seat that doubles up as a floor pump so you can also use it to inflate the tyres. Now why didn’t I think of that? Oddly enough, quite a few creative people get great ideas from their dreams. A chemical structure, the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the tune for Yesterday, the theme for the opera Das Rheingold, the sewing machine and many other innovations came from or were inspired by dreams. As well as having a snooze, a good way of coming up with ideas is to think about what frustrates you or causes you hassle, what you need that isn’t around at the moment or what could be an easier or better way of doing something. When James Steward got his bike stolen, he came up with a more secure way for storing bikes that only uses a small amount of space.

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When he was 15, Oliver Bridge struggled to find shoes to fit his size 13 feet so he set up a company that sells big and wide shoes via the internet. Shocked by the price of spectacles when he bought a pair while he was at university, James Murray Wells set up an online business for students and others to buy glasses at prices far cheaper than those in high street shops.


Tout your idea around. Talk to as many people as possible. Everyone has ideas. There is quite a big gap between having an idea in your head and getting it into practice. People get quite cagey about ideas but I would suggest talking to as many people as possible. Do lots of brainstorming, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the idea.

Get it down on paper and keep on looking at it. If you can operate from within your bedroom, then operate from there because the more money you can save in the early days the better until you’ve actually got the business moving forward. It is very easy to underestimate costs and overestimate profit. Chris Smallwood Chris started Bug Bugs, the UK’s first pedicab (think rickshaw on wheels meets a taxi) service in London. He began with six bikes and now has 65.

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With your idea, you need to work out what is the main thing that is different about it. Is it going to make something easier, faster or healthier?

Will it be a service that is more individual, more appealing or more effective? It doesn’t have to be a mega difference – a small change can often make a big difference.

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Think, for example, about the various changes that have been made to jeans to create new fashions – they’ve been twisted, stone-washed, faded, torn, made baggy, given turn-ups, produced with flares, but basically they’re still jeans and for some reason are almost always blue. Fashion graduate Hannah Marshall has developed a fashion range with a difference – her designs are highly tactile with hidden messages created in them in Braille. Young entrepreneur Rose Kane has created a new approach to baking – placing logos and text within bread so the image appears on every slice! If you’re developing a business idea, be very cautious about proposing something that is going to be cheaper. Customers often feel price reflects quality. There are also a lot of hidden costs in producing a product or delivering a service and you want to make sure that you’re aware of all of these.

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It sounds strange but just being friendly or very reliable will differentiate you from a lot of other businesses. In business the main difference between you and your competitors is called your USP – your unique selling point. It becomes the thing that you stress when you talk about your idea. Doing things differently is a good habit to get into for entrepreneurs. There is a saying, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again’. That’s correct in the sense that you shouldn’t give up but if you find you’re not getting anywhere with something, then do something different. For example, if people are not buying what you’ve made it could be the way it is packaged, the way it is designed or the place you’re selling it at. Experiment with some changes to see whether they make a difference.


Everything starts with the idea/the product/the service. Then find out what sets it apart from other ideas, and shout those differences from the rooftop. Communicate, communicate, communicate. And if you communicate with passion you will invariably persuade anyone, even the depressing nature of today’s bank managers. Dame Anita Roddick Dame Anita Roddick opened the first Body Shop in 1976 in Littlehampton, Sussex. By the time Anita died 30 years later, there were 2,100 stores in 55 countries.

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The one thing that most inventors, entrepreneurs and innovators have in common is that they or their ideas were initially dismissed as being crazy. The telephone, the computer, the aeroplane, the internet – you name it, these were all first rejected as being barmy or stupid ideas. The same applies to many new fashion styles, new forms of music and new enterprises.

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Try this. Fold your arms. Now fold them the other way. You’ll probably find that folding them the other way is more uncomfortable and you’d prefer to go back to how you usually do it. The same applies to a new approach to doing something – you have to find ways of getting people comfortable with it. First of all think about what’s in it for them and how it’s going to benefit them. Then consider all the likely objections and concerns that they might have and work out how you might overcome these. Some people when they talk about their idea drone on for ages about all the detail, what they’ve done and what problems they’ve had. The reality is that people don’t want to hear all this. They need to understand quickly what the idea is and what it could do for them. It’s just like a newspaper. You need the headline first to then a summary of what it’s about and then, and only if they want it, some of the background.

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If your idea is a social or environmental campaign, then you need to communicate to a person what it is, why it’s important, how it affects them and what they can do to help. Once again, they don’t need all the detail. When you put your idea forward there are going to be people who’ll try to knock it down straight away – the bunch. However, there’ll also be some who genuinely want to offer you advice and information. You need to work out which camp people are falling into and do your best to keep clear of the dream killers. However, there is a saying that dogs bark at what they don’t understand. It might be that people who don’t like your idea actually don’t understand it and that’s why they dismiss it. So you’ll need to find a new way of describing it or a different approach to persuading them. Make your idea come alive – build a prototype, draw it, demonstrate it, write a leaflet about it or trial it.


Giving your idea a name helps give it an identity. You want something short and catchy that puts it in a nutshell. State of Undress is the name of the lingerie store set up by fashion student Emma Cheevers. Sonia Ramanah called her social enterprise which uses music and media activities to inspire young people StreetVibes Youth. Wrapology is the name of the funky packaging company that young entrepreneur Annika Bosanquet has set up.

People give you very good advice along the way and you mustn’t accept it all. Just listen and work it out for yourself. In fact, the moment somebody gives you a bit of advice, explore the opposite and the potential of the opposite. Sir James Dyson Inventor and entrepreneur Sir James Dyson has developed products that have achieved sales of over £3 billion world-wide.

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If only it was as easy as just having an idea. If that was the case then the world would be full of inventors and entrepreneurs. The fact is that you also have to make the idea happen and that’s the really difficult bit.

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The best way to start is to do some research and find out whether there is anything similar to what you’re thinking about. Talk to as many people as possible and find out how other people have gone about developing their businesses or campaigns. People are often fearful about talking about an idea because they feel that someone who hears about it could then go and do it themselves. The important thing is that you can talk about an idea without going into detail about how you’re planning to go about it and that ‘how’ part is the bit that’s essential if someone wants to copy you. Start off by making a plan. Think through everything you’re going to need to make it happen – the finance, the information, the resources. Then set some goals that will bring your idea closer to a reality and the timescales you want them to happen by. Remember generally things take a lot longer than you’d like and so, in enterprise, impatience is a virtue and you’ll need to lean on some people and organisations to get things moving quicker.

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The Make Your Mark campaign helps young people to make their ideas happen. Their website (www.makeyourmark.org.uk) has some excellent tips on turning ideas into reality. So how much of life goes according to plan? Well, as we all know, very little in fact. But a plan is useful because it can help you focus when there are a lot of distractions and help you be clear about what you want to achieve. With any opportunities that come your way you should always be asking yourself,

Each day you need to do a little bit to move things on and continue to do research to get more information. The more you prepare, the better your chances of success.


Have clear objectives, plan, and work out where you want to get to and how you’re going to get there. Give yourself goals so that you can see whether you’re achieving along the way and don’t forget to review them. Natasha Clarke Natasha started a recruitment agency for the IT industry in her early twenties. It has expanded from London into Bristol and Leeds.

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There’s a lot of jargon, paperwork and pretence in business so that it’s difficult to get your head round it all. Business isn’t that complicated. Basically it’s just like your average marketplace albeit on a much bigger

scale – there are people selling things, there are customers looking and hopefully buying and there are occasional downpours of rain that keep people from coming along.

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You need to know yourself and what your strengths and weaknesses are. You’ll need to be honest about these and then work out how you’re going to play to your strengths and what you need to do, or who you need to involve, to deal with the weaknesses. You need to know your customers – who they are, what they want, how they buy things, where they buy and you find this out by talking to them. Finally you need know-how – basically all the nuts and bolts to put the business into practice and you learn this partly by research and talking to people and partly by going out and doing it. With your business idea, you want to try and find a gap in the market – what is not being done at the moment or not being done well.

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Edinburgh schoolboy Fraser Doherty found a way to make jam without sugar or artificial sweeteners. In just over a year, his jams have proved so popular that he is cooking up to 1,000 jars a week from his parents’ kitchen. Once you understand the gap your idea is filling, the next thing to get to grips with is who is likely to be your customers. You need to work out the best and least expensive way to reach them so you can explain what your product or service can do for them.


With your customers: – Look after them – Keep them informed of any problems – Ask for feedback on the product or service so you can improve it for others. – Promise them what you can’t deliver – Over-hype your product or service to them. If all this business of business sounds like common sense, well mostly it is. The strange thing is that common sense in business is not all that common!

First and foremost really understand your business. What is it that your customer wants? What is it that you can do for your customer that is different from everyone else? Vijay Patel Vijay Patel opened his first pharmacy at the age of 24 and today runs a company, Waymade Healthcare, that supplies to more than 5,000 pharmacies. When someone says ‘yes, I’ll do the deal’ then shut up. When someone says yes to me I’m out of their office in a millisecond before they can change their mind. Simon Cowell Simon Cowell left school with three GCSEs and after a few failed attempts at employment set up his own recording label. He helped create the Pop Idol phenomena which became a television and music industry success.

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You can moan and whinge about all the injustices in society, the terrible destruction of the environment, the poverty and inequalities some people suffer, the difficulties facing young people and all the other problems in the world. Alternatively you can do something about them.

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A group of young people in Trafford, Greater Manchester felt that many of the services aimed at the youth in the area were not good enough and needed to be improved. They formed ESP – Evaluating Services Provided to develop a ‘youth approved’ set of standards for businesses or agencies that provide services aimed at young people. ESP will help organisations improve these services and, if they reach an acceptable standard, award them a ‘youth approved’ award. Judith and Laura Merry, tired of the fact that there aren’t any fashionable clothes for teenagers in wheelchairs, created their own clothing range suitable for teenagers who are both able-bodied and wheelchair users. Judith has already designed some clothes for wheelchair users and put on a fashion show, Fashion on Wheelz, where some of her designs were shown. Rajeeb Dey felt that teachers, governors, parents and politicians were always being asked what they thought about education and the changes being made to it but nobody was asking the most important people in education what they thought – the students!

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As a result he formed ESSA (English Secondary Students Association www.studentvoice.co.uk) to both represent the views of students and to provide them with training so they can communicate effectively with teachers so their views and opinions are heard. With a campaign, you don’t want to be all ‘doom and gloom’ and instead you need, as these young people have done, to not only highlight the problem but also put forward a potential solution. You’ll also need to be clear about who you want to influence: is it the Government, the media, the local Council, big business, consumers, young people or perhaps a combination of these?


Work out how you are going to draw attention to the issue and think of ways that you will capture people’s imagination. The media tends to like things that are visual, creative or humorous and they need information that condenses the issue down to key facts.

A lot of my friends have ideas but none of them do anything about it because somewhere inside them they’re saying: ‘I’m only 18, I’m only 19, I’m not quite ready to do this. It’s just not possible.’ I genuinely believe being young is an advantage in many ways. Start with ‘I can achieve this’ and get that in your head. Then go out and research the idea. Toby Goodman

Toby was 17 when he started up his company, Bannerman, which uses banners to promote shops and events in Liverpool.

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You might decide to work with another person or with a group of people to make your idea happen. The advantages are that you can egg each other on, particularly when one of you is a bit low. At the same time you can also put pressure on each other and push one another to take risks.

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You need to choose your partners very carefully because you’re going to spend a huge amount of time with them, so make sure you know how to get on, you know how to argue and also how to resolve things. The worst thing is if you gloss over disagreements and problems rather than face up to them as this can cause a lot of angst further down the line. So as well as working on the idea, you have to work on your relationship as well. If a person is going to become a business partner, then you need to know that you can trust them as they’ll have some controls on the money side of things. You also need to be prepared to think the unthinkable and work out what you would do in the (hopefully unlikely) event of one of you wanting to leave the business.

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Good partnerships work because the people in them have: – Skills and personalities that are complementary – The same vision for what they want to achieve – Goals that keep the momentum going – Information that keeps them up to date on what’s happening.


You might choose to go it alone. That’s fine and suits some people. You still should work out who else you need either for advice or for help. If you are lucky enough to find a mentor, then they can really be useful as it gives you an outside eye on how you’re doing. Shell Livewire www.shell-livewire.org have online business advisors whom you can ask particular questions and they also have forums where you can talk to other young entrepreneurs.

You have to go through every brick wall in the sense that it is not even there because if you stop to listen to anyone’s criticism, you’re going to start criticizing yourself. Without the self-belief that’s going to make you cringe, you won’t do it. Dominic McVey Dominic started a business from his bedroom importing collapsible scooters when he was 14. In just a few years he sold more than 10 million.

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So you get a good idea, do some research, put together a plan and you can then sit back and watch it all happen. Erm, is that a pig that just flew past the window? The reality is that getting an idea to fly is really tough and making it happen requires a lot of time, energy and often heartache. You’ll need to give it everything you've got and probably a bit more on top of that.

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People with ideas are generally not taken that seriously and unfortunately it tends to be even worse for young people with ideas. So you’ll need to show that you’re serious and not just say it. The other thing is that confidence is pretty infectious. If you can really show that you believe in what you’re doing, then others are likely to come on board and support you. It’s a balance though. You want to be confident but you don’t want to be too cocky. At school you’re generally taught that mistakes are a bad thing. In enterprise it’s almost impossible not to make mistakes. Some entrepreneurs even claim that if you’re not making mistakes then you’re not taking enough risks. The key is when you make mistakes, learn from these and move on. You can also cut out a lot of errors by learning about the problems other entrepreneurs have come across so that you’re prepared for these.

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There are lots of mundane aspects to running an enterprise but they’re things that are crucial to its future. All the paperwork, form filling and accounts are hassles but have got to be done. If you put them off, then you can find yourself drowning in them later on. So get organised and set up systems that in the long term are going to save you time and trouble. There will be plenty of times when you feel like giving it all up. When it all feels too big, too hard or too tiring then just do something small to prove to yourself that you’re still capable of moving things on. Also see if you can get to talk to other young entrepreneurs either online or better still face to face and share some of your difficulties. Remember that whilst it may never be easy, it does get easier.


The idea of this section isn’t to paint a really depressing picture but it is important to show that there is a downside to enterprise and that essentially it’s tough. It requires you to stick your neck out like a giraffe, have the skin of a rhino, be as courageous as a lion, be stubborn like a mule and run around like a mad dog. This makes a pretty strange creature, but then entrepreneurs are! You should never give up your dream, but do dream with your eyes open.

If you really believe in your concept and business idea then stick with it. You’ll get knocked back and you’ll go through some really tough times at the beginning but if you really believe in what you’re putting together, then you have every chance in making a success of it. Peter Dabrowa Peter runs one of the UK’s largest student websites – www.funky.co.uk – which he started as a teenager.

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There are lots of places where you can get further advice, support or information. You’ll find some more useful to you than others. Before you get in touch with them, check out their websites so that you are sure you’re eligible for their support.

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The Make Your Mark campaign helps young people to make their ideas happen. Their website has inspiring stories, sources of potential help and finance and loads of useful tips. www.makeyourmark.org.uk If you want to get inspired, visit Idea Volcano (blog.ideavolcano.com). It’s a place where entrepreneurs can share ideas that they’re not using themselves and so has a whole host of potential business schemes. The Ideas Factory www.ideasfactory.org.uk is the place to go if you want to develop something in the creative industries (film, fashion, music, art, design, writing etc). It includes info on where you can get training, funding and advice as well as regional events. If you’re 14–25 and have an idea that will help your local community, you might be eligible for a grant from The Prince’s Trust (www.princes-trust.org.uk). They also offer support and low interest loans for those aged 18–30 who can’t raise the cash for their business from anywhere else.

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Startups is a good place for news and case studies on young people developing businesses. Check out the young entrepreneurs pages at www.startups.co.uk Shell Livewire runs a national award scheme for young entrepreneurs who’ve started a business. They also have lots of free information on running a business, online mentors and opportunities to learn about other enterprises started by young people. You’ll need to register but it’s free. www.shell-livewire.org Telephone 0845 757 3252


If you’re looking for inspiration The Global Ideas Bank www.globalideasbank.org features hundreds of ideas to improve the quality of life and the opportunity to say what you think about them. UnLtd www.unltd.org.uk the foundation for social entrepreneurs, provides support to people who want to make a difference in their communities. They provide a range of support including awards.

There are a number of enterprise programmes delivered in schools. If you think your school might be interested, ask your teachers to get in touch with businessdynamics www.businessdynamics.org.uk Telephone 020 7620 0735 or visit Young Enterprise www.young-enterprise.org Telephone 01865 776 845.

Getting volunteer experience is a good stepping stone to developing your own project. www.do-it.org.uk has some of the latest opportunities. If you want to develop a project in the arts, an excellent site is run by Youth Arts Online. www.youthartsonline.com

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If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to visit one of the beautiful Greek Islands, you may have seen how the turtles bury their eggs in the sand along the shore so that when the baby turtles hatch they can be guided safely by the light of the moon out to sea.

The problem is that tourist developments have been built up along the coasts of many islands and the lights from nightclubs, cafĂŠs and discos can confuse the baby turtles who follow these lights and are led away from the sea.

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The same can happen when you hatch your ideas. There’ll be a lot of things that can distract you, problems that can get in your way and people eager to steer you in a different direction leading you off track. Nike has a pretty cool slogan, Just Do It! With your idea, if you really believe in it and want to make it happen, then just do it. If you don’t, you might just find that someone else does. That’s not to say you don’t need to do research, get lots of advice and plan hard, but at the end of the day you’ll never really know how good your idea is until you do it. It takes courage to be creative and pursue ideas. Occasionally it may feel lonely and frustrating but most entrepreneurs, even those who have failed, will say that it was always worth giving it a go.

Remember what is the absolute essence of your idea and normally if it is a good idea, it will be a very simple idea and it is something that you can explain to your grandma in one sentence. And once you have got that idea, don’t let anyone water it down because everyone is going to try to. Everyone is going to try and bend it and shape it to their own means. Know when to be flexible and open to suggestion but also know when to keep your main thing and not have it messed around with by anyone else. Richard Reed Richard is the co-founder of Innocent Drinks, a company that sells fresh fruit smoothies. In just a few years Innocent Drinks has gone from an idea some college friends had, to a company turning over several million pounds.

Good luck!

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www.nesta.org.uk/futureinnovators

Written by: Gerard Darby Designed by: Carly and Jonny at theFarm Illustrations by: Georgia Harrison With thanks to Helen Durham, Siobhan Edwards, Helen Gleaves, Katherine Mathieson, Liz Newton, Lucie Osborn and Christine Southwell.

Dare to Dream

NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts and our mission is to transform the UK’s capacity for innovation. Our Future Innovators programme aims to develop in young people the skills and attitudes that underpin innovation so that there is the best possible fit between the needs of the UK and the skills, personal attributes and behaviours of our future innovators.

Profile for FutureInnovators

Dare to Dream  

A small booklet designed to inspire young people to turn their ideas into reality.

Dare to Dream  

A small booklet designed to inspire young people to turn their ideas into reality.

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