Innovation Award Blog #1 - Getting Started

2018 saw three winners of the Innovation Award at the Bath SETsquared Innovation Centre. We have asked the winners to write their own blog posts so that we can hear all about their entrepreneur journey as it develops. Read Nia Simpson’s blog about her winning business idea ‘Compact Cane Ltd’.

Compact Cane logo.png

Since winning the University Innovation Award in May, I've enjoyed four months of summer travelling, celebrating my graduation in Mechanical Engineering (MEng), and resting, all of which helped to rejuvenate me after an intense final year. But, to be honest, I couldn't shake the feeling of being overwhelmed by this life-changing opportunity and the uncertainty around it. Thankfully, taking time to reflect, whether in a Middle Eastern desert or my London bedroom, helped me to emotionally prepare myself for my new adventure! My brother told me that fear and excitement are the same emotion; the only difference between them is my attitude towards it. So, I chose to overwrite my feelings of nervousness with excitement for this awesome opportunity over the next 12 months!

Nia and Eoin (another Innovation Award winner) at a Bath SETsquared business hub launch party

Nia and Eoin (another Innovation Award winner) at a Bath SETsquared business hub launch party

In September (a month before officially starting), I was intentional with equipping myself with knowledge in how to effectively create a tech startup and develop my product idea - Compact Cane, an intelligent discreet 'white cane' for visually impaired people. I bought myself ‘Self Made: The Definitive Guide to Business Startup Success’ and attended a business conference at my church to connect with and learn from influential businesspeople. From this, I was encouraged to 'work my network' – tap into the pool of talented people in my family and friendship groups – and received one-to-one coaching to build my confidence.

I also wanted to ensure I had a clear vision of where I'm heading on this business journey, to help shape my future decisions and motivate me when I face challenges. So, I discussed my aspirations and developed my business plans with trusted businesspeople, documenting everything in my journal. Thankfully, I'm from a family of entrepreneurs and business experts so getting sound advice was easy, as was finding mentors: my parents, who are have years of experience in business and happen to be my #1 fans!

The last few weeks since starting have been very productive – for example, I've developed a system to manage my business finances, connected with local entrepreneurs at networking events, and updated my project plan. Though, the highlight was definitely attending 3 Day Startup (3DS) with forty-nine other SETsquared university students! Over the weekend (Friday 19th to Sunday 21st), I participated in this intensive learning-by-doing entrepreneurship program based at University of Surrey. I worked in a team to develop a marketing tool for pubs – an app that uses free drinks to encourage young people to explore their local pubs with friends. Together, we created a lean business canvas, conducted ‘customer discovery’ in the Guildford town centre to understand the real problems pubs and young people face, used our findings to refine and improve our business idea, designed a prototype for the app, and pitched our business idea to a panel of entrepreneurs and investors.

The program was a great opportunity to meet, inspire and be inspired by other aspiring entrepreneurs, develop my pitching skills, and build confidence in my ability to develop my own business ideas. I learnt that collaboration yields stronger products, listening to customers is vital for creating a successful product, and ‘pivoting’ – being flexible with my solution – is essential! It was an amazing experience that kickstarted me into the 12-month program; in the subsequent weeks, I registered my company – Compact Cane Ltd, started to prototype my technology to improve the safety of Compact Cane, and further developed my business plan.

Nia Simpson with a prototype of the Compact Cane

Nia Simpson with a prototype of the Compact Cane

This year is about building my Product, Knowledge and Network, so I've started to take daily vlogs to track my development in these three areas! I look forward to next month where I'll be receiving one-to-one coaching in public speaking, helping inspire the next generation of innovators through working with the University, attending conferences like BE Who Made It Happen and WorldLabs Elevating Ideas 2018, and further developing my product and business!

See you in a month 😊

Nia Simpson - Compact Cane