Jane Imrie

Scaleup Focus Week: businesses share their Black Swan Trigger Events

According to Bdaily chairman Dr Roy Stanley: “the integration of the two concepts of Black Swan Events and Trigger Points leads to the framing of the term Black Swan Trigger Events”

“In the context of the growing firm, a Black Swan Trigger Event is a significant unpredictable event that has a major positive impact on the growth dynamics of a small firm.”

As part of our Scaleup Focus Week, Bdaily asked firms to share their experience of Black Swan Trigger Events and how they changed the trajectory of their businesses.

Craig Huntingdon, Scaleup North East

“For 10 years I was part of the Director team at Aldi tasked with the responsibility of making the business successful in the UK.

“For six years, we had moved the business in the right direction but with only marginal success. Average spend was slowly increasing as were customer numbers but the demographic profile was from predominantly low socio-economic groups.

“The Financial Crisis of 2007-08 proved to be our Black Swan moment as we seized the opportunity to capitalise on the publics’ preoccupation with saving money and the prevailing frugal mindset.

“We were successful in presenting a proposition that Aldi didn’t sell cheap food, cheaply, they actually sold brand quality products at a discounted price.

“Despite being a multi-billion pound business, it was agile and able to react quickly to the opportunity.

“The result was dramatic with double digit sales growth for many years to follow. A second event amplified this success when Tesco, whilst trying to defend market share, declared itself ‘Britain’s Biggest Discounter’.

“Until that point ‘Discounter’ had a largely negative preconception in an aspirational marketplace.

“Unknowingly, Tesco had just made shopping at a Discounter acceptable to their customers at which point many converted to the authorities in that space (Aldi & Lidl) and never returned.”

Laura Jackson, Popcorn Shed

“The idea for Popcorn Shed was sparked by a trip to America. There are so many delicious and innovative flavours of popcorn over there and we wanted to bring this variety back to the UK.

“My cousin Sam and I quit our jobs in management consultancy and commercial property management. As demand from family and friends came in, we had to store our handmade popcorn in my Mum’s shed, hence our name.

When we were starting out, we used our own savings and raised cash from family. I had to move back in with my mum and found it really difficult to get any credit. We also struggled with cashflow but Xero helped us keep track of our financial position.

“Our Black Swan moment came when we moved from making our artisanal popcorn in my Mum’s kitchen to getting our very own factory space.

“It has allowed us to scale up our operations and sell in retailers John Lewis, Ocado, Co-op, Harrods and Harvey Nichols.

“My advice to any small business or enterprise looking to scale up would be to be nimble and react to feedback as quickly as you can. Take feedback constructively and spot the areas where you can improve.”

Sarah Brockwell, founder of SarahBee Marketing

“[My] Black Swan moment was six months after startup, when the company won a regional business award: ‘best new business’. The resulting PR catapulted the micro-business into the limelight.

“With print and online PR coverage, business growth exceeded expectations in terms of:

-Fantastic organic SEO (coverage on 18 different websites) which resulted in first page -Google results for ‘Essex marketing’ -New client enquiries as a result of PR coverage -Invitations to speak at business events -Exposure to local-authority clients and invitations to bid for local-authority tender opportunities

“As a PR expert, I appreciate the value of PR. 10 years on, my business has proceeded to receive a total of six business awards. For startups the key to growth is brand exposure and what better way to build your brand than by achieving positive PR?

“Business awards are great, but so are PR stunts. What’s more, you don’t need a huge budget to put together a PR campaign.

“It’s all about choosing what will engage your target audience – that’s the way to grow your startup and achieve your own Black Swan moment.”

Julianne Ponan, CEO at Creative Nature

“Our moment came when we secured a deal with Tesco very unexpectedly on a very tight deadline. Somehow we knew this was it - if we could not fulfill that order in such a short timescale, we wouldn’t be taken seriously.

“How would we compete with much bigger brands if we couldn’t deliver? As a small independent producer of allergy-free snacks, we were a small team. We didn’t even have a forklift to move products or boxes around, let alone fill up a lorry!

“We roped in family and friends to help us achieve our goal, to deliver to Tesco on time so that it appeared painless to them.

“This led to three weeks of really hard work from labelling by hand, to packing by hand, to loading by hand onto pallets, through to begging for the use of a forklift to fill up the lorry. It was the hardest three weeks, working until about 3am to fulfill the order.

“We did it. We learned so much from it and the only way was up. Today we are far more efficient and we do have a forklift! In fact only a few days ago we launched our latest baking mix, Cacao Rich Chocolate Cake, into Tesco!”

What do you think? How has a Black Swan Trigger Event changed the nature of your business? Join the conversation on Twitter @Bdaily and #ScaleupFocusWeek.

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