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Futuristic Fire Alarms, Countless Cushions and a Stolen Lunch

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A few weeks ago I got an email from Emma Jones at Enterprise Nation asking me if I wanted to be on a Q&A panel as part of an event they were running. Not one to turn down an exciting opportunity like this I leapt at the chance and said I’d be more than happy to join in.

The event in question was called Homewares Exchange, a London-based gathering of creators, buyers and experts in the Homewares market. There were some interesting speakers lined up, including buyers at some major retail chains, so all in all it looked like a great chance to network!

The event was being held at the Microsoft London offices, a very modern, shiny and expensive-looking building in Victoria.

Microsoft’s offices in London. Swish or what!

After entering at the wrong entrance and leading a group of equally confused stragglers I finally found my way to the right function area.

Outside the main room were a group of tables on which delegates were encouraged to exhibit their homewares products.

One thing was immediately obvious…

…There were cushions everywhere covering almost all the tables! Despite this cushion conundrum however I managed to find a small, yet un-cushioned corner and popped down Geco Hub and Nimble prototypes for people to look at (you never know who might take an interest after all!) and sat down ready for the talks to start.

The morning went lightning fast, with everyone from head buyers to design entrepreneurs sharing their stories and advice. I learnt a great deal and was very glad for the coffee injection I’d wisely administered on the way there as it meant I could just about keep up.

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Anna Rigby, one of the head buyers at John Lewis, giving a talk

The highlights for me were the various business owners discussing their different routes to market and the incredible success they’d had with their ideas so far. One business sold worldwide through QVC whilst others were doing incredibly on notonthehighstreet.com. The one thing they all had in common? They all started working from home with nothing but an idea!

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A very inspiring panel for anyone looking to start their own business!

Just before lunch it was my turn as part of a “Raising Funds” Q&A panel. I was there to tell the Geco Hub Kickstarter story. Up on stage I was joined by two lovely people representing Start Up Loans, another great option for funding when starting out. Once up and settled we were quizzed for a few minutes by Emma and the audience… it was great fun!

We finished up just before lunch and then I was on a mad rush to find somewhere to buy a sandwich and talk to the two buyers from House of Fraser who had spoken that morning. They weren’t going to be sticking around long and were already surrounded by people with product ideas like celebrities with fans!

Luckily I found a Microsoft staff canteen very close by and the helpful security guard there kindly swiped me through the door (despite me not having the right pass) so I could buy a sandwich. Thanks to this I got back to the Home Exchange event just as the House of Fraser guys were finishing up chatting to someone else and I cheekily managed to grab them for a few minutes.

I showed them Geco Hub and Nimble and they loved them! They really saw the potential and appeal of both products and agreed that House of Fraser would definitely be interested in stocking them in the future. This was amazing to hear!

After the lunch break we all filtered back into the function room to carry on with the day, not before we found out however that the buffet lunch which everyone had been helping themselves to outside the function room was actually for another event entirely! (To be honest though if I’d noticed the buffet on my mad rush for lunch I might well have partaken myself).

Side note: Throughout the day we had been encouraged to tweet about the event. Interestingly though the preferred hashtag was

#HomeExchange and NOT #HomewaresExchange.

Any guesses why?

The second half of the day was just as interesting as the first with everyone from professional photographers to young ceramicists taking the stage and telling their story. It was inspiring to listen and talk to people running with their own business and product ideas whether 23 or 43!

Towards the end we had a few more talks lined up, one about pitching to retailers and one from the company Made.com.

Then something unexpected happened.

The Microsoft fire alarm went off! And what a surreal alarm it was. Instead of an offensive siren noise there was a futuristic beeping and humming accompanied by a softly spoken robotic female voice explaining what was going on. Fortunately however it was just a routine test and we soon got on with the day.

At around 5pm it was home time and after speaking with a few more people interested in Geco Hub and Nimble I headed back to the train station with a head full of inspiration and ideas. What a day!