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Combat flip flops - bad for running, worse for fighting

Sunday, December 15, 2013

This is the tag line of a US start-up business whose story appeared on the BBC website this week, and it is a great story.

It has all the best elements of entrepreneurialism, and would be very much at home on Dragons Den. Matthew Griffin, a US soldier spots a rather obscure similarity between two markets which could not be more different - the US and Afghanisan; a change of career gives the opportunity to start up a business; he gains funding and support from family and friends; he makes successful prototypes but then has stumbling attempts to find a reliable manufacturer - which result in setting up production at home in the garage; he has orders but difficulty in finding the capacity to meet the current level of demand; and the set-backs he meets result not in abandoning hope but in seeking alternative solutions to the problem.

Ultimately the business has strong social entrepreneurship objectives, as it aims to bring jobs and security to factories in Kabul. It is selling, and has many orders on its books, which it cannot fulfil from the garage at home. The idea is to find funding to take a mobile flip-flop factory to Afghanistan, and it that is successful, Mr Griffin hopes the concept can "be extended to other former combat zones, to help provide employment and boost their economies". In the meantime, Combat Flip-Flops continues to also sell both sarongs and scarves that are made by Afghan women.

If you are still looking for a Christmas present ideas, this could be the answer. Although at around $70 a pair they are not cheap!

Maker Movements - Garage Manufacturing

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Collaboration and innovation are often fast-tracked by creating the right spaces for people and ideas to mingle.

This seven minute video from the Economist is deeply interesting - it looks at the Artisan's Asylum near Boston, Massachusetts in the USA which is host to a number of new hardware businesses. They are built around cheap work space, high-tech tools and crowd-sourced funding. The project has spawned some notable success stories many built around digital 3D printing - is there anything like an equivalent Maker Movement in the UK?

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Friday, August 09, 2013

Here’s a nice summer concept to consider. Suppose the future is much brighter than we commonly imagine. In fact, so good that within a few years the common problems we associate with scarcity will be a thing of the past.

My holiday reading has taken me in this direction, and it’s a fantastic idea to grapple with. How will business and the economy adapt to deliver this Promised Land? And what will it mean when we get there?

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Divine Chocolate - the Future of Business is Social

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Sophi Tranchell MBE was our guest for the afternoon session at the Business Teacher National Conference 2013 and she gave a simply inspirational talk on the story of Divine Chocolate!

Sophi has very kindly agreed to her presentation being shared with tutor2u teaching colleagues and students. Highly recommended - a wonderful case study in social enterprise; packed full with other business studies gold too!

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Co Op Bank’s USP vanishing trick

Friday, May 10, 2013

One of the strengths and a key component in the Co-Op Bank's USP after recent banking problems - sub-prime lending, collapse of Northern Rock and LIBOR rate fixing, was its emphasis of ethical banking.

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Cross-Curricular Project With Our On-Site Art Gallery

Friday, November 16, 2012

Here at Eltham College, we are fortunate enough to have our
own art gallery on site. Part of its purpose is to enrich learning across the
curriculum. Opened just 6 months ago, I decided that the gallery was an ideal
start-up case study for my Year 12 Business students to get their teeth into,
so I set them to work on a market research group task with each group focusing
on one of the gallery's key functions: exhibitions, art classes, and a cafe.

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Arguing the case for ‘sustainability’ in business

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Sustainability is a great business topic for discussion.  It’s a notoriously slippery and difficult term to define, as the idea means different things to different people.  It’s also a concept that has been much refined since it appeared on Business Studies specifications about 10 years ago.  When firms talk about environmental sustainability today, they tend to be more focused than just pursuing a vague notion of being ‘environmentally friendly’.  Business activity is rarely friendly to the environment.  Instead, businesses now talk more about ‘reducing resource use’, from energy to packaging, and water to widgets.

This has really pushed the sustainability concept into the mainstream.  Now being ‘Green’ doesn’t have to be purely seen as an ethical or marketing position.  Firms increasingly sell it to their shareholders as a way of cutting costs, and therefore boosting profit marginsJustin King, the boss of Sainsbury's, is determined to make the company Britain's most sustainable grocer.  This could be a good start point into finding where the debate stands today.

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Did Ben & Jerry’s change Unilever?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A fascinating story has appeared on the BBC News website featuring Jerry (of Ben & Jerry’s) as he explains the extent to which, after being taken over by Unliever in 2000, they have been able to bring their values to the vast conglomerate.

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International operations decisions - Adidas trainers for $1?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

This makes an ideal example for students considering the challenges of international location in operations management for which they must consider global
markets, cost reduction and avoidance of trade barriers. Here is my plan for the case study and questions which could be set on it:

Could Adidas make a profit from selling branded trainers for $1? Certainly not in any of their developed markets – but since 2008 they have been working on a market development (Ansoff!) strategy which would give them access to the vast market in rural India with a social enterprise venture at a price that local people can afford. The goal of the project, the firm says, is not to maximise profits but to “tackle social issues” by creating jobs.

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Social enterprise in decline - its the Big Issue

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Big Issue is one of the longest-established and best know examples of a social enterprise.  But it is struggling - with sales falling post riots and in the face of increasing “competition” on the high street.  Can it reinvent itself?  A great article here which examines the options being examined by the Big Issue.

Many magazines are struggling - caught in a perfect storm created by the consumer downturn and rapid/significant changes in how we consume media.  The Big Issue has been around for 20 years, so reinventing the concept is undoubtedly quite a challenge.  One part of their response is the introduce greater use of technology to Big Issue sellers - turning them into local bloggers.

Will this be enough?  Has the Big Issue reached the decline stage of its natural life cycle?

CSR - Insights from the Leader of the Revolution

Monday, March 14, 2011

A fantastic video interview here with Peter Marks, the CEO of the Co-operative Group, which was named as the UK’s most socially-responsible firm by the ICAEW in 2010.

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CSR - Cooperative Group invites you to join a revolution

Monday, February 21, 2011

A major news announcement from the Co-operative Group in the UK provides a wealth of research materials for students looking at the issues of corporate social responsibility. great for teaching CSR too!

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Introducing a new kind of business organisation - the benefit corporation

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A huge, dramatic swoosh of a hat tip to Jill Mcaloon at St Mary’s College Wallasey for sending the Business Studies blog a terrific audio link which is just perfect for AQA BUSS4 and any other teacher/student wanting to know a little more about business organisation and social enterprise.

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Michael Porter - Shared Value and the Limitations of CSR

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A narrow view about how to create profit has created a disconnect between businesses and society and this needs to change according to Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter. In a revealing interview with Peter Day as part of the In Business series on Radio 4 last month. It is a superb programme and one that ought to be hugely useful for teachers and students looking at the limitations of corporate social responsibility as an approach to the conduct of business activity.

“A growing number of companies known for their hard-nosed approach to business—such as GE, Google, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé, Unilever, and Wal-Mart—have already embarked on important efforts to create shared value by reconceiving the intersection between society and corporate performance.”

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Corporate Social Responsibility priority? Increase profits…

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


This of course was the view most famously expressed by one of the 20th century’s most important economists, Milton Friedman.  A battle has since raged between those like Friedman who think that “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits” and other groups taking a wider view, including many top firms (and the UK parliament in 2006 who passed the Companies Act).

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Bangers for Cash - Giveacar and Social Enterprise

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

I was thrilled recently to hear about the success of Giveacar - a social enterprise that collects unwanted vehicles and sends them for scrap and allocated 75% of the final scrap value to designated charities. The founder of Giveacar, Tom Chance was in my Economics classes just a few years ago before heading to Nottingham to read for an Economics degree. In November Tom was nominated as one of the Top 10 Future 100 Young Entrepreneurs for 2010.

Giveacar is a recycling scheme which allows people to dispose of their unwanted cars, old or new in an environmentally-friendly way and then donate the proceeds to charity. Giveacar arranges for end-of-life cars to be collected and taken to an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF), where they are dismantled according to strict environmental codes of practice.

Here are some background articles:

Unwanted wheels improve fortunes for charities (Guardian)
Bangers and cash - a charity boost (Evening Standard)

Stakeholder or shareholder: who matters most?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


This is a significant question most business students spend some time thinking about.  Who are firms for?  Is running a business about balancing the needs of a diverse group of stakeholders – or is it all really just about the bottom line?  In other words, do the wants and needs of shareholders come before ‘stakeholders’? The Economist newspaper has an important article to add to the debate.

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Social enterprise in action - Divine Chocolate video

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An excellent introductory video clip from Reuters explains how Divine Chocolate has entered the UK chocolate market using the principles of social enterprise

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Profiting from non-profits

Monday, July 19, 2010


Fans of disco will be saddened by the YMCA’s rebranding as “The Y”.  Why is a charity trying to ‘revitalise its brand’?  Is this evidence that they are following the common advice for non-profit organisations to become more like for-profit businesses?  A recent Economist article argues that what’s more interesting is that the reverse may be happening too….

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Entrepreneurs LIVE! 2010 - THE Enterprise Event for Students in 2010

Thursday, July 01, 2010

I’m delighted to announce the initial details of our student enrichment event for Autumn 2010 - Entrepreneurs LIVE! 2010.

The event is being held at two of our favourite venues:
London Westfield (Vue Cinema) - Monday 15 November 2010
Salford Lowry Mall (Vue Cinema) - Ruesday 16 November 2010

Entrepreneurs LIVE! 2010 will be a fantastic student enrichment day for students taking part in Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010.  It will also be invaluable for ALL BUSINESS STUDENTS who need to develop their underdstanding of how successful businesses are started and grown. The programme will provide your students with the insights, ideas and inspirations from some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs…and also give them the chance to compete for spot prizes by taking our business challenge quizzes and pitching business ideas to the audience.

I’m delighted that two of our speakers (for both London and Manchester) have already been confirmed….

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Meet a social enterprise with low-priced USP

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This business has almost everything for a great business lesson.  The business model?  It buys second-hand books from charities that cant find customers, and sells them on for as little as £0.01 each.  It is yet to make a profit.  But read on…

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Q&A - What is meant by Social Enterprise?

Friday, May 22, 2009

One kind of business structure that has grown rapidly in the UK in recent years is the “social enterprise”. Social enterprises are the most common form of “not-for-profit” enterprises.

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Fairtrade Chocolate - Q&A with Divine

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Guardian is running a daily Q&A session with the team at Fairtrade brand Divine Chocolate.  Some excellent materials in here, and there is still chance to submit a question.

Ansoff helps with the school lunches

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In a great example of market development, Wittersham Primary School dinner ladies have found a new market for their product by selling school lunches to local residents, not just the school pupils.

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Can Fairtrade buck the UK recession?

Monday, April 20, 2009

An encouraging story in The Grocer this week suggests that sales of Fairtade might hold up reasonably well - despite the severity of the downturn in consumer spending in the UK.

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Go Bananas for Cadbury and Fairtrade!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


In the midst of Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs until Saturday 7th March, Cadbury have made a major announcement. Cadbury Dairy Milk, the UK’s best selling chocolate bar, will become Fairtrade certified in the summer. This will triple the amount of Fairtrade cocoa sourced from Ghana to about 15,000 tonnes a year, of a total annual production of 600,000 tonnes. Under the Fairtrade scheme, Cadbury will pay a guaranteed minimum price, even if the open market price falls below it, for Ghanaian cocoa. The move is part of the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership, a £45m initiative over 10 years designed to help cocoa farming communities across the developing world. The Cadbury website says “100 years ago William Cadbury chose beans from Ghana. A year ago we founded the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership. And from Autumn 2009 Cadbury Dairy Milk will be Fairtrade certified.”

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Video case study - Cash Crisis for Hospices

Monday, March 02, 2009

The media scrum around the dying Jade Goody has turned attention towards the wonderful work of the hospice movement.

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Social Enterprise resource

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Sunday Times online has a terrific section dealing with Social Enterprise, with so many links that the best way to deal with it may be to get each member of the class to take one link each and feedback what they find to the rest. This could follow on from a blog entry on 30th January about using the recession as an opportunity for developing staff through corporate social responsiblity - see the link below.

Social enterprise in the spotlight

Thursday, November 13, 2008


This resource looks like it will develop into an excellent support for colleagues covering rhe rapid growth of social enterprise.  Some excellent articles already, including on which examines how a social enterprise can access sources of finance when one the traditional returns to an investor (profit) is less relevant.

Sunday Times - Special Section on Social Enterprise

Not-for-profit enterprise in action - interview with Tim Smit

Saturday, September 27, 2008


There is a great interview in the Telegraph today with Tim Smit - the entrepreneur behind Britain’s fourth most popular tourist attraction - the Eden Poject…

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Is this a good business idea, or a passing fad?


I came across this interesting short video clip on BBC South-East this week about a couple of teachers who have set up a new enterprise named “Passing Buys”...

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