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  • 28 Mar 2022 · 5 min read

Meet the Business Experts on our Unleashed Judging Panel!

Meet the panel of business experts in charge of judging our brand new internal entrepreneurial competition, Unleashed, which will see us launch a new ecommerce website of our own on Shopify.

Written By
Han Dickson

Last month, we revealed Unleashed, an internal entrepreneurial competition here at Swanky that aims to provide our people with the opportunity to pitch their own ecommerce business idea and be in with a chance of having it transformed into a real Shopify D2C store. Together, we’ll adopt the winning idea and leverage our expertise to launch and grow a new ecommerce website.

You can read all about how the competition works and the benefits it offers in our previous blog post, here.

Today, we’ll be getting to know the three successful entrepreneurs and business coaches who make up the judging panel for our gala pitching event, set to take place on Thursday the 7th of April 2022. What will they be looking for in our teams’ pitches, what advice would they give to our hopeful participants, and what tips do they have for new businesses starting out in the current climate?

Let’s meet them and find out!

Chloe Vernon-Shore: Senior Associate for Michelmores LLP

Please could you tell us a bit about what your role entails?

I’m a solicitor at Michelmores by day and a MAINstream co-lead by night. MAINstream is a network for business angel investors, designed to help accelerate the growth of angel investing in the South West. We host regular pitch events where innovative, high-growth startups can present their businesses to experienced entrepreneurs looking to provide investment and support.

What will you be looking for in the teams’ pitches? Do you have any advice for the participants?

Ideally, a well researched analysis of the problem that they have solved and description of how their offering solves it. Don’t assume any knowledge on the part of the judges!

What are you most looking forward to about being a judge at the Unleashed Pitching Gala? 

Seeing the innovative ideas and proposed routes to market.

What do you think new brands need to focus on most when working from a bootstrap budget?

Having an unbeatable knowledge of the market. Be open to ideas and adaptable, but retain clarity on your own passions and business culture.

What would you say are the biggest challenges facing new businesses in the current market?

I’d say saturation in some particular sectors/markets. You have to find your niche and be passionate about it!

Paul Edmonds: Owner of Kornerstone & Partners, Managing Director of Goscombe Group

Please could you tell us a bit about what your role entails?

Together with four business partners, I started Kornerstone & Partners (management consultancy) six years ago to specifically impact businesses in need of a change of culture, direction and/or structure. We help support startups and businesses in crisis to become highly profitable, therefore creating more employment and security. We also teach this throughout local schools and universities.

I also started an affordable property building business three years ago where I act as Group MD. The vision of the business is to build affordable properties for those most vulnerable in our society using “off-site” technology, but then investing all our profits into our own charity to deliver significant social impact into the community where we build our homes. We aim to be turning over £500m within eight years.

My role in both of these businesses is to build an amazing world-class team that not only understands what needs to be done, but who are then given the tools and the trust to deliver it.

What will you be looking for in the teams’ pitches? Do you have any advice for the participants?

I will be looking to see if the idea itself has been proven so we know that it can make money and, secondly, I would want to see that the people in charge have the hunger and the humility to learn how to start and run a successful business.

What are you most looking forward to about being a judge at the Unleashed Pitching Gala?

The Swanky team is quite unique, as this event demonstrates, so simply being in the room surrounded by positive and open minded people will be a very enjoyable experience I would love to be part of.

What do you think new brands need to focus on most when working from a bootstrap budget?

Grow from a position of strength and don’t run before you can walk. Demonstrate that your business model is profitable before you scale it. Always have a “war-chest”.

What would you say are the biggest challenges facing new businesses in the current market?

A new business actually needs to get more decisions right than a more established one, so it is vital to have great (not good) leadership and management working together well and humble enough to be inviting in wisdom on a very regular basis. A business, a product, a service is only as good as the people at the top and at every level of management. Get the people bit wrong, it will only be a matter of time before it will negatively impact your business.

Carlotta Zorzi: Partnerships Manager at Shopify

Please could you tell us a bit about what your role entails?

At Shopify, I help remarkable agencies grow, thrive and expand whilst ensuring we are developing the best partner ecosystem to support merchants at every stage of their journey. Outside, I also advise tech startups on growth and strategy.

What will you be looking for in the teams’ pitches? Do you have any advice for the participants?

As a passionate storyteller, I am looking to hear an exciting story behind the brand, including values-rooted plans and actions and a solid understanding of the target market. What makes you different and how are you going to prove that to your audience?

I am also interested to learn more about the plans for growth in relation to the overall market size, the approach to sustainability (token actions v. actual commitment) and the proposed tech solutions that could be integrated and why they have been chosen.

What are you most looking forward to about being a judge at the Unleashed Pitching Gala?

I’m looking forward to being blown away by innovative ideas and engaging pitches!

What do you think new brands need to focus on most when working from a bootstrap budget?

Storytelling is essential for a brand to capture the audience’s attention, in particular when the budget isn’t large. How is the story reflected on the products and on your website? Where are you telling that story to your key audience? Which strategies and channels are you planning to use? What is your exploration strategy going to be to test what works and what doesn’t before going ‘all out’? Gathering feedback at every stage is key to ensure you can nail it before scaling it (and to avoid wasting valuable capital!).

What would you say are the biggest challenges facing new businesses in the current market?

Finding the right audience and communicating your story very quickly in a way that sticks. Scientists reckon humans now have shorter attention spans than goldfish (8.35 seconds vs. 9!) – we have become a lot more forgetful and easily distracted. So how are you going to capture people’s attention and ensure your message is coming across quickly and correctly?

We can’t wait to see how our Swanky teams get on at next month’s ‘The Great Unleashed Pitch Event’ where they’ll fight it out to impress Chloe, Paul and Carlotta! Keep your eye on our blog to see which business idea wins the judges over.

Need a new ecommerce website?

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We combine cutting-edge design with commercially-led data analysis and innovative technical solutions to build tailored ecommerce experiences that position our clients as industry leaders. Get in touch today to find out more!

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