Workspace and Knowledge Peers held an event exploring the links between design and business. The fantastic panel included Will Carleysmith from Brompton bikes and Emily Bendell from Bluebella lingerie.

Design has always been central to Workspace. We specialise in redesigning spaces and buildings so they become homes to New and Growing Companies right across London.

The Pill Box used to be a factory in which medicines and medical equipment were manufactured; it's now been redesigned into a bustling 21st-century business centre. The Metal Box Factory in Southwark used to be, well, just that; while Clerkenwell Workshops used to be a space for craftsmen and women. And that's not to mention the amazing variety of design businesses based throughout the Workspace portfolio - from the architect firm Gatti Rhodes at The Pill Box to the landscape gardeners Wilson McWilliam at the Barley Mow Centre.

Fostering networking and collaboration is a key priority for Workspace. So the Workspace Business Insight event held this week at Clerkenwell Workshops, during Clerkenwell Design Week, and organised by the business network Knowledge Peers as part of their regular event series, was a perfect occasion to celebrate the importance of both design and collaboration in business. 

 

The panel in Club Workspace Clerkenwell

 

The discussion was chaired by Takero Shimazaki, the architect responsible for redeveloping the Renoir cinema in the Brunswick Centre. The two main speakers were Will Carleysmith from Brompton Bicycle and Emily Bendell from Bluebella, a lingerie company based at The Light Box. Joining in the discussion were IP lawyer Rosie Burbidge and Henrik Ottosson from the crowdfunding platform Invesdor.

Both speakers were clearly passionate about their products and the use and enjoyment their customers derived from them. Will Carleysmith let us into the history of the bike and the UK production process - read our interview with him in which he talks about this in detail - but also reflected on the importance of the brand name to ensure customers trust and appreciate the bikes' value enough to part with their cash. 

 

 

Will said: “In areas where we can't [legally protect Brompton's design rights], it's about know-how and making the product very well. We don't generally tell people the detail in the overall manufacturing processes.

“The brand is key too. We've had phenomenal PR and have even been referenced on TV sitcoms. Once you've got to that stage it's a massive help, because the other product is not just another folding bike, it becomes a copy of Brompton.”

The value of the brand means copies are automatically less desirable although they constantly innovate to 'keep evolving and be a moving target.' Patents have helped, he said to Rosie Burbidge, and they've had success in Europe under counterfeit legislation.

 

 

Will Carleysmith

 

Emily Bendell is equally focused on her customers' needs - they know the women who buy their products inside out... from their likes, dislikes, aspirations to 'where they go on holiday.' However unlike Brompton bikes, they're not designing products for longevity. Bluebella is, as she put it, a 'fashion crossover purchase' with a 'directional fashion focus'. 

 

 

Rather than designing products that customers can wear for a long time, the business is constantly looking out for the new best thing. Rather than worrying about copies - 'Between what's inspirational and what's a knock-off, it's a fine line' - she strives to 'look at what's next and stay one step ahead.' By the time many bigger brands get around to copying a Bluebella bra, they often feel out of date. Read our full interview with the Workspace-based entrepreneur here.

The audience Q&A

 

Innovation is central to both of these very different businesses. And it definitely was to many members of the audience too. At the networking event afterwards, at the drinks hosted by Clerkenwell Kitchen, there were discussions around many of the issues that matter to New and Growing Companies: how to stay innovative and build scale into businesses while maintaining high quality.

If you'd like to find out more IP and law, please get in contact with Rosie on Twitter @rosieburbidge

Find out more about the possibilities of crowdfunding at Invesdor and connect with Henrik Ottosson @tweethenrik.

To find out more about the regular Workspace Business Insight events held with the business network Knowledge Peers, please click here. The last events have focused on social media, alternative funding and the Internet of Things and they take place and centres throughout the Workspace portfolio.

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