Virgin trains: You’re kicking our youngest and most talented, right where it hurts!

You’ve seen the headlines. It’s not an easy place to be young at the moment. With many companies offering unpaid internships, or young people of today having to work on minimum wage to get their self on the career ladder, those under 26 venturing into the world of work may have a nasty surprise come September. They’ll see their peak-time Virgin fares almost treble.

When I was 17, which was quite some time ago, I used to wake up at 6am in a small town near Warwickshire where I’m from. I’d get on the number 20 bus into the big city of Coventry. Wonder across town, then catch a 1 hour train from Coventry to London. I’d do it for about £22.

At that price I was already paying about 50% of my income on train fares, but the experience I gained in that 6 months – working with some of the industry greats was well worth it. If it wasn’t for Virgin trains, you might say that the opportunity may have never come off, and that could have set my life-journey off to a different start!

I’d like to give another example, a good friend of mine in her early twenties was in a job in a call center she didn’t enjoy. She was desperate to get out, so she enrolled in a part-time fashion course in London. She would commute from Coventry to each lecture in London, some times during peak times. The railcard discount she would get, enabled her to work and study, to ultimately better herself. She now works for a major fashion retailer. Now aged over 25, and pays full price for her tickets. Virgin gave her a discount in the past, now she pays full price for ever – fair deal! Would she have previously been able to pursue her dreams if she was paying £100+ per ticket, probably not.

Virgin is a business, I get that. But Virgin as a brand to me, spearheaded by my idol have always been about doing it better. Getting you there faster. Now, it feels like they’ve cheated our young people and on their way to damaging a brand that means more than changing long standing policies.

You can sign a petition to help get Virgin to reconsider, here.

There’s also a great article on the Huffington Post here about this issue.

Photo Credit: first 65706 cc


Social media & the bar industry

This week I had the pleasure to speak about social media to business owners in the bar industry. Whilst there I also got to switch off and learn about cocktails, menus and popup bars. Thanks to Bols Business Class for the opportunity to speak. If you’re looking for a social media speaker at your event, please feel free to get in touch.

I am a bootstrapper.

A quote to live by… a manifesto that started this morning…

I am a bootstrapper. I have initiative and insight and guts, but not much money. I will succeed because my efforts and my focus will defeat bigger and better-funded competitors. I am fearless. I keep my focus on growing the business—not on politics, career advancement, or other wasteful distractions.

– Quote from Seth Godwin’s “The bootstrapper’s bible

It’s official, today was kick-off day for sales, partnerships and world domination. I’ve been working on Click Hello for over a year in the background, working on the technology, business plan and getting it to where I needs to be. This morning I demoed the new UI and I had that warm fuzzy feeling that i’m onto something.

So now, every morning I’ll be waking up, chanting the boot strapping entrepreneurs manifesto and driving Click Hello to it’s launch, funding and success.

Wish me luck!

Click Hello Booking Software

Back to the start (up)

After 5 years of investors and enterprise products i’m going back to what I love… Starting-up. If you know me or have seen any of my tweets over the last few years you might know aged 19 I co-founded the UK’s leading social media risk management platform CrowdControlHQ (five years ago next month).

About a year ago when I was approaching my 25th birthday I decided I would step away from the business full-time. I still attend board meetings and help out with various things where I can, but it has given me a chance to do something very exciting – start new ‘things’! The team at CrowdControlHQ are going from strength to strength and they’re doing amazing things with the company I co-founded with CEO James.

Soon after leaving I launched the SO ME Academy with an ex-Googler to great success, this is now being syndicated across multiple e-learning websites and has reached thousands of people. This is great, as a ‘business person’ it ticks all the right boxes, it’s highly profitable, our customers love it and i’ve enjoyed building it.

But, I still LOVE software and wanted to do something with software again. So i’ve been working on something in the SME space. Why, you might ask? Because big CRM and inbound marketing platforms like SalesForce, Infusionsoft and Highrise are GREAT for B2B companies and many large B2C companies, but I just felt there was a gap in the market for a customer management and marketing platform centered around booking based businesses in the small-medium size business space.

In 2015 I will launch version 1.0 of the product called Click Hello. This product will be an affordable booking, marketing and customer management product. I have big ambitions for this to become THE “every-day” business CRM and marketing platform. Let’s see where it goes.

So, if you know a business who needs some kick-ass booking, marketing and customer management software which is gonna go places, send them my way, i’d really appreciate it calum@clickhello.com


Teach Your Kids to be Entrepreneurs

One thing that’s generally known about starting your own business is that it’s very hard work. You may have heard that the failure rate is high and the success rate low, yet annually there are millions of us taking the entrepreneurial plunge. According to official statistics from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor there are currently 388 million entrepreneurs in business today, although more than 50% are expected to fail within their first three years. So what contributes to success?

For me, I believe strongly it’s down to how you’re raised; the morals you’re plied with, the support you receive and the ethics you learn that stay with you for life. My parents were an inspiration to me, and below are some ideas you may want to take from the experiences I had in order to encourage your kids to be creative too….

Introduce the concept of work & reward: When I was a child, my Mum used to price up chores. Bringing in the milk earned me 10p, whilst doing the dishes was 30p, and it was up to me how much I earned and what I did with my money. Manageable chores for kids teach that money has to be earned and give a sense of achievement when they “get paid” for the work they’ve done. Some suggestions of manageable “pay-worthy” jobs for kids could include:

  • Tidying their rooms
  • Emptying the bins
  • Walking the dog
  • Sweeping the floor
  • Washing the car

This will teach your kids that dedication reaps rewards, and they’ll look forward to earning their own money by working. Rewards are what we all aim for, whether we’re 8 or 28 and although those 30p goals rise in accordance with our age (if we’re lucky!) the core of them remains the same. There’s no point in giving an allowance to kids and thinking they’ll be able to creatively come up with concepts to earn money, when you’ve just given them some for existing….

Teach your kids to listen to and appreciate others: When I was 13, my family relocated to a home with more than 30 people. My Mums job was as a warden for people in advanced years that were in sheltered housing. This, I believe, was one of the major stepping-stones for the path my life took. I firmly believe that the most valuable knowledge doesn’t come from classrooms or textbooks but from the experiences of others. By simply listening to people who have much life experience, you learn to appreciate difference in people and much more about life than you ever could in other ways. This listening and learning can help your children in business, to know what a potential customer needs is as valuable as gold dust and by listening to them, (and I mean really listening) you have much more idea of how to give them what they want. This can only lead to good things!

Encourage openness & honesty: My Dad is one of my main inspirations as a business person and the man I am today. He has proven himself to be honest, understanding and tolerant. Children learn so much more from their parents themselves than the lessons they purposely try to teach; they learn who they are and they aspire to be the same. A parent is a child’s biggest role model – children won’t remember what you tried to teach, but who you were. Be creative, and you’ll inspire creativity. Be enterprising, and you may just inspire the next great entrepreneur.

Teach good humour: My parents and having loads of aunties & uncles always taught me how to joke and laugh, this has set within me the boundaries of humour as I’ve grown as well as equipping me with confidence and understanding – vital elements to success. When applying this to your work, you’ll find you can build business relationships more easily, and be that person everyone wants to talk to- ideal when networking!

Support crazy ventures: I look back and cringe at many business ventures, such as running an online club for my pet hamster (seriously, it did happen!), a hotline where I charged 50p for game cheat codes (and my mum was confused to why loads of local kids were calling our spare room phone) but I also look back with appreciation and thanks to my parents for never letting me know just how crazy my ideas were. Of course i’m sure Mum and Dad will have known the some of the ideas were set to fail, but none the less they supported me throughout and this taught me the risk, diversity and discovery which is what entrepreneurship is all about.

Encourage the talents you may not understand: I don’t come from parents who are technologically savvy. However, once they noticed my passion and desire for all things technical they nurtured and encouraged this in all the ways they could. They even took out credit to buy me my own PC and were massively excited at all the things I learnt on my PC, even though they probably didn’t have a clue what I’d achieved with HTML and PHP. Support your child’s excitement with something they’ve achieved, and validate it by doing so. You’re giving them permission to think big, and they’ll thank you for it.

So next time your son or daughter wants to set up a shop selling very bitter lemonade outside your house, then give them a hand. This business venture may well not work out, but you never know, it could pave the way for the next Alan Sugar!

Calum Brannan is a 25 year old entrepreneur. The founder of one online social media course SO ME Academy and other ventures. Photo Credit: jDevaun

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Introducing the SO ME Academy

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It’s been a while since i’ve blogged here; i’ve been busy building and blogging over at our social media risk blog. I promise i’ll start blogging again, so to kick things off I thought you might want to know what i’ve been up to.

Last week I launched the SO ME Academy with the aim to enable anyone in an organisation to become social media confident and attain the skills required to go from social zero to social here. Over the next few months we will be creating courses and classes that will help enterprise users, college students and unemployed people understand social media in their line of work or for their future career plans.

You can click above to play a video introduction to our company or find out more on our website here.


The end of the estate agent?

Rent your property

The renting industry is a complex and sometimes costly field to do business in. With off-putting admin fees for tenants and over-priced marketing fees by high-street estate agents it can leave a sour taste in your mouth. Not to mention then having to buy a legal contract and source references.

The technology start-up world is full of useful applications that help solve age-old problems. I recently needed to rent out my apartment in Coventry after finally being fed up of my 1.5 hour commute to Birmingham during rush hour. I had one thing in mind; I didn’t want to pay over the odds for a letting agent to manage my property, and I certainly didn’t trust the dodgy potential candidates that were leaking through on Gumtree.

I stumbled across OpenRent. They describe their service as “the safer, faster and cheaper way for landlords to advertise on Rightmove” – I add- without any of the high-street estate agent hassles.

What Openrent offers:

  • Advertise your property on rightmove for £20 free (when I first wrote this post, it was £20, now they don’t charge for listing your property).
  • Reference each tenant for just £20
  • Openrent handle all the deposit and contract needs

Click here to visit openrent.

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Kony 2012 – why is it such a huge social media success?

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It’s a glossy video that has Hollywood qualities, made by charity Invisible Children, this Youtube success story was seeded into Twitter and exploded from there. By the end of the first day this video had received over 3 million Youtube views.

The video features key attributes that make a successful viral. It begins with very emotive scenes of child-birth and unconditional happiness, it even features humor with film maker Jason Russell’s son bringing a smile to the viewer’s face. But very quickly this video takes a turn the dark-side gripping its viewers with a scene of a child and soldier sending shivers down your spine.

Most successful virals tend to be short, few are less than 30 seconds long. Nine out of Ten of the all time most popular Youtube hits are also music videos.

So what made this video such a hit?

  • Viewers are shown ‘Share’ buttons in the first few seconds almost subliminally, now i’m not a psychologist, but one could hazard a guess this helps plant that seed.
  • This video is emotive, its a roller-coaster of happy to sad to shock
  • Film maker Russell invites the viewer to participate in an experiment, and the use of the word ‘We’ and ‘Us’ instantly builds a sense of community and is very personal
  • Another point to note is a younger Russell from a clip a few years ago makes a ‘promise’ to a child, and I personally was amazed he could make such a promise, you feel that you almost want to help
  • The end of the video provides clear instructions on how you can help, leading with financial ones first, then powerfully suggests that the least you can do is ‘Share’ the video
  • There has also been critics who are shouting that the facts are wrong, this sort of debate and emotive reactions are simply more fuel to the fire for this social media blaze.

This is my verdict live on the 10pm news for Al Jezeera TV


Pinterest Glossary

There’s a lot if interest in Pinterest, and I’m sure I’m not the first blogger to say that. But it is true; Pinterest is the new buzzword in social media, even though it has been around for nearly 2 years now.

Below I’ve prepared a glossary of terms, enjoy.

The Pinterest Glossary

Pins – Pins are images from around the web or those uploaded from your PC that are then added to Pinterest.

Boards – Boards are collections of pins. Just like a noticeboard in your office, it can have lots of Pins attached to them. Boards are sorted into subjects like architecture, cars, weddings, interiors or brands.

Repin – To repin on Pinterest is to copy a Pin to a different board, such as one you have created yourself, you could move a lovely plant from a board called ‘Green things’ to your own board called ‘For my garden’.

Like – You also have the option to “like” a pin. When you “like” an image it is added to the Likes section of your profile, but is not added to one of your boards or shared with your followers.

Pinner – A pinner is a user of Pinterest.

Follow a pinner – On a user’s profile you can either follow just one of that Pinner’s boards by clicking the “follow” button at the bottom of the board. Or if you’d like to follow everything a user pins, click the “follow all” button under their profile picture.

Mention a pinner – Just like Twitter, you can mention fellow Pinterest users in the comments of your pins by using the @ symbol and the username of the pinner you want to mention.

And of course, follow me on Pinterest here.