With a career spanning mainstream advertising and design agencies, this week’s Small Business Star Erica Wolfe-Murray has worked for an impressive range of clients, including British Airways, London Transport, Next, NatWest and Habitat, to name a few.

After navigating her way through a diverse array of industries in influential roles, she founded Lola Media, a consultancy that helps companies to innovate their offering through developing their existing intellectual assets.

Read on for Hiscox customer Erica’s full story on how she founded Lola Media…

Find your USP in past experience

During my career, I’ve worked in a wide range of creative and media companies – from advertising (both as an account handler and a copywriter), to product and graphic design, TV documentary production and distribution, and licensing. And somewhere in there, I also launched my own range of home furnishing and garden accessories. However, until I came to found Lola, I simply hadn’t realised how rare this spread of activity was. Even more unusual was that I had worked both as the creative head of a company as well as the financial director of another.

With the myriad of opportunities emerging through convergence and the rise of digital, I grew really excited about launching a business that looked at the ‘intellectual assets’ companies own to see if we could do very inventive, out there things with them to create new IP and thereby drive new revenues and find new audiences or partnerships.

Discover and exploit ways to innovate

Because I had worked with organisations such as the Historic Royal Palaces (with their licensing department) and the National Geographic (repurposing filmed content), I realised that there was opportunity in all sorts of different ways, in various industries, to use our proven creativity to develop new and different products with what they already had.

And of course, because what we work with is based in their past trading, the assets are invariably unique to them allowing us to be really innovative. Whether we’re working with data, characters, history, events, music, processes, knowledge…  Even cheese!

Be the only one to do what you do

Lola’s service of helping companies to innovate using their intellectual assets is totally unique. No-one else offers this in the same way we do. We hack business models, we hack creative concepts, develop new IP out of old, turn thinking inside out and challenge the status quo. Because we work with so many clients and companies, including a raft of start-ups, we often see very early stage emergent trends and can help our clients take advantage of these.

Create opportunity from every angle

What we do isn’t necessarily about ‘keeping up’. It’s about creating opportunities, or hearing some quiet whisper and recognising it as the forerunner of something much bigger. Whether that’s on the street, in the home, on social media, in relationships or whatever.

This ability to spot trends means that we help our clients build new IP – including patents, copyright and trademarks – bringing innovation, growth and resilience into their companies.

Let the business do the talking

Because we take such a uniquely creative approach to intellectual assets and IP, we get asked to speak at a wide range of events. This is pretty much all the marketing we ever do, as it brings us clients who already have an appreciation and understanding of what we are doing.

Our clients range from small start-ups through a gamut of creative businesses, to organisations such as Hackney Empire, Soho House Group, the London College of Communication, Harvey Nichols, and even the UK Parliament. This varied client base allows us to show that there really are no limits to the types of clients or assets we can work with.

Gain the understanding and trust of potential clients

The greatest issue that we faced in the early days of Lola was getting companies to understand that there were potential revenue streams waiting to be unlocked from their past. Interestingly, it’s some of the biggest brands that find this the hardest to see, even now. Whereas it seems that small and medium enterprises grasp this concept much more quickly.

In terms of moving forward and managing risks, we try to ensure that we’re looking to the future continually – for us and for our clients. However, because we’re constantly coming up with new creative ideas, I think the world we’re working in is relatively low risk.

Recognise achievements and take pride in them

We’re really proud that one of our clients, a start-up called Taxo’d, was in the final short-list for Virgin’s Pitch to Rich. We also helped another start-up, Smith & Sinclair identify their alcohol industry-disrupting product, which is now listed in Selfridges, Harrods and Not-On-The-High-Street with a patent pending.  At the other end of the scale, we’re helping Hackney Empire develop a range of their own IP that they can own and monetise to ensure a secure self-funded future.

Work towards a future of partnerships

The creative industries contribute £17 billion to the UK economy annually with 2.5 million people working in them either directly or in an associated way. That’s about £3m per head.  Yet these industries are often regarded by the City, by VCs, by clients as ‘services’ with unreliable business models. So Lola’s biggest challenge over the last couple of years and into the future is to ensure that these creative companies are seen as asset partners, developers and builders, who take ownership of, innovate with and monetise their IP in exciting, and inventive ways. Both on their own and jointly with their clients.

See the writing on the wall, and use it

If there was one piece of advice I’d give to start-ups, it would be to really look deeply into your own/your team’s past life and total work experience, writing it out large on the wall. This will give you a much clearer view as to whether you’re building your business on your real strengths.  Then map these against all the opportunities you can see in the marketplace, with ‘timing’ being a key factor.

We do this regularly with start-ups, with clients as well as ourselves, and it’s extraordinary how you can see new possibilities coming through that you never anticipated, or didn’t spot six months before. Oh, and write it out somewhere big and bold. A word document won’t help you see the bigger picture!

Find out more about Hiscox customer Erica and her businesss Lola Media by visiting: www.lola-media.co.uk 

For more advice and insight from business owners, visit our Small Business Stars hub.

To find out how insurance for marketing, media, or design agencies can protect against common risks, or visit our Professional Indemnity Insurance page.