Michael Hayman explains how an idea for an event became a major, city-wide festival for 1,000 entrepreneurs in just four months.
The King famously called for a 'little less conversation, a little more action'. It turns out it's not just a great line from Elvis; it was also the motto for the inaugural MADE: The Entrepreneur Festival which took place in Sheffield on 8-11 September 2010.
The message was loud and clear. Entrepreneurs have a job to do and they are ready for it. That job is to deliver the 'enterprise-led recovery' and if the vibe in Sheffield was anything to go by then the UK's entrepreneurs are ready for action.
For the UK, MADE delivered a significant agenda setting festival, and for the city of Sheffield, a revitalized reputation as a proactive business centre.
I chaired the week of events and it was an exhilarating experience. Entrepreneurs, when they gather, always create excitement, but this was different.
We didn't just host a conference or seminar but instead created a celebration of the awesome potential of British business. It seemed to unleash something special in the energy and experience of the event.
Delivering that was a double bonus. My firm Seven Hills, works with and represents some of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. I am also a son of Sheffield, so the opportunity to give something back and throw my energies into an event like this really mattered to me.
What had been initially the seed of an idea only four months earlier resulted in an overwhelming four days of events, debate and networking sessions. It delivered a national platform and it showed what you can do when you establish a coalition of the willing.
The idea came from SXSW in Austin, Texas, a city that has established itself as the home for the global gathering of entrepreneurs. How did Austin do it? By thinking differently, inspiring people and exciting them they have created an event with a global reach.
This was a guiding inspiration for the creation of MADE. By using the city as a stage, combining world-class speakers with fabulous venues; using public realm advertising to provide a brand and identity; and bringing local players together to innovate.
The official launch of the festival came with the opening of the city's National Enterprise Academy by Dragons' Den judge Peter Jones and Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP. It contained a clarion call to deliver the chancellor's objective of an 'enterprise-led recovery' and set the task firmly for entrepreneurs to deliver.
This boldly set the tone for the festival and the events that followed attracted well over 1,000 delegates from small business owners, to aspiring entrepreneurs, international diplomats, media and politicians.
The spread of events was excellent and included:
- The Entrepreneurs Express – East Midlands Trains - St Pancras To Sheffield
- National Enterprise Academy Sheffield launch with Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP and Peter Jones
- DLA Piper and Sunday Telegraph Business Leaders forum
- TEDx Sheffield
- The Pitch Sheffield, BusinessZone.co.uk
- 'How to Make a Million Before Lunch' with Rachel Bridge, The Sunday Times
- The Coutts Business Summit Dinner with small business minister, Mark Prisk MP
- The International Dinner with Rt Hon David Blunkett MP
- MADE in 48 Hours, Doug Richard's School for Startups
- Diplomatic briefing at Electric Works
I particularly enjoyed The Sunday Telegraph Business Leader Forum hosted at DLA Piper.
Business editor, Kamal Ahmed, expertly chaired a panel discussion with entrepreneurs Lara Morgan, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, Peter Jones and Doug Richard with superb results.
Digital innovators and marketers gathered for TEDxSheffield whilst aspiring business leaders shared their ideas in the UK’s biggest pitching competition, The Pitch.
Rachel Bridge, enterprise editor of The Sunday Times performed her sell-out one-woman-show ‘How to Make A Million Before Lunch’.
The collective power and buzz of this activity was felt throughout the city. On the eve of Doug Richard’s In 48 Hours, a unique digital training event that he brought to Sheffield for MADE, both Mark Prisk MP, minister for business and enterprise and David Blunkett MP were the hosts of exclusive dinners.
Overlooking Sheffield’s newly transformed city centre and the Adelphi Room at The Crucible Theatre, Mark Prisk MP was presented with a key document for change - a plan of action from the nation’s entrepreneurs.
The positive feedback from MADE has been unprecedented. We had great ambitions for this festival and to say they were surpassed has to be one of the greatest of understatements.
From Dragons' Den entrepreneurs to secretaries of state; from diplomats to business leaders, the festival was a phenomenal showcase and a powerful catalyst for the reputation of the city.
If you take the traffic on Twitter over the last few days of the festival alone, you will see a modern, confident Sheffield, interesting to new audiences and inspiring new ideas in business. When someone like Peter Jones tweets ‘Wow how the city has changed! Inspired In Sheffield’ you know you’re making progress in the right direction.
Each and every person involved in making the festival happen was committed to its cause and to delivering something ground breaking. From the leader of the council and city development company Creativesheffield to the efforts of each and every sponsor and partner, this effort was a case study in teamwork.
MADE: The Entrepreneur Festival was independent, authentic and dynamic. This year was a pilot and I can confirm that the planning is well underway for a second bigger and better year.
The conversation about MADE in 2010 is great but it will be the action for a new event in 2011 that will be really exciting. I think the King would have been proud.