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Making Ideas Happen - By Bec Evans, CEES Enterprise Ambassador


Most ideas get stuck in the gap between the dream and the implementation. That can be the case whether you are working in-house trying to develop new products, if you have a creative side project or plan to start a business.

What working with CEES as an ambassador taught me about innovation.

Spotting an opportunity to develop something new is incredibly motivating, especially when you realise there is massive market potential. It’s all too human to start dreaming big, imagining the impact you can have, the lives you can change, and the money you can make. However, many people don’t get off the starting blocks. Instead, they keep researching the market and competition, tinkering with the business plan or perfecting their investor pitch deck. Most business ideas fail because people don’t start.

Learn by doing

I started my entrepreneurship journey working as an employee within business. I was always coming up with new ideas and improvements to the way things could be done, so I was put in charge of business development for new product incubator. Over the years and many different jobs this was my happy place until I ended up as head of innovation for an academic publisher.

During the day I worked with colleagues to develop ideas, to prototype new products and services, and test them with the market. At night and at the weekends, I was working on my own side hustle - what would one day become Prolifiko. Both my employer and my new business benefited from the arrangement as I applied learning and skills on both sides of my life. There was no competition between the two; I was honest with my bosses about my side hustle and they were keen to leverage my startup learning in a more established business setting.

Learn more by sharing with others

Physicist Richard Feynman said, “If you want to master something, teach it.” His method of learning involves both knowledge and practice, but most importantly, sharing with others. Becoming an ambassador at Centre of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies (CEES) at Leeds University Business School has cemented a lot of what I’ve learnt and helps me continue to learn.

The CEES works with a number of ambassadors who bring real-world business experience to the study of entrepreneurship. It’s an absolute delight meeting and working alongside the other ambassadors from sectors such as mining and manufacturing, to retail, agencies and service providers. They include founders and CEOs of fast growth companies, those who have made multi-million pound exits from FTSE100 companies, to smaller local businesses and startups - together they reflect the diversity of talent and the network in Leeds, the University and Business School.

My advice is don’t wait until the business plan is perfect - start now.

As well as learning from my fellow ambassadors, I’ve learnt from supporting the students as a mentor, providing business advice, and giving talks and guest lectures.

Innovation and making ideas happen

With my background in innovation and in the early stages of product and service development I’m fascinated in how people develop their ideas. My obsession is how to make ideas happen - and just as importantly, how and why ideas fail (so much so, I wrote a book about it, How to Have a Happy Hustle: The Complete Guide to Making Your Ideas Happen was published in 2019).

Take last week, I was on a panel of ambassadors working with the new intake of MSc Enterprise & Entrepreneurship students. In teams with their fellow freshers they had one week to research, develop a business idea, research the market and pitch in a dragons’ den environment. I was blown away by the ambition, the potential of the ideas, and the gaps in the market the students had identified.

With my focus on the space between the business potential and the implementation plan I doubled down on translating the dream into a first step. I asked students what would they do to prototype the idea and get in into the market, how they would test if people wanted it, and if customers were prepared to pay for it.

My obsession is how to make ideas happen - and just as importantly, how and why ideas fail.

While I’m excited by a big audacious goal and the potential to develop a disruptive, scalable business the idea will come to nothing without a first step.

My advice is don’t wait until the business plan is perfect - start now.

Do something small

Think of the smallest thing you can do to move your idea forward. Doing something small, as quickly as possible will help your idea take shape as you gather feedback and gain real-world experience.

It’s only by doing something that you really learn. It might fail - but it is far better to experience failure in the early stages when you haven’t invested too much time and money. And longer term, overcoming setbacks will make you a better and more resilient business person.

Don’t let your idea fall into the gap between the dream and the implementation - do something small, get your idea into the world, and who knows where it will take you.


Bec Evans is an enterprise ambassador for the Centre of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies at Leeds University Business School. With a background working in innovation, she turned her side hustle Prolifiko - productivity coaching for writers - into a startup