16 August 2013

Mentor guides determined entrepreneurs to launch new product

Dave and Bex Harris were well-versed in creating signature wrought iron art pieces on commission, but in 2011, they ventured into the B2C (Business-To-Consumer) mass market with a range of bespoke cast iron homeware accessories designed by Bex.


They had made the crucial first steps and had the designs ready, and producers lined up in China for the new range. Their success very much hinged on bringing their new artisan range to the UK market smoothly. Even with the combined transferable skills base of an artist and a quantity surveyor they had no experience of the retail sector, or launching ranges of products. They decided to get some much-needed help and approached Business Link who signposted them to UCL’s SMILE programme.

They wanted mentorship from someone with the experience and the knowledge to help and guide them and seamlessly bring their products to market. Nasir Zubairi – Sloan Fellow, technology consultant and SMILE mentor – met the BexSimon team before their first trade show.

Unanswered questions

Whilst building up the relationship with the team, Nasir identified areas in which he could provide additional help to further supplement their growth: an increased focus on profitability and income generation.

Through SMILE BexSimon have benefited, in addition to a mentor, from accessing additional resources they hadn’t previously considered, such as environmental workshops and implementing a sustainability policy. They have found the wide-ranging variety of support available from UCL to be very impressive.


BexSimon expanded sufficiently to move out of London and now have a workshop in Guildford and an office in Byfleet, Surrey. Keen to continue supporting the business success SMILE are assigning another mentor, outside of London, with direct retail and product-based experience in their sector to help BexSimon with building new relationships.

“It’s a brilliant programme which is fantastic for small businesses starting out. The variety of support, and the fact that it is available at no cost to your business is excellent. It’s so exciting being in our own new business, and we’re very excited for the future. We hope to continue taking advantage of SMILE – it’s a brilliant resource.”
Dave Harris, Managing Director, BexSimon