Fit to burst - developing a project and product pipeline


In an ideal world, when you take the plunge into establishing a business of your own there are a number of key things that ought to be in place, not least a very clear idea of product, customer and market. Not to mention materials, production, sales channels and all the other bits of the jigsaw that make up a successful business proposition. Sales revenue, cash-flow and profit are there at the sharp end of the mix too: ‘enterprise’ is the key word in ‘social enterprise’, however noble the social motives. Sustainability, growth, job creation and ability to re-invest in the business all flow from the ability to generate a profit.

So what does this mean for Cox Bank Publishing? CBP arose from an idea I had for a business, but it was kicked off with very little by way of concrete (or even paper) product or pipeline. So one of the first things I had to do in developing the company was to undertake some serious market research on the business of sports-writing publishing; how to reach potential authors and contributors; where projects might exist; and who might be good partners and collaborators.

Hence plenty of activity over the past few months, researching and meeting a wide range of individuals and organisations, targeting some quite specifically, and finding others through plain serendipity. I’ve spoken to amateur sports people, sports coaches, sports administrators, business support organisations, companies and social enterprises, charities, universities, local authorities, other publishers, banks, social venture funds – and the list goes on and on.

What I have found is that sport is a great connector: my accountant is a leading light in Staffordshire’s cricket league; a local Cheshire ‘business connector’ has swum the English Channel as part of a relay team; I’ve even bumped into a cousin of Usain Bolt. It seems obvious now, but nearly everyone has a sporting link, be it as competitor, fan, volunteer or through a famous relative.

So lots of wonderful opportunities to access sporting stories to publish. And constructive, helpful and overwhelmingly positive feedback on what I’m trying to achieve. The nice-to-have challenge though that leads on from this is that I’ve currently got 35 (and counting) potential collaborative projects, each with project partners lined up and potential sources of funding identified.

As Jane Davis of the Reader Foundation said to me way back in July last year, “you’ve got lots of ideas, but what is your priority project?” A question I’ve returned to in various drafts of a still evolving business plan, but have now narrowed to four specific opportunities. One thing is clear – there’s enormous potential for CBP, and some substantial markets to address.

Priorities, priorities…