Why innovation is important in business and the best way to innovate
UPDATED 7TH OCTOBER 2023
Innovating your business is vital if you want to stand out, grow your company or retain your customers. But how do you innovate successfully? We talked to the founders of Basil & Ford, who are experts in finding creative ways to introduce new ideas.
Meet Basil & Ford’s founders: innovators Lucy & Matt Glen
Lucy Glen and Matt Glen are co-founders of Basil & Ford, a screen printing studio specialising in ‘print on print’ stationery, artwork and gifts. What's unique about them? They use original materials to produce ‘mighty fine things for mighty fine people’ — and they do this in plenty of wonderful ways.
They innovated from the very beginning when, in 2012, they were looking for stationery for their wedding. Lucy said, “We wanted to create our own invitations using white ink on very thick card but we couldn’t find what we wanted, without a huge price tag. I learnt how to screen print at university so we printed our own. People loved them and that’s when it all began.” Having both worked in a design agency, Lucy was more commercial and Matt was more creative, and together they became a bit of a dream team.
What is the best way to innovate?
Basil & Ford say that for them, it’s to…
- Constantly look for new inspiration
- Always push your business forward
- Stop comparing your company to the competition, and forge your own path
- Turn uncertainty into opportunity
More expert tips for becoming an innovative entrepreneur
After moving from London into Lucy’s parent’s house when they found out they were expecting their first baby, they learnt the ropes of screen printing in the garage, and said, “We weren’t earning much money, but we’re glad we persevered.” And it’s no wonder, as Basil & Ford became very successful. They added, “We don’t have any employees and do everything ourselves so it’s all consuming but we love it. The main thing to remember is that nothing happens overnight.”
Here are some more tips they share:
- If you have an idea, believe in it
- The vital foundations for coming up with a good idea is to always stick to your guns
- Create items that you love so you remain passionate about what you do
- Remember, there will be ups and downs. Some ideas will work, others won’t, so just enjoy the ride
Where does innovation come from?
When it comes to new ideas and innovation, you have to be on the lookout for things that inspire you 24/7 (and read our article on what makes an amazing product). They told us, “Inspiration can strike anytime, at kids' bathtime, in the garden, out walking… Something a friend has said to us, even dancing in the kitchen, you just have to keep your eyes and ears alert at all times.”
Innovative ideas for unique and inspirational businesses
Lucy and Matt’s family life has been a huge influence on their designs and is the result of their quirky range of children’s t-shirts with the words ‘Feral’ and ‘Toerag’ because according to Lucy, “They are toerags most of the time!” It’s finding insights and new ways of saying things that seem to appeal to people.
Basil & Ford have proved that whatever lifestyle you have, you can use it to your advantage and ideas can arrive when you least expect them. “Ideas can come from your children, animals, hobbies, listening to the radio, TV shows, even podcasts can inspire any of our prints at any given time.” So always remain open to influences.
What else influences business innovation?
Apparently, one of our founder Holly Tucker’s Conversation of Inspiration podcast episodes inspired one of Basil & Ford's bestselling products when she said, “Stop and smell the roses”. Matt said, “That saying really resonated with us, because sometimes you need to stop and just appreciate the things in front of you. We added those words onto a vintage floral picture, tagged Holly in it on Instagram and that is where our ‘lucky dip range’ really took off.”
Knowing the competition of print on print, Matt and Lucy are always thinking up new ways to evolve. “Our obsession is collections. We have a lot of secondhand books to print on. We want to champion printing onto old materials and give a new lease of life to them, it’s our ethos.”
Reinventing your existing offering vs creating new products: how do you trigger innovation?
Pre-lockdown, Lucy and Matt loved trawling charity shops, vintage markets or fairs for items — with a line in mind or just for something to inspire them. But through lockdown, with no shops open, they had to use their innovation skills once again and think about what they could use that they already had — so they improved their online offering and showcased their website instead.
It wasn’t what they’d have chosen necessarily as they love for customers to see and appreciate the hand-finish and vibrancy of the prints in real life but the point is that it worked and they were pleasantly surprised.
Lucy said, “Lockdown pushed us to be more focused online and this has been amazing for our business. It has moved us to the next level and helped us grow in a way we never thought possible. This is one of the main reasons we survived during the pandemic and why we’re doing so well today.”
Innovate your business using cultural or topical ideas
When Donald Trump lost the election, Matt digitally created a graphic print with the words ‘Some Trumps are better out than in’ for Instagram. He told us, “It was just a bit of fun, but we had a lot of interest and people wanted to buy it, so for the first time we did a limited edition digital print run which sold out immediately — it was a real eye opener for us in terms of innovation and adapting to the times and striking whilst the iron was hot.”
In terms of revenue, Basil & Ford’s bestseller is their ‘Your Story. Mapped Out’ prints. Matt added. “We hand screen print onto double thick mounts and use original vintage maps to tell each unique story. They’ve been really popular for over five years now.”
The importance of experimentation on innovation
When we did this interview, Lucy was keen to experiment with different materials to innovate even more. Mirrors were her next project, she said, “I want to use high end bespoke mirrors and reverse screen print the glass with lyrics or quotes on it. I think it would be popular. Especially if they could be personalised.” They never sit still.
Creating brand new bestsellers: staying ahead of the competition
Basil & Ford’s unique ‘lucky dip’ range is one of their bestselling ones because it means they are always creating something new using vintage books, cigarette cards, games and canvases, which they then add to it. It means that none of these pieces are the same. “We love that the people buying them own a unique piece of art. That stands us apart from the prints you can purchase that are digitally created.”
Another vital way which Basil & Ford innovate is not comparing themselves to their competitors, instead they like to think outside the box and create something so unique that no one else would ever think of. Lucy said, “There are always people out there that we might get confused with because there are more people putting typography over vintage images. A lot aren’t doing original content, just printed content. We aren’t led by what others are creating but we do have a gallery wall in the studio of printmakers that we admire and sometimes look to for inspiration.”
Avoid the comparison trap and leap into innovation
With people coming up behind them doing print on print, Basil & Ford are always thinking up new ways to innovate. “People have used a lot of lines on very similar imagery as us but if we get copied we don’t pull them out. It isn’t in our nature to pull people down but more to raise fellow creatives up.”
Although they find it frustrating, they let it go, and said, “We never want people to think that we’re copying them — even when we’ve done something before them. If we have an idea and see something remotely similar to it, then we don’t do it. We are pushing ourselves because we can see people following in our footsteps selling similar things for a lot less money so we are trying to innovate as much as possible… So watch this space!”
And keep innovating. It’s one of the best ways to ensure you remain relevant and stand out from other brands or products like yours. Be brave, try new things and remember, the more you innovate and create, the more opportunities you generate for people to shop with you or follow you. Happy innovating!
How to innovate your business: key takeaways…
The three main points to remember are.
1. Stick to your guns:
If you have an idea, believe in it. Stay with it and evolve it to see what happens.
2. Always up your game:
Keep adapting and growing. We started a range of printing onto 3D objects like rubbers, feathers, floppy disks — something that the print process does that digital can’t. Once we launched those we tried mirrors, wooden boards and canvases. Just keep going.
3. Don’t undersell yourself:
When we started we did so much for no money and people took advantage. Your time is your cost so ensure you get paid for your hard work.