Mushrooms and megabytes: A chance encounter at Croydon Tech City’s branding workshop

By - Monday 18th May, 2015

Andy Dickinson got more than he bargained for at a recent #Croydon #TechCity event

Photo author’s own.

It’s 3pm on Friday 1st May and I’m sitting in the home of one of Britain’s leading mycologists and our informal chat and wine consumption is under way.

How did I get to be sitting here?  Well, on Tuesday night I had attended a Croydon Tech City event in Matthews Yard on ‘How to brand yourself and your start up’, hosted by Shelley Taylor of Digital Fan Clubs.

As a startup owner, you might think you don’t need to consider branding. Or, perhaps you aren’t totally clear on what the term even means. Branding can help you to organise your business, provide you with a compelling story for attracting investment and customers alike, and be a guide for making decisions involving your business and its people. Brand is much more than a logo – it should be an essential part of your marketing strategy.

How to brand yourself and your startup

The workspace was packed and people were still arriving 15 minutes after the start. We went around the room introducing ourselves and our business or idea.

Once under way, we were shown several slides of how to think about our potential or existing start ups and using a matrix system highlight areas where our business might be similar to the competition and more importantly where it differs as these could be the areas to focus on to give a competitive advantage.

We were encouraged to think how we could describe our business in three words, then a paragraph and then three paragraphs.

I made one of the most useful contacts for the business that I hope to build that I could ever have dreamt of

About three quarters of the way through the evening we were asked to break into groups to try the matrix exercise on one of the business ideas. At this point I could have moved to join a group of people to my right but my friend who I had gone along with went leftwards and I followed, joining with a small group. After a brief chat we decided to use my mushroom business as our example as I look to transition from a hobby to a small scale business in the coming months. A few minutes passed when one of the gents said “you need to meet my mate, he’s a mycologist and has just moved to South Croydon”. Five minutes from me, it turned out. So details were exchanged, a phone call was made and an email later a time and date were set.

My meeting with the mycologist

So that’s how I came to be sitting in the home of a leading mycologist talking about my potential mushroom growing business. He was as keen to meet me as I was to meet him, and we had a long talk about fungus.

Croydon Tech City made this happen and I’m so pleased. Not only did I get some business planning ideas but probably have made one of the most useful contacts for the business that I hope to build in the next few months that I could ever have dreamt of. So do come along to Croydon Tech City events  – you never know what it might lead to!

Croydon Tech City is running free monthly classes in coding, project management and building a startup. To learn more, please go here.

Andrew Dickinson

Andrew Dickinson

I'm a long term resident of Croydon and I'm lucky to live and work in the borough. As a schoolboy my proudest moments were playing representative football for Croydon where I would fight tooth and nail to win for the borough and contribute towards its sporting reputation. For 18 years I worked up in London and became distanced from the town. Now I've re-engaged with the place over the last 20 years and feel frustrated in finding a way to vent my passion for Croydon (as I'm too old to play football) so I'm always on the lookout for any new initiatives to bring positivity to the place. I live on Bramley Hill with my lovely family and I have an allotment locally. I'm a keen amateur in gardening, environmentalism, permaculture, photography and website design. I'm an oyster mushroom farmer, run a social enterprise called Green Croydon, I'm part of the Croydon Fairtrade steering group, part of the Croydon ReUse Organisation, current chair of Croydon Transition Town and a community gardener; I'm on the borough Food Programme, Parks and Social Enterprise steering groups and a community apple presser. I currently work for the council as an officer creating and promoting community events in the beautiful Wandle Park. I put on the Croydon Environmental Fair each year and the Summer of Love theme and festival was something I dreamed up. I inspired the 'I would make Croydon better by' theme. There's also the Give and Take events in Surrey Street. I started the monthly Arts, Crafts and Vintage market in Exchange Square. Formerly I was a Turf Projects trustee, a Croydon Radio presenter and part of the Old Town business association.Between all this, I write the occasional article for the Citizen. I support local artists and local musicians by enabling the space for them to create I also support local independent journalism.

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  • Jonny Rose

    Amazing connection there, Andrew. For those who are interested in CTC’s Startup MBA course, you can find the remainder here:

    • Serena Alam

      It is indeed, Jonny. Nigel briefly introduced me to the gent who’s friends with the mycologist, at a CTC social… and he’s also a useful Croydon-based person to keep in touch with. His main speciality is neural networks (I believe), although he knows about most areas in the field of tech, I think.

  • Peter Ball

    You all make me sound like some sort of mystery person :-) Although I’m no doubt inclined to waffle on about all sorts of stuff I’ve never worked on neural networks. I actually provide computer and network support for small business see