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PA OPINION

Consulting with start-ups: How we help entrepreneurs make a success of new businesses

At PA Consulting, we believe in the power of ingenuity to build a positive human future in a technology-driven world. And we know that entrepreneurs foster some of the most ingenious environments in their start-ups. But when a new business has an innovative idea that could change the way the world thinks, it can often benefit from consulting helping to make things a reality.

That’s why we consult with start-ups – to build a positive human future while learning from ingenious people. Our diverse teams of experts, all with deep experience across a range of industries and technical disciplines, support entrepreneurs in every stage of their growth, from strategy and business design, through new product and packaging development, to manufacturing process innovation.

Start-up strategies

The first step towards turning an ingenious idea into an enduring business is to create a strategy for carving out a new market or capturing a segment of an existing one. It’s a tough thing to do while achieving the ideals your idea is aiming for.

ENSO Tyres, for example, has an ingenious vision for fully-recyclable tyres made from non-carcinogenic materials. But transforming such a vast, well-established industry won’t be easy. So, we showed them how a leasing model – where drivers lease tyres and pay according to miles covered – would entice customers while ensuring ENSO would get the valuable recyclable material back at the end of the tyre’s life. With our help, the start-up has been able to decide on a global strategy for market entry.

Innovative business designs

Designing a new business that will deliver value to customers while remaining profitable takes careful planning. There are many strands to business design that must come together if a start-up is to succeed in the long-term.

One such example is Ecobooth, a start-up that wants to cut the 100,000 tonnes of waste that the events industry produces each year by taking waste plastic from the environment and turning it into event stands. While the idea was ingenious, Ecobooth needed help to turn it into a fully-fledged business. So, we worked with them to shape the customer value proposition and go-to-market approach, and provided sustainability expertise to develop the brand. Together with our work to assess materials and technologies for making the stands, this ensured Ecobooth could take their idea to market in just nine months.

New product development

Sometimes, ingenious product ideas are difficult for start-ups to make commercially viable. Finding ways to produce and market innovation at a cost customers will accept can be challenging without vast R&D resources. But new product development is something we have particular experience in.

For example, Bruce Smith, former USA Rowing national team coach, set up Hydrow™ to bring the authentic feel of rowing on water into off-water locations. But while he had the experience to know exactly the experience he was looking for, he needed help to develop it. So, Essential Design, part of PA Consulting, worked with Hydrow™ to co-create a next-generation indoor rowing machine and take it to market in less than six months. It surpassed its $100,000 funding target in just four minutes and has gone on to secure over $20 million in growth equity funding.

Sustainable packaging development

In crowded consumer markets, one of the biggest challenges for start-ups is differentiation – not just in terms of concept, but in terms of visual identity too. Packaging is key to catching people’s eye, but it’s also coming under increasing scrutiny as the public becomes more aware of its environmental impact. Our research shows there’s a real need to make packaging sustainable.

Dunnet Bay Distillers, for example, makes a premium, award-winning gin that it sells in iconic ceramic bottles. The problem they faced was that these high-end bottles made scaling the business unsustainable and the cost of shipping to the US market impossible to meet. So, we designed lightweight, recyclable foil packages that let Dunnet Bay sell gin refills. Customers would buy their first bottle of premium Rock Rose Gin, keep the bottle and refill it using the pouches. In the UK, the pouches could then go straight into a post box to be returned to Dunnet Bay for recycling. It’s an ingenious packaging solution that differentiates this young drinks brand while supporting a more sustainable future.

Manufacturing process innovation

The final stumbling block many start-ups face is in creating scalable, cost-effective manufacturing process for innovative products. When you create something radically different, there’s no ‘off-the-shelf’ solution to get you started – you need manufacturing process innovation something we specialise in at our Global Innovation and Technology Centre.

So, we help companies design, test and build manufacturing machines for new product concepts. PulPac, for example, has developed a way to turn generic cellulose pulp (the same stuff paper is made from) into durable containers with similar properties to single-use plastics. We’ve helped them commercialise that technology, scaling the manufacturing process to the point where they can make the million-plus samples FMCGs need for trials.

Unlocking the value in start-ups by working with consultants

Having helped, and learned from, myriad start-ups across sectors and around the world, we know the expert advice of an experienced consultant can be the difference between success and failure. Finding the right support can be difficult, but with an effective partner by their side, entrepreneurs can go further, faster.

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