Interview with star of the month: Lawrence Brand

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What fantastic news we heard recently on January 16, one of our SUK mentees Lawrence Brand has been named in the second annual Forbes 30 under 30 Europe list! Lawrence Brand of Porterlight Bicycles was named in in the Industry category list, a list that features 300 young innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders across Europe who are under 30 years of age and who are transforming business, technology, finance, media, culture and more, as judged by some of the most accomplished and acclaimed individuals in each category. The criteria for honorees making the list included leadership and disruption in their field; entrepreneurial mindset and results; and the likelihood of changing their field over the next half-century.

Porterlight Bicycles is a London based manufacturer of cargo bikes. Capable of carrying heavier and bulkier loads than normal bicycles, Porterlight’s flagship Bringley model makes a greater range of zero-emission urban journeys possible for companies and individuals. The increased cargo capacity allows bicycles to be used where the alternative has traditionally been a van or car, and the bikes’ traffic beating power accelerates urban delivery logistics. Porterlight now manufactures cargo bikes for the likes of Deliveroo, and exports worldwide.

Brand hand-built his first prototype cargo bike in 2014, and proved its carrying capability on a three-month unsupported test ride to Kazakhstan covering 5,000km through eight countries, the prototype bike was later exhibited in London’s Design Museum. SUK caught up with Lawrence to hear more and how SUK helped him in his brilliant journey! 

Can you describe your business journey in a short summary?

In 2014 I designed, and hand-built my first prototype cargo bicycle in the corner of my living room. I quit my day job, and set off on a 3 month test ride that would take me 5,000km, through eight countries, and end up on China’s Western border in Kazakhstan. Arriving back in London, it then took another year to refine, and improve the design, before beginning to trade in late 2015. Since then we’ve been exporting bikes to seven countries, became cargo bike supplier to Deliveroo, have been exhibited in two national museums, and moved to a new modern production facility in North London.

Where stage was your business at when you came to the SUK? What did you need advice around?

I came to Startup Kitchen in early 2016 having sold only a couple of bikes, but with a laundry list of ideas, product tangents, and targets. Sitting down with experienced entrepreneurs and talking through priorities, realistic goals, and potential pitfalls was hugely helpful in clarifying what I should concentrate on in the short, and longer term.

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How did it help you move forward with your business? 

Having a better vision for what to spend my time working on, definitely has helped advance the company further. That more concentrated effort has led to us really pushing ahead in our chosen areas, and had led us to exceed all of our year one targets. 
 
What other benefits did you get from being involved with the SUK and how did it help your business?

Not only was it great to talk in-depth with the mentors at the Startup Kitchen, chatting with and getting to know the other mentees was also really interesting and beneficial. Hearing from your peers who are facing similar business problems, and opportunities is a very motivating and informative experience. From my first mentoring session at the Startup Kitchen I was lucky enough to make personal connections with other entrepreneurs that have continue to this day.
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