Case studies, fact sheets and interviews offering hints, tips, and inspiration to help your business grow. 

From 7 May 2024, the North East Growth Hub is a project of the North East Combined Authority. We may still refer to "the North East Local Enterprise Partnership" (or "the North East LEP") in some of our older articles. 

From idea to reality: using the Business Model Canvas tool in a start-up business

Renée Fraser-Shepherd came up with the idea for her business, Sloobie Skiwear, while at university and used the Business Model Canvas to help develop her business plan. Here, she explains how it helped her and gives an insight into her first full year in business. 

When did you come up with the idea for your business?

I started working on the idea for Sloobie Skiwear during my first year at university. I studied Business Management at Northumbria University and it was a really practical course which involved coming up with your own business idea and being assessed based on how you put that idea into practice. 

Sloobie is a skiwear brand for women, focusing on base layers which make our customers feel great without compromising on the technicality. There was definitely a gap in the market; our research told us that women felt uncomfortable being seen in their base layers, for example at lunch, and that the existing options were too flimsy and unsupportive. 

How did you use the Business Model Canvas and what did it help you with?

I used the Business Model Canvas right from the start of the process and found it helped me visualise who my target audience was, see opportunities and prepare for the business launch. 

It allows you to really put yourself in your audience’s shoes which is vital for marketing and for making sure that the way you present your business is relevant to people. 

What challenges did you face in the early stages of launching the business and how did using the Business Model Canvas help you overcome them?

Starting a business can be really overwhelming, whether you’ve got the support of a course like mine or not. Using a tool like this gives a structure you can follow and helps you spot any potential challenges before you’ve even launched and hopefully overcome them before they arise. 

Our main challenge, which a lot of people will face, has been a lack of resource in terms of finance. So we’ve had to think about how we can create traction and make sure our potential customers are aware we exist, with really limited funds. 

I’d 100% recommend using a tool like the Business Model Canvas because there are a lot of costs you might not foresee and having everything planned out in a template like this means you can keep surprises to the minimum. 

And what have been some of the highs?

Having limited budget means we’ve had to be creative and we’ve had some great press coverage – we’ve been featured by Vogue Williams, which has been amazing. And being featured by Red Bull as their best ski gear for this season has been another great high, as they really focus on technicality and performance, as well as style. 

What’s the business growth been like so far and what’s helped you achieve that? 

At the start of this season I put sales targets in place and we met those targets within the first month. Now I’m looking at how we can triple our revenue. 

Along the way, I’ve made use of lots of business support and one of the most useful has been By Women Built which is for female founders of product-based businesses. There’s a networking group which includes a lot of really strong, well networked people and which presents you with a lot of concrete opportunities. 

The incubator at Northumbria University is also amazing, and so is The Prince’s Trust, who do an introduction to business programme for people aged 16 to 30, which covers all the basics. 

Find out more about Sloobie Skiwear here, and access more information and resources for start-ups in our Start-ups Toolkit.