What do dragons, spiders and mentors all have in common?

19 July 2018

All were the subject of discussion at Creatives’ Club this month, where we met a Dragon’s Den survivor, public speaking expert and over a dozen business mentors.

The Big House was privileged to welcome Ed Hollands, AKA The Advert Man from Driven Media to tell his story of entrepreneurial ambition, winning over the Dragons and why a mentor made all the difference to his business journey.


Entrepreneur Ed Hollands, AKA The Advert Man, founder of Driven Media

At 22, Ed runs Driven Media, based in Derby, which turns commercial trucks into mobile billboards. His team delivers customers over 150,000 daily views of the ad campaigns that they run across his partner network of hauliers and regularly asks people “Is your marketing going places”.

Citing Richard Branson as his key influencer, Ed got the entrepreneurial bug early on, wanting to own a pub at Primary School. He always wanted to be his own boss, but just didn’t have the right idea when he left school, so he went to the University of Derby to study Business and Marketing to prepare for when the elusive inspiration appeared.


Ed always had aspirations to be his own boss from a young age

His first business failed. But, he is actually pleased in a way, as he learned so much more from failure than success. Ed admits, “it is not always the case of “if you build it people will come.” A few people might, but definitely not everyone.”

He set himself a challenge when he left university to get a job and think about his business, until he had an idea.

"While working in the most boring job ever, where I counted coins in parking machines, I was walking home and saw a truck. I thought if my business was advertising, it would be there. The next day I sat at the lay-by on the A38 and wrote down truck numbers. I rang them all to get a haulier on board. Most of them said no, but one said yes and that was all I needed and that’s how Driven Media was born."
Ed Hollands
Founder, Driven Media

A year on from then, the biggest problem for Ed, was finding the right customers, so he decided to apply for Dragon’s Den and got an unexpected call back. After a challenging process of honing and perfecting his pitch, they filmed the show and Ed faced the Dragons in in May 2017.

An overview of Ed Hollands on BBC's Dragon's Den

After wowing the Dragons, Ed eagerly accepted a 20% stake for £30,000 equity in his business from Jenny Campbell. The investment deal was completed in November 2017, but the show was not aired until February 2018, so for a secretive nine months he wasn’t allowed to tell a soul. Although, he did receive 17 inbound enquiries on the day after the show, so it was worth the wait. And, if things didn’t work out, he also received a job offer from Peter Jones.

The business has grown significantly, thanks to appearing on the show, but also because Ed has had great mentors including Graham Mulholland and now Jenny Campbell and her team.

Encouraged by his mentors, Ed wanted to prove to potential customers the likely ROI and dwell time of the truck campaigns, so he literally counted them, made a video to show them and it far exceeded their expectations.

A determined Ed on a mission to collect data and demonstrate ROI of his truck ad campaigns

Driven Media is just about to take on its first employee. Ironically enough, it is a sales person to sell advertising space. Through mentoring Ed has realised that you need to take on people who are good at what they do, to do the things you can’t.

His closing tips included:

  • Choosing someone as a mentor who has experienced what you are going through
  • Always learning from others
  • Always having a backup plan
  • Listening to people with experience
  • Aiming to be cash positive - get money up front where possible
  • Realising you can’t be an expert at everything - entrepreneurs make it up as they go along and blag it!

Following Ed’s story, the audience of creative and digital businesses and those with entrepreneurial ideas were given a chance to conquer any public speaking fears with a masterclass from presentation coach, Adrian Peck from Ahead in Public Speaking. With public speaking one of the UK’s biggest fears, second only to spiders, Adrian shared his three-step technique for confidently introducing yourself in public and provided tips and tricks for calming nerves, slowing down delivery and establishing eye contact - no matter the size of the audience.


A lively networking and ‘Meet a Mentor’ session rounded off the evening, where Creatives’ Club members had the opportunity to introduce themselves to The Big House team of mentors. Individual mentors brought different skills and specialisms, including marketing, product development, financial expertise, gaming, photography, film, social enterprise, social media and event management, which led to animated conversations and interesting pairings with individuals and businesses looking for tailored support to help them develop. Visit The Big House website for information about the free coaching and mentoring support available to creative and digital businesses.

Want to join our next Creatives’Club? For the latest line up, dates, times and speakers, visit our Events page.

Creatives' Club is sponsored by Browne Jacobson, a national law firm and experts across the private and public sectors. They provide their clients with sector expertise, straightforward advice, pricing and product innovation and exceptional client service. Find out more about them here.

Delivered by The Creative Quarter as part of The Big House programme. This project is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.