THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

25 September 2017

10 things we learned from Start-up Day 2017

In September, The British Library's Business & IP Centre held Start-up Day 2017.

The day was filled with inspiring events and engaging workshops from speakers who share their well-earned wisdom with a crowd of budding entrepreneurs and business owners.

This year we held 18 different events, each filled with information and advice on how to turn an idea into a business, covering every topic you might need, from how to write that all-important business plan, to tips for managing your cash flow.

Hopefully, you managed to pack in as many of the talks as possible and just in case you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the information you absorbed over such a small amount of time. We’ve got just the thing to help:

Here are 10 things we learned from the day which we believe are vital takeaways for anyone looking to make a start in business.

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Anything is possible

Julie Deane OBE founded her company The Cambridge Satchel Company with just £600. It’s all she had spare to get started and she’d made a promise to her daughter that she wouldn’t have to go back to her old school that September. It was already June. Julie had plenty of hints and tips for the audience and although she has a firm belief that “your life is more than what you wear or the bag you carry,” she has created her brand based on a passion for British manufacturing and a product that will last customers a long time, making it a cost-effective purchase.

Julie’s talk on how she started her business from her kitchen table was not only moving but demonstrates that almost anything is possible when you’re as determined as she is.

Pic 2 - Julie Deane

Test your ideas first

You don’t have to immediately pack up your 9-5 and risk all your savings when you have an idea for starting your own business. In fact, many of the speakers encouraged staying comfortable while you plan and test your ideas first. Nigel Spencer, Research & Business Development Manager at The British Library, gave an insightful workshop, based on a regular offering at the Business & IP Centre, on where to take your business idea next and how to plan for its future.

Nigel recommended some of the fantastic tools available for free from the Business & IP Centre such as a Business Model Canvas that you can download, and then tailor to your business model revealing any gaps you might not have addressed yet.

Pic 3 -  Nigel Spencer

Know your worth

Anis Qizilbash’s entire talk focused in on this important reminder for start-ups and people who are venturing out into the world of business. She encourages people to employ her strategies and challenge their fears around charging the right price for their services or product. “Don’t think about the money you’re going to make, think about the impact for the customer… make it about the difference you can make.” Believing that you are charging a fair price and remaining confident in the face of a difficult sales pitch is no mean feat – but this talk left everyone feeling empowered and ready to charge their worth.

Pic 4 - Anis Qizilbash

Find people who believe in you

“If I’d have told my mum that I was going to Mars on a rocket ship she would have replied “oh, how interesting, when?” said Julie Deane. She used this as a great example of finding people who will truly support you as you make your idea into a business reality.

Neil Daly of Skin Analytics echoed this in his panel discussion on Profit with Purpose. When he asked his wife if he should work a normal 9-5 that brought in enough money but made him miserable, or follow his passion to diagnose skin cancer earlier, but run the risk of money being tight, she reminded him that “you’re a miserable bugger when you’re unhappy at work, so go for your passion.”

A common theme across the day was a need for self-confidence and belief in your ideas, but equally important is finding the people you can rely on when it isn’t going perfectly. Having someone who thinks your ideas are worth fighting for is crucial.

See your competitors as free research

Keye Oduneye from Google Digital Garage kicked off the day with his talk on How to Build a Social Media Strategy with an interesting take on how to view your competition. “see them as free research. They’re either doing something you should or doing something you shouldn’t. Learn from them and be inspired by them.”

When there’s someone out there doing something similar to you, or trying to reach a demographic that you’d like to tap into, keep a close eye on what they get up to online. Use it to decide what you might do with your next campaign on social media and keep the creative juices flowing.

Pic 5 - Keye Oduneye

Social media is a powerful tool

As demonstrated by the live Twitter feed that had #BIPCStartUpDay trending by the afternoon of the event – social media is a force to be reckoned with. Keye Oduneye’s talk highlighted just how many customers use it to reach brands for swift responses to customer service queries, get the latest news from their favourite companies, and ultimately decide where they might spend their money.

Keye gave a thorough breakdown on the sort of things you should be sharing with potential customers and how important it is to see social media as a powerful influence to build a brand and reflect the kind of business you want to be seen as from day one.

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Networking is key

Life coach, author, and speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru led an interactive workshop on ‘How to network for business success’ that was full of useful takeaways for everyone. “If I don’t meet, I don’t eat” was one such important reminder – although networking might seem nerve-wracking, meeting people and promoting your business is key to earning money from your product or service.

It certainly helped to be surrounded by people that have already started or are thinking about starting their own business all day, and plenty of business cards were exchanged throughout the event, but networking is more than just a brief connection we learned. Even if you connect with someone who might not seem like they can help you with your business, they might know someone who can. Rasheed urges people to “collect good people” that you can share values and ideas with to help grow your business and make it a success.

Pic 7 - Rasheed  Ogunlaru

You won’t always get it right

Setbacks are part of life and business. We can plan ahead, but sometimes we make mistakes and that’s natural. ‘How to get your business in the media on a budget’ was less of a how-to workshop than it was a lesson in how to face the potential pitfalls when you’re promoting your company. Jessica Huie runs an award-winning PR company and knows a thing or two about how to get your business into the media spotlight and create a positive buzz around what you do, but she also reminded us that it’s ok for it to not always go your way. “you are not for everyone and everyone is not for you” was the mantra, and setbacks ultimately teach us something in the long run. You will attract the right audience if you are authentic, do your research, and always seek to understand your customer better.

Pic 8 - Jessica Huie

Focus on pleasing your customer and you’ll always make money

There is a lot to consider when you’re starting out in business or working out how to turn a great idea into one. Budgets, planning, PR, social media campaigns, and networking are just a few of the plates you’ll be juggling – and sometimes all at once. The topic of Tim Campbell MBE’s talk could not have been more appropriate for the day as he shared his thoughts on ‘Staying Alive – How to get motivated when growing your start-up’. How exactly do you stay motivated and keep cash flow steady with everything else going on?

His advice was simple – focus on the customer. Don’t chase the materialistic aspects of the business as much as you concentrate on delivering what your customer expects and more. By focusing on providing the best service and product, always innovating and “delivering with quality” Tim promises you will always make money.

Pic 9 - Tim Campbell

The Business & IP Centre is a fantastic resource

Julie Deane not only inspired with her story of setting up her business with minimal funds, she also shared some interesting stats. She revealed that businesses that engage with the Business & IP Centre are 4 times more likely to succeed than the ones that don’t, and as we learned from Nigel Spencer, there is a whole host of tools at your disposal to help plan and test your business. From free or low-cost workshops to online guides that cover numerous topics, it’s in your (and your businesses) best interest to check them out.

Days like Start-up Day are just a small taste of what you can achieve with the British Library’s Business & IP Centre. So, if you have a great idea and want to set up your own business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team. You can also check out our list of upcoming workshops and events to get even more great advice and support for your great business idea. 

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Start-up Day was sponsored by Virgin StartUp, Google Digital Garage, and The European Union Regional Development Fund