THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

3 posts from July 2018

24 July 2018

Meet Martha Silcott, breaking taboos, one period at a time

Each year 1.4 billion tampons are flushed, ending up in the sewer system, causing flooding and pollution. Water companies spend 88 million pounds per year getting all the un-flushable items out of the sewers. What can be done to solve this problem? Martha Silcott is on a mission to find a sanitary solution for this sanitary problem with her corn starch, biodegradable fab little bags...

Tell us a little more about FabLittleBag?

FabLittleBags are biodegradable opaque, sealable sanitary disposal bags that prevent aquatic pollution and actually make disposal feel good!

What inspired the creation of the product? Did you have a ‘Eureka’ moment that convinced you that this was a good idea?

Sitting on the toilet thinking “there must be a better way of doing this” as I performed the LooRoll Wrap with reams of toilet roll for the umpteenth time… Recalling the times when round at friends houses and there was no bin in the downstairs loo so I resorted to doing the Handbag Smuggle. I got cross that there was not a better solution out there, I researched it expecting to find one, I didn’t so I decided to invent one myself. I did loads of research in the British Library, researching the market, the companies involved, the blockages caused by flushing etc. My Eureka moment was when I finally figured out the design of FabLittleBag; its unique one-handed opening and that it had to seal – I ran around the house gathering bits of sandwich bags, sellotape, staplers etc. and made a Blue Peter version.

FabLittleBag_Martha_Silcott
Martha Silcott, founder of FabLittleBag

What steps did you take to protect the IP in your design?

I learned a lot about IP form the British Library sessions and their intro to an organisation called Ideas 21 – so I had a free session with an IP lawyer to establish if it was a starter or not – and it went from there, applying for my patent in 2006.

Did you use the resources and training available through the Business & IP Centre to research and launch the business? 

Yes, general market research; access to huge data resources at no cost, if you were to buy the info yourself each one costs thousands of pounds! IP information, a basic course on social media later on, all very useful along the journey.

Tell us more about how are you working with the British Library to bring FabLittleBag to more users?

We are currently trialling FabLittleBag in two toilet blocks, these are ones which have a very high level of blockages causing cost to the Library and inconvenience to users. The Library has a lot of through traffic and we know that approx. 60% of UK women flush their tampons and with other habits and cultures passing through blockages are a real challenge for the Library loos! So our gorgeous new dispensers are installed in these blocks and we have already had direct email contact from a few users telling us how fab they think FabLittleBag is! We are offering all British Library users who email us a free sample pack of FabLittleBags to try, so don’t be shy!

FabLittleBag_product2
The best disposal solution. Period

What is the vision for the future of the company? Where will FabLittleBag be five and 10 years from now?

We have BIG plans! We already have customers from lots of countries all over the world but we want to ensure that any Binner that dislikes doing the Loo Roll Wrap and wants to feel more in control and calm at point of disposal have FabLittleBags in their life and that we convert as many Flushers out there as possible into Binners – frankly whether they use FabLittleBags or not, we just want to stop the flushing of non-flushables and so prevent blockages and aquatic pollution at source.

One of our Missions is to #screwthetaboo and break down the ridiculous taboo that still exists around periods in 2017! Involving men and boys is important in this journey as they are involved even if it is not them having periods! Replacing feelings of awkwardness and anxiety around disposal of sanitary products is a core mission of ours, helping women to feel more relaxed and calm as they know that even if there is only two bits of loo roll there, or there is no bin, because they have FabLittleBag, they will be able to disposal of the product easily and without stress. We also want to support our chosen key charity (WellBeing of Women) and to expand our charitable impact as we grow, also helping to support smaller local charities and some abroad where the issues of menstruation has huge negative impacts of girls and women’s lives.

So five years' time to be a normal ‘must have’ in the handbags and bathrooms up and down the UK, Europe, USA, etc. and other countries where disposables are still the most common form of managing ones period (therefore disposal solutions are especially needed). 10 years time to be so successful that our charitable foundation Fab Friends, is making a huge positive impact on menstrual health and practical management for millions of women across the globe.

FabLittleBags will continue to be trialed at the British Library to help prevent the negative impacts of flushing sanitary products.

10 July 2018

Liz Earle MBE: live up to your brand principles which stand the test of time

Liz Earle is a household name. A wellbeing entrepreneur, TV presenter and the number one bestselling author of over 35 books on a range of health, beauty and wellbeing topics, she is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Liz Earle Wellbeing magazine and founder of Liz Earle Fair and Fine, an award-winning range Fairtrade gold botanical jewellery.

What you may not have known is that when starting a career in wellbeing, if Liz needed to carry out research she would always come to the British Library. 30 years later, we’re welcoming her back to share the business story behind her success with the next generation of entrepreneurs at Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Feelgood Founders.

Liz - checking proofs - CREDIT Georgia Glynn Smith
Liz Earle, founder of Liz Earle Wellbeing. Credit: Georgia Glynn Smith

Can you tell us more about Liz Earle Wellbeing?

It’s the hub for all my written and online work in the world of wellbeing. Liz Earle Wellbeing itself is a high-quality magazine focused on food and living well. It’s based on over 30 years of award-winning advice, experience and research and is packed with tried and trusted recipes and inspirational ideas and ways to bring out the very best in you!

Alongside the magazine, I’ve recently launched the Wellness with Liz Earle podcasts, with downloads hitting 150,000. Recent guests have included the hilarious Kathy Lette, the brilliant Hemsley sisters and the gardener, TV presenter and writer Sarah Raven. 

 

What new business habits have you introduced since starting your career in wellbeing?

One relatively new habit I’ve introduced is social media engagement - it’s easy to forget how relatively new social media is, Instagram was only launched in 2010 so it wasn’t around when I was building my beauty brand. I confess I was nervous about putting myself in the spotlight, but now I absolutely love having my own voice, especially on Instagram as it’s a lovely community. Customers just love to connect with actual founders and not faceless brands. Authenticity is such an asset.

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What business advice can you offer for budding entrepreneurs?

One of my motto’s is “if it has to be now, it has to be no”. I like to be able to at least sleep on a business decision and make sure I still feel the same way about something the following day.

 

You’ve said that you have used the British Library for your business research. Are there any major milestones you’d recommend aspiring businesses always check into before they leap?

I’d say always do thorough research on any area you are looking at working in!  You need to really do your research and know your subject – and not just via the school of Google. I have a saying that it takes 30 years to build trust and 30 seconds to destroy it and I think this is never more true than in the fast-paced world we live in today. I’ve instilled in all my team a commitment to be very careful about everything they write, post and create to maintain the trust our customers have in the Liz Earle Wellbeing brand. For example, always go back to the source when quoting any study, don’t just reply on newspaper or online headlines, which so-often misinterpret the data.

 

If you were an ambitious entrepreneur attending the 'Feelgood Founders' event, what question would you ask yourself? 

What is the key to brand loyalty? To which I would say, it’s living up to your brand principles – which have to stand the test of time and not get diluted by Committee.  Brand founders are perfectly placed to protect the core essence of what their brand is about. They are the ultimate brand guardians and the only truly authentic and genuine voice customers want to listen to.

 

Liz will be appearing at the upcoming Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Feelgood Founders event on July 10, alongside Mark Constantine OBE, Co-founder of Lush, Simon Duffy MBE, Founder of Bulldog Skincare for Men and Sherille Riley, Founder of Nails and Brows Mayfair Boutique. You’ll hear the stories behind some of the best-known health and beauty brands and also have the opportunity to ask our expert panel your burning questions and make connections over drinks and canapés at the networking reception after the event (which is included in the ticket price). Tickets cost just £10 and are available here.

02 July 2018

From Under Dog to Top Dog in the Male Skincare Industry

Bulldog Skincare for Men launched eleven years ago, and is currently driving the market for male skincare growth in the UK. Way back in 2008 we welcomed the founders to the British Library stage to talk about the brand that was changing the face of the male skincare industry with its natural ingredients and bold, simple designs. In those days Bulldog, at less than twelve months old, was a mere pup!

However, ten years on and the brand’s 40-strong range is now available in 24 countries with a product sold every seven seconds globally. We’re thrilled to be welcoming Simon Duffy to our Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Feelgood Founders on July 10, and caught up with him before the event to talk about how Bulldog became every man’s best friend. 

Bulldog was launched in 2007, now eleven years ago, but what inspired the creation of the business? 

We launched nationwide in the UK in 2007 with Sainsbury’s. I originally had the idea for Bulldog Skincare for Men in November 2005 whilst I was shopping for natural skincare products for my wife. I was buying some of her favourite products when I noticed that there were no straightforward skincare options for men which contained natural ingredients. This kick-started the R&D process, which flowed into fundraising, and culminated with our first retailer launch.

Simon
Simon Duffy, Co-founder of Bulldog


What are the key changes in the sector since you've been established and how has the business changed to respond to that?

The 2013 European Ban on animal testing in cosmetics was a great moment for everyone who is interested in ‘Cruelty Free’. We have kept to the ‘Cruelty Free’ standards right from the very beginning. It’s a fundamental part of how we think about formulation.

Today, the focus on sustainability is more important than ever. This is also an area where we want Bulldog to continue to push boundaries. 

For example, we have never used plastic microbeads which is unusual in the industry. More recently Bulldog became the first men’s skincare brand to use plastic tubes derived from sugarcane rather than fossil fuels.

Recently we launched a new razor which uses much less plastic than conventional options and overall is trying to be much more environmentally responsible. The handle of this new razor is made from a bamboo rather than plastic, and the packaging is created using recycled card stack and environmentally soy inks. Overall there is much less plastic being used in both the primary products and in the outer packaging.

In a crowded market how have you been so successful in making your products and brand stand out?

When you don’t have the enormous budgets of the massive companies you compete with, you must believe that your products can do the talking for you. We have always set out to make amazing products and I believe word-of-mouth has helped to grow our sales.

From a branding perspective we very purposefully intended to stand out in a crowded market. Before Bulldog, the men’s skincare aisle was a sea of blacks, blues and greys. All these products were marketed with complicated skincare jargon. Our simple white packaging was chosen to be different; and our straightforward language was intended as an antidote to the unnecessary complexity we saw elsewhere.

From a formulation perspective, Bulldog also stands out as something different from the norm. There are controversial ingredients we won’t use, and instead we prioritise natural ingredients and essential oils.

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A selection of original Bulldog products


We know that all Bulldog products are suitable for vegans, are free from micro beads and use
sustainable packaging. How important is it you to create an ethically sound product and has that always been the case?

It’s fundamental. This has been our stance since day 1 and it won’t change.

If you were an ambitious entrepreneur attending the 'Feelgood Founders' event what question would you ask yourself? 

I'd ask what is the best way to make a brand famous?

What key piece of advice would you share with an aspiring health & wellness owner to give their business the best chance of success?

Collaboration really is key. Figure out what you’re good at and then build a team, both internally and externally, to support you in areas where you know you’re not as strong.

 

Simon will be appearing at the upcoming Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Feelgood Founders event on July 10, alongside Liz Earle MBE, Mark Constantine OBE, Co-founder of Lush and Sherille Riley, Founder of Nails and Brows Mayfair Boutique. You’ll hear the stories behind some of the best-known health and beauty brands and also have the opportunity to ask our expert panel your burning questions and make connections over drinks and canapés at the networking reception after the event (which is included in the ticket price). Tickets cost just £10 and are available here.