Innovation and enterprise blog

17 posts categorized "BIPC National Network"

22 December 2016

Why entering awards are good for you and your small business

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As a busy business owner you need to find ways to promote what you do with maximum impact. You know the value of your business or service and can shout about it from the top of your lungs all day long. But what’s even more impactful is when other people do it for you. Along with using testimonials on your website and social media from customers you can also enter awards. Win a business award and you’ll create a buzz around your business, enhance your brand and have your story shared in the press. But you have to be in it to win it! Keep track of your networks for news about when their award programmes are running and think of all the of strings to your bow when considering which categories give you and your business the best chance of success.

One awards programme coming up for female business founders is the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards - regarded as the Oscars for female entrepreneurs and business leaders. Set up in 1972 as a tribute to their own female founder, Madame Clicquot, the awards continue to champion the success of women worldwide who share the same enterprising spirit, courage and determination to succeed.

As well as their Business Woman of the Year Award, they are looking for strong nominations to apply for their Social Purpose Award (businesswomen championing social purpose beyond their core business case) and New Generation (under 35 year old) awards. Nominations close on 30 December 2016.

A recent winner of the Veuve Clicquot New Generation award was Jenny Dawson Costa, founder and CEO of relish range Rubies in the Rubble, and graduate of our Business & IP Centre’s ‘Growth Club’. Earlier this year Jenny shared with us how the business began:

“The idea for Rubies in the Rubble came after a very early morning visit to a wholesale fruit and veg market on my bike one frosty day in November 2010. I fell in love with the market - such a diverse range of people living by night and sleeping by day; a world of farmers, wholesalers, restaurant owners and market sellers trading anything from durians to brussel sprouts.

But just along from the bustle of the traders were the piles of unwanted fruit and veg - mange tout from Kenya, mangos from the Philippines, tomatoes from Turkey, cranberries for California which bypassed the bustle of traders and headed straight for the bin! And what really saddened me was that much of these, though potentially with a short shelf life, were perfectly edible!

It got me thinking about the impossibility of matching supply and demand when you have unpredictable weather, unpredictable humans and supermarkets that provide everything in plentiful piles throughout the year.

I then buried myself in researching food waste and realising its scale and implications – both environmentally and financially. However, it was a simple fact that compelled me to act: we are wasting 1/3 of all the food we produce, whilst 1bn people go to bed hungry. I’m not saying I know the solution but there are improvements that we can make to the current system.

And then it came to me: a premium food brand making delicious products from fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded.”

We’re huge fans of the Rubies relish and continue to work with Jenny to grow the company. If your own story is just as powerful then think about applying for the New Generation or Social Purpose award 2017.

At our next ‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons’ event, on Tuesday 7 February, you will have the chance to listen to and meet the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award winner  Woman of the Year for 2016, Sarah Wood, who’s marketing agency Unruly has been behind fantastic campaigns such as the Compare the Market’s meerkat adverts.


The event will see Sarah share her story alongside three other inspiring entrepreneurs; founders of SpareRoom, Bloom & Wild and Deliciously Ella. You can join us in the British Library or watch from home with our free of charge webcast. You’ll also have the opportunity to question the panel about how you find the right awards to apply to and ask for tips on how to win.

If you are a female founder and fit the mould for the New Generation or Social Impact Awards then here are some useful tips for submitting a 5 star application:

  1. Give yourself enough time to answer the questions to the best of your ability and to shine a light on your achievements
  2. Don’t be shy! Be sure to give a compelling reason within each answer for why you and your business deserve to be the winner
  3. Be honest. However tempting to inflate the details be truthful and so avoid potential PR problems later on
  4. Have attention to detail – have you answered all the questions fully, within the word limit and hitting all the key criteria?

Good luck with your applications and maybe you'll be the next winner of the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards


28 October 2015

Dare to dream: How to be a startup success

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Last night Kanya King MBE, CEO and Founder of the MOBO Organisation, took the stage in the British Library before heading to another in a series of events leading up to one of the biggest British awards shows of the year – the MOBOs. The Business & IP Centre at the British Library and the MOBO Organisation joined forces to bring together a panel of leading lights in the creative industries, including June Sarpong MBE, Yinka Ilori and Levi Roots, who shared their groundbreaking stories of what can be achieved with the right attitude and determination.


Credit: Luca Sage


The event was part of MOBO’s ‘Rise With Us’ Season, taking place this month, designed to recognise the achievements of diverse artists, designers and entrepreneurs and inspire the next generation of up and coming talent.

The panel shared their individual stories of starting up and gave some invaluable tips for people wanting to follow in their footsteps.


Kanya King MBE

Credit: Luca Sage


Kanya started the MOBO Awards from her bedroom in 1996 to give a platform to emerging talent who would go on to achieve global success. Now MOBO, one of the most recognisable brands in British music, helps create more opportunities for exceptional talent across all of the creative industries; in her own words ‘Inspiring a generation who dare to dream’. Success wasn’t without its barriers for Kanya. While she had passion and determination she also had no contacts in the music industry, no money and most people told her it wasn’t possible. Finally she got her break when a meeting with an LWT Executive resulted in a broadcast slot with Carlton Television. With only six weeks to pull together the first MOBO Awards, and with many people still doubting that an audience would be interested in celebrating diverse talent, the odds were against her. However, that first show was a hit and, now in its twentieth year, the MOBO brand is bigger than ever.

Kanya gave some tips to the entrepreneurs in the audience including: be passionate about what you do and make sure to prioritise - focus, focus, focus. Her advice is that you don’t always have to get it right, you just have to get going and persistence is key – ‘never give up on your dreams’. She didn’t get where she is today because of talent but because she refused to give up.  She emphasised that much more can be achieved when you have a team around you that is united in your belief.


Yinka Ilori

Credit: Luca Sage


Yinka Ilori is a London-based designer specialising in up-cycling vintage furniture, inspired by the traditional Nigerian parables and African fabrics that surrounded him as a child. When he started off as a designer he felt that there weren’t a lot of black designers and there weren't many people for him to relate to. He wanted to give up many times but his family were consistent in their support for him and told him to keep going.

Since starting up, he has exhibited internationally in solo shows, runs regular workshops and is involved in many projects. One of his most recent projects is partnering with the British Library shop as part of the current West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song exhibition. Yinka came to the British Library when he was starting up to do research in order to find his unique selling point to build his brand. His main piece of advice for entrepreneurs? Remember to tell your story how you want to tell it.


June Sarpong MBE

Credit: Luca Sage


June, one of the most recognisable faces of British television, is also the Co-founder of the WIE Network (Women: Inspiration & Enterprise). WIE is dedicated to women in leadership and it’s not surprising June is involved when she said that fight for empowerment and equality get her out of bed in the morning. She is driven to empower everyone in society to be the best we can be and believes it leads to a stronger economy, safer planet and overall a fairer and better world. Speaking at the event, her mandate was clear: we have to ensure women and those from diverse communities are empowered.

June's number one piece of advice was 'before you start to worry about what other people think about you, worry what YOU think about you!’ Like Kanya she also emphasised the need to learn to control your thinking, have a goal and focus on it.


Levi Roots

Credit: Luca Sage


A MOBO nominated reggae artist, a pioneer in Caribbean food and culture, Dragons’ Den star and with a new ‘rastarant’ opening soon, Levi shared his story about starting his Reggae Reggae sauce in his small Brixton kitchen and giving back to the community by visiting hundreds of schools, universities and prisons each year as part of his School of Life tour. His journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur was shaped by his experiences. His advice for entrepreneurs is to work with someone who knows more than you – a mentor. But his biggest piece of advice? Be true to yourself.


Credit: Luca Sage


As June said at the event, ‘It’s a very exciting time to be creative in Britain’ and we couldn’t agree more. If you are starting, running or growing a business and need some help, check out our week-long series of events coming up in November for Global Entrepreneurship Week




Join the MOBO Season #RiseWithUs


04 August 2015

How to research your local area

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In the Business & IP Centre we often get enquiries about how to research a particular geographical area. With an increasing interest in ‘keeping trade local’ and in the provenance of products, many start-ups are choosing to establish and market themselves as ‘local’ businesses - for instance working with the community, or sourcing suppliers from the nearby area. Others are simply interested in finding out more about their area in terms of customers, competitors and marketing opportunities.


Luckily there is a wealth of information available on specific localities and entrepreneurs can use this information to pinpoint their target market and tailor their promotional activity. For instance, a retailer of high-end luxury goods might want to focus their business in an affluent area, in order to attract high-earning local customers. A new restaurant might think twice about opening on a street with lots of established competition – but it may benefit them to know about nearby markets and food-sellers who could act as suppliers. A fashion designer could research local events and networks where there’s potential to sell or promote their products. Below are a few of the resources you can use to research your area.

At the British Library Business & IP Centre

Local Data Online (access via terminals in the Business & IP Centre)

Local Data Online gives data and insights for locations, business types and companies. Its searchable map tool lets you select a specific area and examine the overall retail make-up, identify local businesses, or check the geographical spread of an industry or company. It also gives addresses and contact details for individual shops, lists available vacant units, and gives a demographic profile of the area.

You can search for a specific location, company and/or retail category, and information is displayed on easy-to-read maps and diagrams. Extra information for locations includes vacancy rates, the mix of independent shops vs. chains, crime statistics, average earnings and house prices. 

Researching your neighbourhood  image 2

COBRA (access via terminals in the Business & IP Centre)

COBRA is an encyclopaedia of practical information for starting, running and managing a small business. Included in the database are a number of ‘Local Area profiles’, covering towns and regions throughout the country. A Local Area Profile will typically include information on sources of business support and advice, financial support, workspaces, business networks, business directories, libraries, local authority trading licences, business rates and HM Revenue & Customs.

Company databases: FAME, MarketIQ, Kompass, ORBIS, OneSource (access via terminals in the Business & IP Centre)

Our company databases are searchable by location, meaning that you can create lists of companies operating in a specific geographical area.

Grantfinder (access via terminals in the Business & IP Centre)

Gives details of 4,000 grants, loans and awards, searchable by geographical area.


Other Sources

Business & IP Centre National Network

The Business & IP Centre National Network provides entrepreneurs and SMEs across the country with free access to a wealth of databases, market research, journals, directories and reports. There is a programme of free and low-cost one-to-one advice and workshops delivered by trained staff and business experts on a range of topics including starting up, business planning, marketing and intellectual property. Find a Centre near you.

Your local library

Many libraries will hold local information, newspapers, directories and data.

Social media

Social media can be a powerful research tool. Lots of local groups, associations and businesses will have a presence on social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter - or try searching Twitter for name of the area you’re interested in to get rolling updates of what’s going on in the area. 

Council websites

Your local council can provide helpful information about doing business in your area. Some councils also run business support programmes. 

ONS Neighbourhood Statistics

ONS Neighbourhood Statistics allows you to find detailed statistics or a summary report for specific geographic areas. Covers areas such as crime, economics, education, health, housing, income, lifestyle, population, migration, physical environment.

Official Labour Market Statistics (NOMIS)

NOMIS allows you to find detailed labour market (population, employment, economic activity, qualifications, jobseeker’s allowance claimants) statistics for specific geographic areas.

Data for Neighbourhoods and Regeneration

Data for Neighbourhoods and Regeneration identifies and signposts datasets available for neighbourhoods on areas like population, deprivation and income, employment, economy and enterprise, education and skills, health and disability, housing and households, crime and community, environment, access and transport.


As highlighted in an earlier blog, the website Netmums has comprehensive listings of small businesses in a local area, from garden services to website design.

Google Street View

Google Street View is invaluable for seeing what a neighbourhood actually looks like, street by street.

Social Sciences databases

A number of the Social Sciences databases can be helpful to those looking to research a particular area. In particular the local government and statistics databases may be of use.

FreeimagescomSille Opstrup
Image: Opstrup


  • London Datastore: Greater London Authority (GLA) one-stop shop for statistics and reports on London, spanning topics from culture to crime. The Community page provides visualisations based on the data.
  • Whereabouts London: Website using open data to profile London areas.  Clicking on a locality on the map will give you information on local demographics.


Sally Jennings on behalf of the Business & IP Centre 

23 June 2015

Enterprising Libraries: A blueprint for delivering economic growth in UK cities

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Credit: Luca Sage

Last night the city library staff, stakeholders and entrepreneurs from across the country gathered at the British Library to celebrate the launch of an independent economic impact study on the Enterprising Libraries project. The event saw Roly Keating, CEO of the British Library, Kanya King MBE, CEO and Founder of the MOBO Organisation, and Darren Henley OBE, Chief Executive of Arts Council England speak about the success of the project.

Enterprising Libraries is a £1.3m partnership between the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Arts Council England (ACE) and the British Library which has enabled 16 public libraries, including six Business & IP Centres, across the UK to provide free access to collections and face-to-face advice and guidance for entrepreneurs on how to start, protect and grow their own business.  As a result of the early success of the project, DCLG and ACE, pledged a further £400k to sustain the Business & IP Centre Network and bring on two new pilots over this financial year.

Credit: Luca Sage


Highlights from the report

The findings reveal that a two year initiative to run business support services in libraries has attracted more than double the national average of women to start up their own businesses, and triple the number of entrepreneurs from black and Asian minority ethnic backgrounds. Other findings from the report include:

  • Between April 2013 and March 2015 the Enterprising Libraries have together created a total of nearly 1,700 new businesses and 4,200 new jobs (predicted to rise to 22,000 jobs by 2017)


  • The jobs were predominantly in the creative industries, tech and professional services sectors, and just under a third (29%) were created in libraries in the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ region, for example Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull, Leeds and Sheffield


  • Free business and intellectual property information (85%) was reported as a chief benefit, as well as face-to-face support (82% rated this as important), and the function of the libraries as a ’one stop shop’ for a range of business support needs (48%)


270-001 British Library Enterprising Libraries infographic-print

Big business for library’s nationally

The British Library has run its own dedicated space to support entrepreneurs, the Business & IP Centre, since 2006. Enterprising Libraries has enabled the Library to replicate the Business & IP Centre model in six major cities, plus collaborate with ten further library services around the country to spearhead a business support service in their local areas. The British Library’s ambition, as detailed in our recent vision, Living Knowledge, is to expand the Business & IP Centre network to 20 city libraries across the UK by 2020.

The results of the Enterprising Libraries project are testament to the power of collaboration across the library network, and the British Library is considering new ways to connect with public libraries, including a proposal, announced today, to work with the Library of Birmingham – already a Business & IP Centre partner – on a special project around the time of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare in 2016.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said:

“The findings published today offer hard evidence that libraries have enormous potential to help businesses to innovate and grow, through their ability to link people with vast amounts of information for free, and thanks to their special role as trusted, welcoming spaces in the community.

As detailed in our vision Living Knowledge, I look forward to working with partners to realise our goal of a UK-wide Business & IP Centre network in city libraries by 2020.”

Credit: Luca Sage

Kanya King MBE, CEO and Founder of the MOBO Organisation and British Library Business & IP Centre Ambassador, said:

“The great thing about libraries is that they are open and accessible to everyone and, as such, I’m not surprised that these Enterprising Libraries have succeeded in attracting such a diverse audience in to use their services. There is so much untapped creative talent among women and ethnic minorities and I’m delighted to see these libraries helping them to turn their ideas into successful businesses.” 

A big thank you for your support

The figures in the report are taken from nearly 1,700 new businesses created over a two year period as part of the Enterprising Libraries project. We asked you to take part in shaping our future by completing our economic survey which has provided the data for this report. Thanks to all who helped us and gave your feedback. As promised, we are delighted to announce the names of those who entered the survey and have won an iPad Air 2 each.

And the winners are…

Elmera Toofan

Michael Moore

Vivien Hamed

Mellissa Beeken

Congratulations to the winners. Check our website for more information on the Enterprising Libraries project, the Business & IP Centre National Network and to find out what entrepreneurial activities are happening in a library near you.


20 May 2015

The future is looking Fab (Lab)

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In this superfast, digital, tech era we often hear people questioning the need for libraries - 'I can just google it’ or ‘I can get it online’ are common phrases batted around. This is of course overlooking the far wider benefits that libraries bring to local communities, the positive impact on health and economic wellbeing, or even the economy itself. Indeed libraries act as ‘the great equaliser’ - safe, trusted and impartial spaces, where anyone from any walk of life can access services. The success of the British Library’s own Business & IP Centre service is evidence that libraries have an important role to play in helping businesses to innovate and grow. 

If all that doesn’t produce a flutter of excitement in their steely hearts, then perhaps something that will appeal is the idea of the library as a maker space, a rapid prototyping hub, a place for creative collaboration and sharing of ideas. Sure you can join online forums to share ideas, but you probably don’t have a CTR TMX12 Laser Machine in your garden shed!

Exeter Library’s FabLab is one such space; ‘an open access, not-for-profit, community resource where anybody can invent and make just about anything.’ It is the first ever to open in a UK public library and boasts a plethora of machines such as a Pro-Router, Vinyl Cutter, the aforementioned Laser Machine and of course the obligatory 3D printers.

So successful have they been, that the library hosted a Fab Futures conference last Friday 15 May, bringing together experts from across the UK and the globe to talk about how libraries can support innovation and creativity in the 21st century, and how they’ve done it in Exeter.

The day offered a local perspective with the lab volunteers and library staff talking through the prototyping equipment, offering hands on introductory taster workshops and showcasing the versatility of the machines.


Textile designer- Fran
Local textile designer Fran used the digital equipment to create her laser cut designs
Digitally printed items in delegate packs
Goodies in delegate packs made in the Fab Lab


Speakers attending from Mak Lab Glasgow,  Fab Lab Manchester and Fab Lab Ellesmore Port, talked about the social significance and impact of the UK Fab Lab Network through engaging local communities, older people and disability groups as well as charities and businesses with the possibilities of digital manufacturing.


Laser cut mdf
What happens when you put MDF in a laser cutter


A Google Link up with Chattanooga Library in Tennessee showcased their innovative 4th floor ‘public laboratory’, highlighting an intuitive partnership with Etsy, where their digital equipment is used to manufacture products which are then sold on the Etsy platform.

Take a look at the full programme for the day and the storify of the event.

Fab Lab Exeter is a great facility for local entrepreneurs and creatives to access low cost or free digital making in a shared learning environment, and the perfect space to develop prototypes for new products and designs. To complement the Fab Lab, in the next twelve months Exeter Library will be joining the British Library’s National Network of Business & IP Centres in city libraries across the country. The Business & IP Centre will connect the Fab Lab’s innovation activities to intellectual property support and business information resources, helping to create healthy and sustainable businesses across the region. The current Business & IP Centre National Network provides support for entrepreneurs and inventors in Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester which also had a Digital Demonstrator Suite.

Here in the UK the libraries’ ‘maker movement’ has been a bit slow off the mark compared to our cousins across the pond, but it’s starting to gather momentum. Led by the likes of Exeter’s FabLab, or indeed Common Libraries National Science Experiment, we might in the near future find that people are as likely to pop to their local library for a ‘raspberry pi jam’ as they are to borrow a book.

Does your local library run any ‘maker sessions,’ ‘raspberry pi jams’ or ‘library hacks’? If so, get in touch, we’d love to hear more and visit one of our National Network of Business & IP Centres soon.

David Gimson and Hanna Fayaz on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

21 April 2015

Copying – right or wrong?

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Across the Business & IP Centre National Network and at Newcastle Libraries, home of the Business & IP Centre Newcastle, we believe it’s important for everyone to have a think about copying. We want individuals and businesses to know about their rights to use content and creations that are either in the public domain or under an open license - and to learn more about copyright generally. As we say in our intellectual property workshops make sure you “don’t infringe!”

That’s why we are having a bit of an alternative event in Newcastle on 27April. Copying – right or wrong? is a question and answer session with author and activist Cory Doctorow and law lecturer Rebecca Moosavian. Cory Doctorow makes several of his books available for free download on his website (under a Creative Commons license) and Rebecca Moosavian’s research focuses on the appropriateness of applying property rights to culture.

Copy-right or copy-wrong?

We know that to copy something is wrong; it’s been ingrained in us since we were children - and as we grew up copying took the name of ‘plagiarism’. Whether your interests are listening to music, appreciating artwork, watching films or TV series, we know copying a song, a film or a TV show without permission is wrong. Every time we watch a DVD we are told that copying the DVD is piracy. Websites are often closed down because of infringement of copyright – the right given to creators or owners of the intellectual property to control what is done with their works and YouTube videos are removed. Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were more talked about for being found guilty by a US court of copying the late Marvin Gaye’s songs than for their musical talent (the court did not make any comments on the latter).

CC BY-NC-SA Chris Messina (cropped)
CC BY-NC-SA Chris Messina (Cropped ; Original picture on Flickr

And yet, I copy. Yes. You do too. We all copy. As you can imagine, I would never admit to doing anything illegal and I am certainly not accusing you, of committing any crimes either! That must mean there are cases where copying is right, legal and even encouraged. For example, you buy a CD, then copy it onto your computer, then copy all the tracks again on your MP3 player so you can listen to the album on the go. That is perfectly legal - and it has been very clearly so in the UK since the last changes to copyright law came into force in November 2014. So let’s see what the law does allow.

When it is legal to copy

-       Copyright does not last forever - even though new laws can change its duration, copyright has an end – in most cases, count 70 years after the end of the year in which the work’s creator died. What happens to the work after that? It enters the public domain – it belongs to everyone, and anyone can use it, without asking permission.

-       Copyright exceptions - the law recognises that there are cases when we do not need to ask for permission to re-use a work. For example, when we make a copy for private use (like with our CD), or we copy and publish an extract for review purposes, or when creating a parody of a famous picture by copying it and adding something humorous to it.

-       Open licenses - sometimes the copyright owner will publish their work and tell you it is fine for you to copy it without asking for their permission. The most common way to do this is to use Creative Commons licenses – like the ones on the pictures illustrating this post. CC BY-SA on the image below means “this work is licensed under a Creative Commons license; you can use it without asking for permission as long as you credit the author and share it under the same license”.

CC BY SA Nina Paley - Permission (2) CC BY-SA Nina Paley

Copying, business and innovation

But let’s get back to business. How does all this apply to you as an entrepreneur? When you create something, you are proud of its originality and inventiveness (and rightly so); you would be horrified if someone copied you. In business, entrepreneurs legitimately want to stop others from copying them: if a competitor copies your unique selling point, then how are you going to differentiate yourself in the market? In the Business & IP Centre Network and the other PATLIB centres you can discuss with an adviser how best to protect your creations against copying. We will tell you all about copyright, but also designs, patents and trade marks.

Some large companies, like Dyson, have an impressive intellectual property strategy to protect their ideas. However, other companies like the one behind the Sriracha sauce has a more lenient strategy and encourages others to use their product name in order to generate free advertising and Elon Musk recently announced that other companies are now welcome to copy and use Tesla’s patented technology. Each company needs to think about what is the right approach for their business.

There are also industries that thrive on a type of copying – one that is called “inspiration”. Think about fashion, music, art, etc. It poses some pertinent questions for business owners; how would you react to another business copying you? Would your reaction be different if you were copied by individuals? Do you think people who copy and share your content on social networks without your permission are right, or wrong? This World Intellectual Property Day take the opportunity to get informed and discuss the role of intellectual property to encourage and control innovation and enterprise in your business.

If you are not able to join us in Newcastle for Copying – right or wrong? on 27 April you can still follow the event on Twitter using #CmnsR4ever and let us know in the comments: what do you think? When is it right to copy? When is it wrong? What should be made legal / illegal in terms of copying?

Aude Charillon on behalf of the Business & IP Centre Newcastle

Aude is Library and Information Officer at the Business & IP Centre Newcastle and leads the Commons are Forever project, which aims to empower participants about our rights to use creative works that are free of copyright, and to in turn share what we create with others.

12 March 2015

A business boost for libraries

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Eric Pickles meets entrepreneur Guy Jeremiah at the British Library Business & IP Centre

The Department for Communities and Local Government and Arts Council England announced that they will dedicate £400,000 funding to support the British Library’s ambition to transform UK city libraries into hubs for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The British Library will also make a contribution of £253k in cash and non-cash resources.

The funding will provide a boost to enterprise in Exeter and Northamptonshire, enabling Exeter Central Library and Northamptonshire Libraries to pilot a Business & IP Centre service to support local entrepreneurs.

It will also enable the British Library to consolidate the network of Business & IP Centres already operational in six cities across the UK, and reinforce the important work the Centres do to engage local communities and disadvantaged groups in innovation and entrepreneurship.

The success of the British Library’s own Business & IP Centre service is evidence that libraries have an important role to play in helping businesses to innovate and grow: the London Centre has helped to create 2,775 businesses and an additional 3,345 jobs in new and existing businesses from 2005-2012. Overall, these businesses increased their turnover by £153 million, which in turn made a contribution of £47.1 million in GVA to London’s economy[1].

Libraries also have a strong record of attracting communities from a wide range of backgrounds; an estimated 41% of Enterprising Libraries participants are women, 38% are from BAME groups and 10% are currently unemployed.   

In the six Business & IP Centres already open around the UK (in Newcastle, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield), local entrepreneurs can receive face-to-face advice and training on how to start, protect or grow their business, and can access market research databases and other information out of reach for most SMEs.

Eric Pickles meets entrepreneur Marsha Brown at the British Library Business & IP Centre

Entrepreneur and recent success story of the Business & IP Centre network, Marsha Brown, used existing Northamptonshire business services (Library Plus Enterprise Hub and Northampton Enterprise Partnership) to set up her dress-making and design business ‘Solo Flair’ in 2012. As a result of the support she received, Marsha successfully expanded her customer base and now employs 3 part-time staff, while working around her family.  She now supports other new business start-ups and gives talks to local schools about starting a career and following your dreams. 

The British Library’s vision is that there will be a UK-wide network of Centres in libraries by the end of the decade, supporting local economic growth and innovation and providing free business support across the country.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said

Public libraries are of huge value to local communities. As familiar and trusted public places, and access points to vast amounts of free information, libraries also have powerful potential as engines of innovation and growth.

As outlined in the Living Knowledge vision published earlier this year, our ambition is to open 20 Business & IP Centres in public libraries across the UK by 2020.

It is hugely exciting to welcome the library teams in Exeter and Northamptonshire into the Business & IP Centre network, and I extend our thanks to both the Department of Communities and Local Government and Arts Council England for enabling us to take another key step towards our goal.”

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

The formal business environment can be an intimidating place, but it needn’t be. Enterprising Libraries give people from all backgrounds the opportunity to go and get free expert advice from their library, and receive the support they need to make the most of their great ideas.

“Local communities are untapped business resources – filled with capable and bright individuals who just need a helping hand. By extending the Enterprising Libraries funding today, we can help grow Britain’s ever expanding pool of entrepreneurial talent and ensuring that local economic growth is supported across the country.”

Brian Ashley, Director, Libraries, Arts Council England, said:

 “Libraries are an important part of all our lives, bringing communities together and also providing a vital hub for knowledge and information exchange. The success of the Business & IP Centres illustrates their important role in providing business support to those communities and we are pleased to be able to continue to support this work. This additional funding will build on the success of the Enterprising Libraries programme, sustaining the impact of this project to support more entrepreneurs across England.

1. Source: Adroit Economics, based on Seven Up Census, April 2012  

08 March 2015

Supporting female entrepreneurs

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Happy International Women’s Day to all! Here in the Business & IP Centre we have been successful in supporting female entrepreneurs and greatly increasing their chances of success.  Just last week we hosted ‘Celebrating Women in Business Conference’ organised and run by Enterprising Women. Enterprising Women are the largest national organisation solely focused on female enterprise. The conference brought together influential speakers in the run up to International Women’s Day including the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities’ and the Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham CH DL.

Inspired by successful women

We also run a series of major events called Inspiring Entrepreneurs, which feature a panel of role model entrepreneurs sharing their personal stories of setting up and running a business and giving their top tips to aspiring entrepreneurs.  The panels always include influential women including the late Dame Anita Roddick, Martha Lane Fox co-founder of, Kanya King founder of MOBO Awards, Julie Deane founder of the Cambridge Satchel and Cath Kidston to name but a few.

Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of

Of course International Women’s Day is a special celebration of achievement, but in the Centre we support women entrepreneurs all throughout the year - from that first spark of inspiration to starting up a business and growing it. Many women attend our regular programme of workshops, clinics and networking events surrounded by other entrepreneurs and small business owners. We have helped Dana Elemera founder of Arganic, Gemma Pearce founder of Loopwheels and Jessica Rose founder of the London Jewellery School among many more


Business & IP Centre by numbers 

  • Since we opened in 2006, we have welcomed over 400,000 people through the doors, including repeat visits
  • Delivered practical advice and training to over 50,000 people last year, 60% of those were women
  • The latest statistics from the Small Business Survey published by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills showed that only 1 in 5 businesses are owned by women
  • However, we helped to create 2,775 businesses over the period 2006-2012, of which 40% were owned by women, 29% by ethnic minority groups and 10% by disabled people

We are currently conducting another impact study so we expect the percentage of women to be even higher.


Across the country

We are now replicating the Business & IP Centre model across the country and have set up a network of six Centres in major city libraries, many of which are truly iconic buildings – they are accessible to all and some even have crèche facilities. Our latest stats show that our library partners have also been successful in attracting women, with exactly half of people attending workshops and one-to-one clinics being female and 30% being from ethnic minority groups.

Mandy Haberman, the inventor and founder of the non-spill AnyWayUp cup - cup, is just one of many successful female entrepreneurs who have used the Library to research and protect their idea, as well as learn the essential skills to set up and run a business.  She called the Centre a ‘safe house’ for inventors and entrepreneurs like herself. We’re open to all and we’ve got a great track record in supporting female entrepreneurs - do come and use our services. 

04 March 2015

Hiring – The Hardest Choice

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When is it a good time to employ someone for your new and growing business? This can be one of the most agonising decisions to make as a business owner and it can feel a risk that outweighs the reward.

In the last three years we’ve supported over 200 businesses on our Innovating for Growth programme at the British Library, and as a Relationship Manager I’ve had the privilege of seeing first-hand how this key decision can be the very thing that allows the business to grow to the next stage.

Why Employ?

There are only 24 hours in a day and we need a few of those hours to sleep, not least other commitments like family, friendships and dare I say some time to enjoy life outside the business! I’ve met a good number of super-heroes that some how juggle the lot, but the reality is that with so many spinning plates, one of them will eventually drop. Just hope that one of those plates doesn’t break the business itself!

So if you want the business to grow beyond being an artisan/owner, it’ll be you that needs to recruit.

Strategy advisor for Innovating for Growth, Uday Thakkar believes that what holds people back from employing people is a perception of too much risk.

“Is employing someone a cost or an investment? Your language often guides your perception of risk. An employee frees you to do more. An employee can do things better in areas where you are uncomfortable or unskilled. They assist the business to grow and increase profits. They should be regarded as an investment.”

Uday Thakkar

Who to Employ?

Writing a good job description is of course vital. It’s the means by which you attract the right candidates and it serves as defining what the job is all about by clearly outlining the required qualifications, experience and abilities you expect from the jobholder. This acts as a safeguard if you find a recruit doesn’t fulfill expectations too.

But it’s not always possible to get recruitment right first time because it’s not just finding a good employee; it’s finding one that fits the values and behaviours of the company itself. Not finding that match can take away time and energy rather than add it. By having a clear expectation of the role means you can measure performance and take action appropriately if needed.

Terry Morgan, Director of Debaere, a business who has been on Innovating for Growth, acknowledges this and says recruiting can be time consuming, especially if applicants aren’t necessarily committed. He has some hard earned advice.

“When we go through this process we try to provide as much information as we can on the style of business we are, the type of work expected and the general conditions of employment.”

But there is an up-side.  “When we do get a new starter it does work out for the better. It is good to add new blood to the mix of employees and sometimes they bring new skills or ideas that help the business grow. Patience is definitely required in recruiting and I would suggest using an agency for senior staff as they tend to do all the vetting for you.”



Richard Marshall, owner of Pall Mall Barbers, has grown his business from 1 employee in 2005 to 25 employees in ten years, expanding to three locations in central London with a fourth opening up soon in Liverpool Street. Richard knows all about the difficulties and benefits too and has some sage advice around selecting the right people.

Crucial for him are employees with the right attitude. “Choosing the right person pays dividends and will multiply the time you have.” 

How to Employ?

Richard has found that having a robust selection process really helps. He advertises, receives CVs, will find out more about the applicant by phone and then interviews them face to face. By then he’s satisfied he’s got a good match for the business. Richard offers more advice around managing recruitment, “wherever possible outsource. I’ve outsourced my HR functions to a company and receive proper advice on issues if any come up”. This gives Richard the time to build and expand the business which of course helps to safeguard the very jobs he’s created.


Front Traf Store (1)
Pall Mall Barbers

Getting it right with the right advice

I mentioned the risk of no return at the outset. Of course taking someone on is not without its risks but seeking out the right advice at the right time will save you hassle and money in the long run.

Uday again has a view on this;

“Most employees are taken on with at least a three month probation period. If someone isn’t performing or is good at disguising major shortcomings, despite CV reviews and interviews, we all reckon that within a few days we can make a pretty good judgment as to whether the person will fit in or not. So the maximum risk to you is 3 months – that is £9,000 even if you are reticent about showing them the door earlier. If you are brave (and you have to be to be a business owner) then you should be dealing with poor performers immediately. The cost is then likely to be a month or less – say £3,000. On the other hand a good employee will rapidly cover their “cost” and generate profits.”

There is, of course, help along the way. As a business owner you needn’t take the plunge in isolation. Stay connected with other businesses your size, talk to other business owners who have done what you’re doing. Where needed seek out legal help or HR advice.

The recent Business is Great campaign also provides some helpful guidance around what you need to know.

The Business & IP Centre already has a solid track record of supporting employment for our business users. Based on a 2012 survey we’ve helped created an additional 3,345 jobs, while on the Innovating for Growth programme each business on average has created at least one job and helped to secure their own sustainability. This allows for even more employment medium to long term. A good place to start in the Centre is to check out the COBRA business advice database.   It has some useful checklists for first time-employers.

And with a growing network of Business & IP Centres across the country that’s even more reason to check out what help you can receive at your local Centre. And if you’re an established London based business the Innovating for Growth programme could just be the thing for you to take to the next stage of growth. 

Micro-businesses’ massive contribution

There’s also something a lot bigger at play here and it has everything to do with the health of our economy. A whopping 96% of businesses in the UK are micro businesses that employ up to 9 people, with small businesses in total making 48% of private sector employment (source: BIS Business Population Estimates 2014). 

But we shouldn’t forget that statistics are real people, with hopes and dreams. Employment provides people with a future, an identity, self-esteem and opportunities to progress in life for them and those around them. And working for an SME can be a great opportunity to pick up a broad range of skills and insight if the employee is motivated to learn and be resourceful.

Recruit, yes or no? If you’re running out of hours in the day, am spending too much time on tasks that take you away from what you really want to do then it’s a question that can’t be ignored. With the right advice and timing, employing someone could well be break that brings new talent, time and opportunities.

Jeremy O’Hare is a Relationship Manager for the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme. Since joining the British Library in 2005 he has worked with countless businesses, facilitating advice and research as well as providing workshops and information advice for start-ups and established businesses.

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Innovating for Growth is run by the British Library and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund 


Take part in our survey and help shape our future!

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As a valued user of the British Library Business & IP Centre and its services, we would like to hear from you about the difference we have made to you and your business – by taking part in our survey.

Your participation is crucial in helping to secure future funding and ensuring that we continue to meet your needs.

We would be extremely grateful if you would spend 5-7 minutes to complete this questionnaire, which aims to evaluate the Enterprising Libraries programme, jointly supported by the British Library, Arts Council England and Department for Communities & Local Government.  The Enterprising Libraries Programme includes the Business & IP Centre national network and ten satellite library projects.

The findings will be analysed by Adroit Economics (an independent market research company) and used to demonstrate our economic and social impact and generate funding for future projects and services. Your responses and contact information will be treated in the strictest confidence and will not be shared in any form with anyone else without your permission.

As an incentive, your name will be entered into a prize draw and you could be one of 5 people to win an iPad Air 2.

Click here to complete the survey by 14 April 2015.

If you have any questions about the survey please contact Christina Murphy