THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

88 posts categorized "British Library"

05 July 2017

How Intellectual Property helped Julie Deane start a £10 million business from her kitchen table

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Wednesday 5 July 2017 is British IP Day – a welcome opportunity to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of Intellectual Property.

So many small businesses lack IP awareness and understanding, but IP is something of an unsung hero and can prove critical in making or breaking a business.

The Business & IP Centre team are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and SMEs understand what IP is and why it’s important, what IP they might have created and how they might increase their business success and profitability by protecting and exploiting that IP in the future. Over the years the team have supported thousands of small businesses unlock the value of their IP, and much of the support we provide in the Centre uses case studies and real-life stories to demonstrate how having a handle on your IP gives you a huge commercial advantage.

One such example is Julie Deane OBE, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company, who has taken her business from the kitchen table and a £600 start-up budget to a global success story with a turnover of £10 million. Along the way Julie has overcome numerous business challenges including managing designers, manufacturers and overseas distributors, establishing web and physical retail sites around the globe and dealing with thousands of imitator brands. Here, in a free 30 minute podcast with the Intellectual Property Office, Julie lays the truth bare on how she’s developed strategies to tackle copycat websites, build the brand, keep putting the quality of the product at the heart of the business and “hang on to the passion that made you start the business in the first place.”

 

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Whether it’s British IP Day’ or just a normal day, here are our 3 ‘top tips’ for what you need to know when it comes to your Intellectual Property:

  1. Think about trade marks - Is your business name protectable in the countries that you wish to trade? Is it already being used or does the word have another meaning in a different country. Future investors will want to know that you have the rights to trade in the countries that they wish to trade in, and you need to consider this right from the start to give your business the best chance of success.
  2. If you’re creating a ‘thing’ - Do your research before filing for a patent; is there a market for your product? It is expensive and takes a long time to protect your idea so make sure you do your market research and can be confident that somebody will buy it at the end of the day. If you have paid for your product to be patented and want somebody to manufacture it for you, you also need to ensure you have agreements in place limiting their rights to your initial idea or design.
  3. Founder’s agreement - It is easy to set out a document with your business partner right at the start when setting up your business agreeing things like % of ownership and what should happen in the case of a dispute, or if one of you wish to sell then business and the other one doesn’t. Once a dispute has started it is much harder and messier so you need to make sure all parties are clear on this from day one.

You can find further help, support and information on IP in any of the eleven Business & IP Centres up and down the country, including the British Library in King’s Cross. Speak to any one of our specialist staff face-to-face, over the phone or by email. You can also log on to our free of charge online workshops to grow your knowledge about IP, and increase your chances of business success.

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Julie Deane in the Business & IP Centre

 Julie Deane is Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library and a huge champion for ambitious business owners. She is set to give even more advice and practical tips on 11 July at the Library’s Scale-up Summit alongside Will Butler-Adams, CEO of Brompton Bicycles. Cambridge Satchel and Brompton recently launched a range of colour-matching bags and bikes where the satchel fitted perfectly to the handlebars. This ‘made-in-heaven’ brand match caught the attention of the press and delivered extremely high sales. Will and Julie will be giving the opening keynote presentation on ‘Getting your business in the media’ which is not to be missed.

Book your ticket here.

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The Cambridge Satchel Company / Brompton Bikes collaboration

 

 

30 June 2017

How the British Library can help you turbocharge your business

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By Isabel Oswell, Head of Business Audiences at The British Library

The Business & IP Centre officially opened in March 2006 and over the past eleven years, we have welcomed over 650,000 business owners through our doors. The Centre is a front-door to business support, combining access to the UK’s largest collection of business data, intellectual property and market research resources (worth in excess of £5 million) with free and low-cost training, one-to-one advice  and referrals, all located in a welcoming, inspiring and accessible space at the heart of the British Library.

When we first launched, we found that the majority of our users were either very early stage businesses or pre-starts.  Aspiring entrepreneurs would come into the Centre to make use of the extensive range of resources to help them research their markets, identify their potential customer base and determine whether their start-up idea ‘had legs’ before deciding whether to take the plunge and enter the world of entrepreneurship. Our team of trained business information specialists and expert delivery partners further supported this community of start-ups and pre-starts, helping them to get their ideas off the ground by offering training on a range of business topics including writing a business plan, funding and marketing.

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Our changing user base

As the Centre has matured, however, so has our user base and we now cater to a growing community of scaling businesses in addition to supporting new enterprises.  Many of the businesses that were supported by the Centre as they took their first tentative steps continue to return to use our resources as more mature companies who are encountering a whole new set of challenges as they seize opportunities to maximize their growth and reach their potential These include business owners like Paul Lindley – who used the Centre to start and grow the Ella’s Kitchen baby food range – and Shaun Pulfrey, founder of the revolutionary Tangle Teezer hair brushes and styling range. Our service has evolved to support the needs of scale-up businesses and to ensure that start-ups with high growth potential get timely access to the resources, training and expertise that they need to scale their business in a sustainable way. This has included introducing our flagship scale-up support offer Innovating for Growth, an ERDF funded programme giving scaling businesses access to three months of bespoke consultancy support to help them develop and implement a growth strategy. Innovating for Growth has been running for four years and in that time has supported over 320 businesses to increase their turnover and create new jobs for the UK economy.

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How can the British Library help you scale up your business?

We understand that scaling businesses need immediate access to practical advice and guidance across key areas including branding, exporting, raising finance and leadership, and questions related to these issues crop up time and time again at our events and during the consultancy sessions on Innovating for Growth.  But we also know that fast growth businesses are time-poor and don’t always necessarily have the capacity to commit to a longer term programme or to visit the Centre on a regular basis.

For these reasons, our users have called upon the Library to convene a one-day Scale-up Summit, help growing small businesses achieve their potential by giving them the opportunity to put their questions to role model founders and unpick the practical steps they took to make their good business into a great business. This flagship event brings together prominent entrepreneurs, Business & IP Centre case studies and industry experts including The ScaleUp Institute to share the skills and insight that small businesses need to scale up, drive innovation and create jobs.

The event has been specifically programmed to address the four key issues that we know affect business growth, and we’ve brought together carefully chosen keynote speakers along with experienced, expert panellists to explore these issues in-depth and answer your burning questions.  Content includes sessions on getting your business in the media, building a terrific team and identifying export opportunities and will give you the takeaways, practical hints, tips and advice that will help you hack your business growth.

We passionately believe that Libraries are the ideal place not just to start your business, but to scale it too. As your business grows it’s more important than ever to know your customers, be aware of market trends and understand the needs of potential new audiences both in the UK and overseas.  The Business & IP Centre gives small businesses a commercial edge by offering free access to the type of market intelligence that is usually reserved for large corporations. These resources, combined with our workshops and training sessions, allow entrepreneurs to interpret and apply data to real-life business decisions, making the British Library the perfect place to kick-start your business growth.

Scale-up Summit takes place on Tuesday, July 11, 2017 (09.30-18.30) and is a unique opportunity to turbo-charge your business.  Tickets cost just £40.00 including lunch and a networking reception.

Click here to download your full Scale-up Summit schedule

We are delighted to be working with our partners at London Growth Hub and Lucidica to offer ambitious entrepreneurs this unique opportunity to come face-to-face with business leaders, network with peers, share intelligence, spark ideas, find out what drives business growth and increase their odds of scale-up success.

 

18 May 2017

Seven tips for standing out at a trade show

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In the week of The London Business Show, our corporate partner Vistaprint have put together this list of tips for you to put into practice whenever you attend or exhibit at trade shows to make sure your attendance generates a healthy return on investment.

If you don’t have the advantage of an exhibition stand to draw the crowds, attending a trade show can still be a cost-effective way to build your brand and uncover new business opportunities. Just remember the following advice:

 

  1. Order plenty of business cards


Getting your business cards in the hands of as many people as possible should be a major objective of your trade show visit. Your business cards should catch the eye, use bold colours, and reinforce your brand identity and key value proposition.

There’s an almost unlimited choice of combinations of size, shape, colour, material and finish to choose from when it comes to designing business cards and each choice can be used to send subtle clues about your brand to potential customers. For example, if your business sells eco-friendly products then an organic business card with rustic appearance will help reinforce your environmental credentials.

You can also make your business card useful by incorporating valuable information into the design. For example, an email marketing company could use the back of their business card to show the best times for sending email newsletters. Just make sure your contact information remains clear and legible. Vistaprint has lots of tips for designing business cards that not only stand out, but increase the chances that your prospective customers will hang on to them.

  1. Promote the event

You might feel like the exhibition organisers have the promotion of the event well-covered, but why leave anything to chance? Not only will a well-attended trade show increase your chances of finding customers, but if you manage to prompt a few of your potential customers to attend via your blog and social media posts, they’ll be a lot more likely to hunt you down at the exhibition. Most trade shows will use a hashtag for promotion in the run up to, and during, the event. Use it to let attendees know you’ll be there and invite them to meet up.

  1. Dress to impress

It might sound obvious, but your attire should inspire confidence and trust in your target audience. This doesn’t necessarily mean dressing up in your finest business suit. If your customers are more interested in your technical skills, then a branded polo shirt might be a better look (and another opportunity to reinforce brand identity). Purveyors of health and beauty products might do better with clean, crisp whites, which are associated with hygiene and medical expertise.

When you’re exhibiting

Exhibiting at a trade show can be a costly undertaking.  Pitched alongside lots of other businesses vying for the attention of attendees, it takes creativity and planning to make sure you stand out from the crowd and walk away with as many new sales leads as possible. Follow these tips to maximise your impact and generate a healthy batch of new business opportunities.

  1. Catch the eye

At a large trade show, there will be hundreds of exhibitors trying to attract potential customers to their stands, so it’s essential that your little patch of real estate is easy to spot and looks enticing. Use bold colours on posters and banners and make sure the text is large enough to be read from across the exhibition hall (this will also keep your marketing messages short and succinct). If there’s an opportunity to show your promotional videos, advertisements or product demonstrations on a video screen, take it – moving images are great for capturing people’s attention.

Whatever tactic you use to catch the eye make sure it’s appropriate to your products and services. Everything at your stand should reinforce your branding and your key value proposition for customers.

  1. Use lead magnets

Lead magnets are high-value giveaways, like branded sweatshirts, printed books, or free trials of your product or service that can be offered in exchange for sitting through a sales pitch. The real challenge at a trade show is converting passers-by who are vaguely interested in your wares into paying customers, or sales-ready leads. Lead magnets buy you the time you need to accomplish this feat. Just remember to collect the contact details of your new leads.

  1. Take your best salespeople

There’s very little point bringing people to your stand if you don’t have the ability to persuade them to make a purchase or leave their details. Take only your most successful sellers and keep them motivated to stay approachable and friendly all day long. Make sure you have enough people to keep the stand manned all day and provide regular breaks so that energy levels don’t flag towards the end.

Whether you’re exhibiting or attending don’t forget the golden rule of dealing with new business opportunities:

  1. Follow up new leads quickly!

Getting the most out of your trade show appearance doesn’t just mean generating as many leads as possible but also converting as many of those leads as possible into actual sales. The best outcome would be to close sales or make appointments at the show itself, but it’s more likely that you’ll walk away with lots of contact details of potential customers who you couldn’t convert. The sooner you follow up with these prospects, preferably by phone, the more likely they are to remember you and give you another chance to convince them.

Vistaprint are a Corporate Partner of the British Library’s Business & IP Centre

04 April 2017

How do you choose the right domain extension for your business?

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Choosing the right domain name for your new business is a challenge in itself: in addition to your brand identity, you also need to take into account SEO considerations, which is essential if you want to be found online. Then, once you’ve chosen the name, which extension should you go for? This is a separate deliberation as domain extensions will affect the performance of your website in the long run. So how do you choose what’s right for you?

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Here are some top tips from our partner UK2 about domain extensions and how to choose one for your business:

1 The .com: an all-time favourite

PROS: Nearly 50% of all websites end in .com - it is the most trusted top-level domain, or TLD, on the market, and new internet users will gravitate towards typing that extension before even considering having a second look at the website’s name they are trying to access. What is also worth considering is your geographic audience. If you have or are planning to have many international visitors, they will also feel at ease with the .com extension, viewing it as a professional and trusted business address.

CONS: Due to the extensive popularity of the .com extension, the chances are that the domain name you want to register is already taken. In order to buy a .com domain name, you will have to become creative. A unique and quirky brand name is far more likely to be available for registration in comparison to descriptive website domain names. For example, the brand name “Phuture.com” is more likely to be available than “futureinvestments.com”.

2 .co.uk vs .uk

PROS: The .co.uk and the newer .uk domain extensions are part of the geographic identity group, such as .fr for France, .de for Germany, etc. This gives your website an edge when it comes to Google searches. Google claim they prioritise location domain extensions for a given country’s searches. For example, a website ending in .com will appear less often in Google UK than the equivalent ending in .co.uk or .uk. To promote the .uk era, UK2 is offering all .uk domain names for £1 for the first year, starting from April 1st, 2017. Don’t miss out!

CONS: We have all become used to seeing .co.uk and identify it as this country’s area code. The introduction of .uk was aimed at providing a shorter and neater version, comparable to the other country suffixes such as .com. With time, however, a neat .uk domain name will be just as desirable as the .com, don’t you think?

  1. Are you a .london-er?

PROS: Being synonymous with our great capital London is without a doubt a marketing tool not to be dismissed. But at the same time, registering a .london domain name will not magically send your website to the top Google search results. A .london suffix is effectively a branding tool; it will create a very strong identity for your business.

CONS: It is worth keeping in mind that your business plans might end up growing beyond Greater London. If you do venture further, perhaps even internationally, then having a .london domain extension could be limiting and misleading. This again depends on your branding strategy.

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  1. New GTLDs to consider: for example, .earth, .online, .pet

PROS: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is releasing more and more new TLDs to meet the world’s demand of going online. Domain suffixes such as .online clearly state that such a website does business purely online. It can also help differentiate between physical businesses and virtual ones, as some users actively seek out the latter. The .earth domain suffix is great for anything and everything environmental and holistic, which makes quite an impact. And who wouldn’t love a .pet? Vets, animal trainers and behaviourists, and all things pet-related would be clearly identifiable. As there are quite a few TLDs to choose from, chances are that the already taken .com version is still available on your domain suffix of choice.

CONS: The main downside to being adventurous is that new domain extensions haven’t yet earned their trust amongst internet surfers. Many of us are still a bit wary of online dangers and if something doesn’t look familiar then we tend to steer clear of it. But as with all things new, it just takes one person to take the risk and start the flow, and suddenly the popularity and trust will develop.

So what is the conclusion of all of the considerations above?

  • If you can, you should always register more than one extension for your chosen domain. In an ideal world, get the .com and .co.uk (or .uk), and a TLD that is relevant to your area of business, such as .pet. Registering more than one option will give you flexibility for the future.
  • If your business model is clearly defined within a given boundary, such as a local London club, you could either go for the .london or .club extension, depending on which part of the branding you wish to emphasise. Sometimes it pays off to be bold and daring.
  • Costs - when creating your business plan make sure to retain some budget for domain name registrations. Some exotic TLDs are more expensive than others and initially, you might want to register a few, which requires a decent budget. You will have to consider the risk of not registering a domain name and then later having to buy it off someone else, which will be more expensive. Just keep it in mind.
  • Even if the .com is still topping the TLD chart, with so many new websites going live every day, there will eventually be a tipping point. And when that moment comes, the popularity of new TLDs will skyrocket - so strike while the iron’s hot; it’s always better to register one domain extra than one too few.

Are you ready to register your domain name with UK2 today? Click here for our special .uk offer in partnership with the Business & IP Centre.

03 March 2017

Getting your business ready to compete in a digital age

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Gori Yahaya is the founder of UpSkill Digital and is also a delivery partner at the Business & IP Centre. His company specialises in providing bespoke workshops that focus on improving the digital skills of small businesses, charities and young people across the UK.

For most businesses today the internet has become a vital tool in helping them to grow and prosper. However, there are many companies that lack the necessary digital skills to compete effectively in the modern business world.

We caught up with Gori to find out how UpSkill Digital is helping to buck this trend.

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UpSkill Digital focuses on improving the digital skills of small businesses, charities and young people. What made these three groups of particular interest to you?

I’ve had the pleasure of training a variety of audiences for Google over the years and these three groups stood out to me as having the largest need for digital skills in the UK. Small businesses truly drive the UK economy and almost half of them don't have websites or the necessary skills to succeed in the digital age. There is a similar statistic for charities across the UK and for many it’s down to a lack of confidence and ease of access to affordable training. As for young people, there is a common misconception that every young person has an innate understanding of all things digital. Many of them are proficient with digital products for personal use but often have no idea how to harness their digital savviness in a professional setting. This really drives us at UpSkill Digital, because we want to unlock the true potential of these digital natives and empower them with practical skills to help businesses grow.

What are the key areas of digital marketing that small businesses and entrepreneurs should be aware of?

With the digital age moving so fast, it’s often hard for businesses to keep up. One of the key areas that businesses are keen to learn more about is Google Analytics. The power of data to help businesses succeed and understand their customers is underestimated by many and the idea of deep diving into the data still seems very daunting to many small business owners. We launched our hands-on Google Analytics session to really help entrepreneurs get to grips with, and take action on, their data. The other area businesses often find it difficult to nail is Social Media for business. Most people are aware of how social media has changed the way we engage with our friends, family and even companies, but building a social media presence and content strategy to help you engage and sell, needs a little more guidance. Outside of these two, the big focus is mobile marketing as we’re truly living in a mobile world so you need to ensure your online presence is built to engage through smartphones.

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What did you do before UpSkill Digital and could you ever see yourself returning to it?

Before UpSkill Digital and, perhaps even before my time spent working and consulting in digital marketing, I used to run and manage experiential events for large brands, from product launches to PR stunts. I loved it, and I’m still keen to help out with a major event when it comes up. I’ve managed to combine this event management experience with my love of digital training by running our training roadshows across the UK, so I do feel like I’ve found a great balance.

Have you always wanted to become an entrepreneur or is it something that just happened?

I still find the definition of an entrepreneur can differ between people. I feel like I’ve always had an entrepreneurial approach as I find there’s nothing more rewarding than creating something out of nothing and solving a problem whilst doing so. Having worked for myself for well over a decade now, I’ve experienced many highs and low with different start-ups and had a few failures along the way. You truly start to appreciate your entrepreneurial nature once when you notice how you learn and bounce back from the difficult moments.

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What’s next for Upskill Digital?

At our core UpSkill Digital is a training agency that aims to make digital education fun, memorable and practical. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with great partners such as Google and the British Library to help train a large number of small business owners and entrepreneurs in digital skills and we’ve had lots of interest in expanding our training workshops to other vital areas of business, such as presentation and sales skills. We’ve also embarked on a good model with our roadshows to help plug the digital skills gap, and there are some interesting government initiatives in the pipeline that we’re hoping to support.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Being an entrepreneur can be a wild and rocky ride and you’ll need all the help you can get. Leverage your friends, family and any contacts you make along the way to help you. We’re often reluctant to ask for help but we’re happy to give it when asked, so don’t be afraid to ask. Improve your productivity with to-do lists; they have been a lifesaver for me. I like to carry a notebook around with me and will often take notes and prioritise things on a list to ensure I’m not procrastinating. Finally, keep learning. I’ve always been fascinated by our capacity to learn and, more importantly, how we use this information to further or better ourselves, our careers and our businesses.

As part of the 'DoItDigital' campaign, The British Library and its national network of Business & IP Centres has pledged to support 10,000 UK small businesses to learn new digital skills in 2017.

To book your place on an UpSkillDigital workshop or to find out more about the Business & IP Centre’s workshops, one-to-ones and business support, visit:  http://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre

24 February 2017

Internet Icons: Creating big business online

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On Tuesday 7 February 2017, we hosted a panel discussion - Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons - which was moderated by journalist and TV broadcaster, Nadine Dereza. On the night we were joined by Ella Mills of Deliciously Ella, Rupert Hunt of Spare Room, Sarah Wood of Unruly and Aron Gelbard of Bloom & Wild. The event was also live screened to all 10 of the Business & IP Centre’s across the country, as well as a webcast to viewers across the world.

About the speakers

Deliciously Ella – Ella's business empire began with a blog and quickly developed into a popular brand. Her entrepreneurial rise has seen the opening of two London-based deli’s, four published books and the development of her own food range.

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SpareRoom – Rupert Hunt created the UK’s busiest flatshare site, SpareRoom.com which receives over two million hits a month. The company has now expanded its services to the United States and can be used all over America.

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Bloom & Wild – Aron Gelbard is the co-founder of Bloom & Wild. His company has redefined the online flower delivery service, delivering pristine flowers without the recipient needing to be at home. Bloom & Wild has been rated as the top online flower delivery service in the UK and developed the leading flower delivery app.

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Unruly – Sarah Wood is the co-founder and CEO of the video ad-tech company, Unruly. Assisting companies to create unique online video content since 2006 Unruly provides a platform that helps brands to reach an audience of 1.44 billion.

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A powerful tool for business growth

With the internet playing such a vital role in the modern business world, it is important for business owners to learn how four very different companies harnessed the power of the internet to scale up and grow successfully. When considering the statistics, it’s no surprise that more and more businesses are going online and as Isabel Oswell, Head of Business Audiences at the British Library, explained, “90% of people connected online in the UK, three-quarters of these have bought online and the online retail market continues to grow by 15-20% each year”. For most businesses today ignoring the internet is no longer an option, and with numbers like these, why would they?

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The Myth of the Big Idea

The audience was keen to quiz the online trailblazers who weren’t shy in offering wise words of advice for our budding entrepreneurs. Each of them drew from their own unique experiences to answer a variety of relevant questions, covering everything from surviving knock-backs to how social media can help businesses to grow.

Both Rupert Hunt and Sarah Wood were keen to stress that the myth of ‘the big idea’ was something that entrepreneurs had to be wary of when trying to start up. Rupert’s position was clear, “don’t get hung up on the big idea, get to the market and let the market guide you”. Indeed, the internet provides the perfect platform for many small businesses to gauge how their prospective customers feel about their products and services.  If they react well, you’ll quickly know that you’re on to something - and, even if the response is not what you expected, you’ll be able to learn how to improve what you do for your target audience. Sarah expanded on this point, explaining how Unruly started out as an online sharing board in 2006 but quickly noticed that the video content posted always had the most online engagement. Noticing this trend in audience behaviour, encouraged the company to create a ‘top 100 chart’ for online video content and, in turn, led to big brands wanting their videos featured. Today, Unruly is one of the biggest names in online advertising and works with 91% of the Ad 100 brands. It is also active in 20 locations worldwide and was acquired by News Corp in 2015.

The Power of Social Media

For most small businesses, developing a strong and loyal fan base of millions may seem unrealistic at best. However, we now have the online tools to reach people from far and wide with engaging and unique content. Ella drew on her own entrepreneurial journey advising the audience to, “never underestimate the power of social media when building your audience and business”. Having battled through a traumatic illness, Ella had changed her diet and lifestyle as a means of improving her health. After receiving encouragement to write a blog post for her friends and family, she quickly noticed that there were many people who were interested in what she had to say. The frequent engagement with her online followers quickly established a platform from which a successful business could be built. Deliciously Ella has now become a popular brand in its own right and has seen the development of a successful bricks and clicks business.

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A big boost for small business

The panel was keen to stress how the internet can also make it much easier for small businesses to enter already established markets. Both Bloom & Wild and SpareRoom transformed their respective markets by developing solutions to age-old problems. Rupert spoke of how the ‘crazy housing market’ in London had inspired his business idea to develop an online tool that would work much like a match-making site for renters. Having experienced the London rental market himself, he used his knowledge to focus on making a product that saved renters money and matched them with people they would get along with. The platform has proven to be so popular that SpareRoom currently has over 7 million registered users, and helps one person every three minutes to find a flatmate in the UK. Having conquered the UK, SpareRoom has set up shop in America and is already close to reaching a quarter of a million users in the United States.  

Learn as you earn

Similarly, Aron Gelbard of Bloom & Wild entered a market with large established companies but was able to successfully promote its unique selling point to a large online audience. For Aron, the success of Bloom & Wild only cemented his belief that simple day-to-day things can lead to successful business ideas, and although he had made a few mistakes along the way, he was keen to urge our audience to “carry on learning” as they embarked on their entrepreneurial journeys.

Want to hear from more entrepreneurs who’ve shaken the business world? Hear the co-founder of Lonely Planet, Tony Wheeler, speak on the trip of a lifetime which inspired this now global brand. With over 130 million travel guides in 14 different languages, Lonely Planet is the biggest travel publisher in the world. Its humble beginnings may surprise some, but it is a reminder to us all that today’s small businesses have the potential to be tomorrow’s big brands. Taking place on 27 February, this is a 'must attend' event – book your ticket here.  

06 February 2017

Get your bid in now for the Momentum Music Fund

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Momentumlogo288x257We see quite a lot of musicians in the Business & IP Centre for help with their business ventures.

And we have lots of information to help them available through our Music Industry Guide.

So it is good to hear that the Momentum Music Fund are offering grants of £5k-£15k for artists and bands to help them break through to the next level. The money comes via the PRS for Music Foundation using Arts Council England funds and in association with Spotify. The intention is to support talented artists to develop their recording, writing, performing and touring ambitions.

The next deadline is 21st February, so if you get a move on you can still apply here

Neil Infield  on behalf of Business & IP Centre

 

26 January 2017

Vicki Psarias on how blogging gave her the confidence to be a successful mum and entrepreneur.

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Vicki Psarias is a screenwriter, director and the founder of the immensely popular blog, Honest Mum. Having already had a successful career as a screenwriter, Vicki began blogging after the birth of her first child in 2010. Her personal and honest writing resonated with mothers all over the globe, and she soon found that Honest Mum had an online following in the tens of thousands.

The Honest Mum blog had started as a means of talking about Vicki’s personal journey as a mother. However, it quickly became so popular that it created a visible and identifiable brand by itself. The passion that Vicki has for motherhood has meant that this has proven to be a win-win situation, providing her with the opportunity to be both an ambitious entrepreneur and a loving mother. If you’d like to hear more about Vicki’s journey and the Honest Mum story, you can book your place for ‘Turn Your Passion into Pounds’ today. 

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Hi Vicki, you’re a screenwriter, director, blogger and mother. How do you do it?

When it comes to how do I do it all, I have to attribute being incredibly organised and strict with my time and energy to achieving 'the juggle' most days. Some days you’ll see me congratulating myself at achieving balance in work and family life, other days I feel like I'm failing at everything. I've accepted this is part of being a working mother.

 I have a super manager in Neil at Insanity who makes sure I don't get overwhelmed with projects and whose advice is invaluable to me. Schedule-wise, I design my life and work so I get the most time possible with my kids whilst running my company and personal brand.  My husband and I are equal in every way too as it should be so we share the load with our kids.

I don't see any limits now to my creative pursuits whereas pre-blogging, I used to limit myself somewhat. I felt I couldn't veer off from directing. Technology has shown me it doesn't have to be that way and I love that I have a portfolio career.

Your background is in screenwriting and film. What inspired you to start your blog, Honest Mum?

I felt lost and alone after a traumatic birth with my first child in November 2010, and it was a filmmaker friend of mine Amancay Tapia who actually encouraged me to start a blog at a time there were very few worldwide. I would recount stories of new motherhood and she nagged me until I bought a domain name to share these stories with the world. I owe her so much.

Within weeks I was approached by forward-thinking brands to collaborate with them and despite a stint directing commercials, by the time I was pregnant with my second son two years later, I was working as a blogger in an accidental career I adored.

My blog helped me to rediscover my voice and slowly my confidence. Along with social media, it also gave me a new tribe of women who understood what I was going through. Blogging is such a liberating way to connect with others. You write, publish and connect.

 Having achieved so much already, how do you continue to stay motivated?

Thank you, it's funny I rarely look back and reflect on past achievements as I endlessly push onwards towards the next goal. My kids motivate me. I want to prosper for them. I have to write to feel content and I love the long form of writing my first book. It's going to be utterly surreal to see it in the shops. It's a joy working with my editor Jillian at Piatkus/Little Brown who is publishing my book, and my literary agent Robyn at Diane Banks Associates.

More and more women are taking the plunge and becoming entrepreneurs. Why do you think this is happening?

We won't put up with the inequalities of the workforce and are fighting back. Technology allows us to make our careers work for our families. Many women are creating side jobs they nurture alongside their main careers, watching them grow before going full-time. I always say that new businesses benefit from a maternity leave, baby or not, a period of time where you can develop and grow your 'baby' giving your business the time and energy it needs to thrive. Working digitally offers a flexible, well paid, empowering way to do what you love. For me, it's offered the solution I was looking for when working in traditional media meant I wouldn't have much time with my child. My screenwriting and directing skills (as well as the fact I used to edit a film magazine) gave me the perfect foundation in which to launch my own blog and personal brand.

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What would be your key piece of advice for an aspiring entrepreneur?

Work on self-belief. Fake it until you make it. The brain is malleable so the more you tell yourself you can achieve the greater chance you have of taking risks, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and reaching your goals. With every small milestone met comes greater confidence until it builds and builds and becomes second nature. Confidence becomes your default. When you believe in yourself, others will follow. Importantly, learn from your mistakes and never give up. Talent plus tenacity equals success.

 Are there skills that you have gained as a mother that have helped you as an entrepreneur?

Yes, definitely. Prioritising, for one, as having kids has helped me focus on what matters in life and in business. Also, taking calculated risks where possible, motherhood has made me more fearless, for sure. Surviving sleep deprivation and a traumatic birth, once I'd recovered, strengthened me. Kids have definitely made me more ambitious- they drive me to succeed. Vitally, I now have a perspective I didn't have pre-kids. I don't sweat the small stuff.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

Firstly, the relationship I have with my family, and then my creative career. Touchingly, co-founder of BritMums, Susanna Scott recently said this about me, 'Vicki is a ground-breaking blogger and vlogger, always pushing boundaries - and glass ceilings - through her voice and great work. She's the closest the UK has to Dooce and I can't wait to see what she does next!’ Receiving praise from those I respect like Susanna, and above everything, emails from others informing me that my work has inspired them to start blogs and businesses are the most rewarding part of my job. It reminds me I'm on the right track.

Vicki will be joined by the Public Relations guru, Jessica Huie and a panel of outstanding business women including, Jo Morell, Natasha Courtenay-Smith and Alison Jones. Don’t miss your chance to hear how these women made it to the top of their respective industries at our ‘Turn You Passion into Pounds’ event.

12 January 2017

Deliciously Ella: How to create a business empire with a blog

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Ella Woodward is the founder of Deliciously Ella and one of our panel members for upcoming event Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons. Her recent rise has been astronomical and, through the power of social media, she has created a powerful online brand. Ella's ascent is made even more extraordinary by the fact that she was diagnosed with a serious illness in 2011 and also suffered from depression. During this difficult period, Ella decided that she would adopt a healthier lifestyle and began to blog about her journey. She could not have imagined how a blog that was meant for friends and family, would change her life and create a business empire. You can find out more about her amazing story and ask the questions you want to be answered at Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons but before then we asked her some of our burning questions.  

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Hi Ella! What was the inspiration behind Deliciously Ella?

I got very ill back in 2011 with a condition that affected my autonomic nervous system and left me mostly bed bound struggling with a whole host of physical symptoms, as well as depression and a real feeling of isolation. I became interested in the power of diet and lifestyle and began exploring that area, learning to cook and documenting my journey on a blog. The blog grew organically and I decided to try and turn it into a business. I started with an app, then a book, then three more books, two delis and a line of products. It’s been a crazy few years – challenging but incredible. I wanted to show that eating well should be fun and enjoyable. We all know we should eat our five a day, and I want to give people a way of doing this that they love and that they’re excited to share with their friends and family. Too often, when we want to be healthy, it leads to us feeling deprived and feeling we can’t socialize. I want to show it should be the total opposite.

The internet has really helped your business to grow. Did you ever think you’d have such a huge online following?

Not at all. The blog was only ever meant to be for me, my mum and my friends! Social media has been a huge help to me and I think it’s definitely an interesting angle for any business. It allows you to grow a huge audience with absolutely no budget, which is ideal when you’re getting started and want to test out ideas with instant feedback. It’s a completely 24/ 7 platform, it never takes a break, and I find I always need to be aware of what’s happening there so that I can react to current thoughts and trends.

Eating clean is a popular concept at the moment. What does this mean to you?

I don’t like the term ‘clean’ because it implies that you’re dividing food into two categories: ‘good’ and ‘bad’/‘clean’ and ‘dirty’, which I think is incredibly negative, and only works to further fuel the idea that food is something that should inflict feelings of guilt, which I fundamentally disagree with. In contrast, I feel one of the most pressing issues, especially for women, is to remove the long-standing feeling of guilt associated with meal times and instead find a sustainable, enjoyable way to live. I want to celebrate eating natural food, showing people how to get their 5-a-day in an interesting way. According to recent studies, only 1 in 4 of us reach that 5 a day aim, and with everything we’re doing, I hope to contribute to changing this statistic. 

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How did you deal with your blog becoming so successful, so quickly?

It was all very surreal. It really happened so quickly and very unexpectedly. I’m just incredibly grateful every day to have the opportunities that I have, to share what I’m passionate about and get people excited about eating more broccoli! To begin with, I felt there was a lot of pressure and responsibility and I wasn’t completely prepared for that. It felt like a huge learning curve, and I spent a lot of time just trying to keep on top of everything as I was pretty much working by myself without any support at all. I’ve learnt a huge amount over the last few years though and I’ve been able to scale up my team. We’re now a team of nearly 60, and I couldn’t appreciate them more – they’re the heartbeat of the business and we’d never be where we are without them.

Finally, what would be your key piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur?

My three pieces of advice would be to lose your ego, be an eternal optimist and focus on building the best team you can.

I think you have to be an eternal optimist to be a successful entrepreneur; you just have to have blind faith that you can make it work, even when it seems impossible – and no matter how successful things may look, everyone has numerous impossible moments. Running your own business means new challenges every day and you have to be able to see these challenges as hurdles, rather than insurmountable walls. You have to know that you can overcome them and most importantly, you have to seek out the solution instantly, rather than focusing on the problem itself. As soon as you can see each of these hurdles as chances to get better and to learn, rather than as mistakes, you’ll grow so much quicker.

You also have to lose your ego – we all have one, but I really think you have to find a way to put it to one side if you want to run your own company. You have to be open to constructive criticism, you need to listen to everyone, especially your customers, and adjust what you do accordingly. It’s easy to think that your way is the right way, especially when it’s your own company, but there are always ways to make what you’re doing better, and taking everyone’s views into account is essential if you want to do that. Never stop asking questions, trying to get better and grow as much as you can – you and your company can always be better than you are at any moment.

Hire the best people that you can, make sure they have experience and knowledge in the areas that you have the biggest gaps in. Trust them from the get go and give them as much autonomy as you can to really go and build the business with you. You’re only as good as the people around you, so invest in them.

As Ella's story teaches us there is no one way to become an entrepreneur. If we look back at the stories of most successful brands it is clear to see that many different paths have been taken. The story of Deliciously Ella is as unique as it is inspiring and her enthusiasm for a healthier lifestyle is contagious. Don't miss your chance to find out more at Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons. Book your place now.

 

11 January 2017

SpareRoom: The flat-share company receiving over two million hits a month

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Rupert Hunt is the founder of the UK’s busiest flatshare site, SpareRoom. As part of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons panel Rupert will be spilling the beans on his unique journey to the top and will answer your questions. Having flat-shared in both, London and New York, Rupert realised that there was huge, untapped market just waiting to be exploited. In what he describes as a spider-ridden shed in his parents back garden – and with his trusty credit card handy, the foundations for Spare Room were set in 2004. Today, Spare Room’s website receives over 2 million hits a month and is the UK’s busiest flat-share website. For your chance to quiz Rupert and find out more, book your ticket for Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons here.

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Hi Rupert! Tell us about what you did before starting SpareRoom?

In my early 20s I moved down to London with the band I was in, in the evenings we gigged around the usual venues and in the day I worked for a web development agency (where I learned a lot of the skills I later applied to creating SpareRoom). The band did OK, we had a record released and got a bit of airplay from people like John Peel, but we never got any further.  Living in London made me realise how crazy the housing market was and how difficult it could be to find somewhere to live. That’s where the idea for the website that eventually became SpareRoom came from.

What challenges did you have to overcome to get your business off the ground?

Finding the time to focus on it was the first challenge. London wasn’t as expensive back then as it is now but it was still a struggle to make ends meet. In the end, I decided to move back to my parents’ house and give myself six months to really push SpareRoom and see what I could do with it. I set up office in a little spider-infested shed on my dad’s farm and set to work. The next challenge was how to market the site with virtually no capital behind me – in the end, I believe this was one of the reasons for my success as it forced me to be creative and resourceful. If I’d had investment, I’m sure it would have been too easy to naively waste lots of someone else’s money. By the end of those six months, the site was turning a small profit and I was able to move out again.

How did you really crank up your business growth?

Growth has been strong and fairly steady (in the 20 to 40% range) every year since we started, and I wouldn’t say there was any single game changing thing that we did but rather lots of things.

In the early days, SEO was a massive thing for us and something I’d got very good at during my previous job. I also leveraged the old school methods of finding rooms by reselling SpareRoom branded room adverts in the Loot classified ads newspaper (so that it was nearly free for us), and putting posters up in key newsagent windows where there were lots of postcards in the window advertising rooms (costing next to nothing per week). Our Speed Flatmating events were great for PR and word of mouth. For several years listing our inventory on property portals was an effective way of attracting new users on a revenue share basis. We also did a few co-branded white label flatshare sites for brands like thelondonpaper (one of the free London newspapers that appeared for a few years), which helped grow the user base as well as spread brand awareness and trust by aligning ourselves with a more known brand. As well as this I invested in keyword domains like flatshare.com and houseshare.com and created our own in-house white labels to dominate the SERPS. Cracking Google’s PPC so that it started to make a profit was also a fairly pivotal moment for us. 

You recently became your own customer by placing an ad for a housemate on SpareRoom yourself, what did you learn from this?

It definitely started out as the ultimate market research but I learned so much about the business, and about myself, in the process.  I think the single thing I took away from it was that communication is at the heart of what we do. It’s all about bringing people together to find their perfect flatmates. So things like improving the messaging system, or adding video profiles to the site, became really clear after I’d been my own customer. I also learned that living with the right people beats living on your own any day and I’ve shared ever since. I’m currently living in New York and sharing with two roommates I found through SpareRoom – they’re both entrepreneurs too and we’re learning from each other every day. It’s great!

If you had one piece of advice for yourself if you were to start again, what would it be?

That’s a tough one because sometimes I think a bit of naivety is a good thing. If you knew all the challenges that lay ahead before you set off on a journey you possibly wouldn’t do it! Just throwing yourself into it and dealing with things as they come up is what it’s all about.

That being said, maintaining focus is key. I’ve always got very excited about ideas but realised over the years that ideas are ten a penny – it’s execution that matters. When SpareRoom started to grow I would often get side tracked with some new exciting idea and attempt to run it as a side business. Each time, the new project would fail because I didn’t devote enough time and focus to it, whilst losing precious time that could’ve been spent on growing SpareRoom. As entrepreneurs, we tend to be full of ideas, and it’s important to accept that you’ll never have enough time to do most of them so learn to let them go and focus on that one thing.

As with many great ideas, the story of SpareRoom is one that was created because of a personal experience. As customers, we often notice how services can be made more efficient and products improved. Rupert is the perfect example of an entrepreneur who acted on his observations to create a successful solution to a common problem. Don’t miss your chance to quiz him, asking the questions you want to be answered at Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons. Book your place here.