THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

74 posts categorized "Business"

31 May 2017

A snappy rebrand for business growth

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Barrie Gordon is the founder of Blend and is a man who loves what he does. His company specialises in high-quality commercial photography and he has worked with the likes of Dune, Ted Baker and House of Fraser. Based in North London, Blend has built a reputation for highly professional photography that is both cost-effective and uncompromising on quality.  

Having entered the photography industry soon after leaving school, Barrie was already well-equipped with years of expertise and knowledge when he decided to embark on his own entrepreneurial journey. The initial success of Blend only whetted his appetite for more and the opportunity to join the Innovating for Growth programme at the British Library was one he jumped at. We caught up with Barrie to see how things have developed since completing the programme and to find out a little bit more about how he’s grown a successful company.    

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What made you believe that you could turn your passion into a business?

You used the words, belief and passion in your question. In my view, these two attributes are paramount to starting your own business. 

I’ve always been passionate about photography, but becoming an entrepreneur and having my own company is what dreams are made of. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working for a variety of photographic companies and this gave me with the perfect opportunity to learn and also to see things I could change and improve. The managerial experience that I garnered over this period also meant I had the necessary skill set to do something I always wanted to do. To make that jump from employee to running your own business takes confidence and belief in your own ability.  It's easy to start a business but to make a success of it is a much tougher ask, so believing in yourself is a really important quality for any entrepreneur.

Innovating for Growth helped Blend to scale-up and grow. What initially made this programme attractive to you and your company?

As a small business, I was very interested in any guidance that would help me build a successful company. I felt the programme offered advice in lots of areas which would help to develop my skills as a business owner. Furthermore, as a start-up, with limited funds, to be offered free advice from experts in their respective fields, naturally appealed to me too. I had been trading for a couple of years when I applied for the Innovating for Growth programme and was delighted to find out my application had been successful. The assistance I had in key areas such as brand development, marketing and strategy are things that helped Blend to grow and I’m very pleased I made the decision I did.

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You’ve recently rebranded. Why did you feel this was necessary and have you started to see the benefits of this decision?

We were previously known as Packshot and Stills but the rebranding of our company has made a huge difference. To some degree, the old name and branding held us back. The term packshot relates to a particular type of photography. In essence, it's a basic product shot ordinarily shot on a white background. We didn't want to be pigeon-holed and known for just doing this type of photography and I felt that "Packshot and Stills" was doing just that. Our services extend way beyond that of packshots; we are capable of offering professional photography from fashion and video content to complex creative shoots. The old branding just didn't relay that message.

Additionally, profit margins in packshot photography have been driven down. Competition is fierce and as such, prices have fallen to a level which makes that area of photography tough to sustain.  Consumers don't really put the same value on packshot photography as they do for creative still-lifes or fashion photography. It just made sense to distance ourselves from that term in relation to our branding. Having said that, we still do packshots here at Blend but wanted to get the message out there that we are experts in a range of other areas of photography, hence the name Blend.

The company is relatively young and brand awareness hadn't truly been established. If we were going to rebrand, now was the time to do so. Moreover, the website also needed to be redeveloped, so it seemed a perfect time to do it.

Since the rebrand in mid-January, I've had very positive feedback regarding the visual aesthetics. We've also started to see the commercial benefits and certainly had more interest in our fashion work. I'm hoping this trend will continue and we will see similar progress with our creative product photography.

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Innovating for Growth focuses on key areas to help businesses scale-up and grow. When considering the support and advice you received, what would you say has helped Blend the most?

There were plenty of aspects of the programme that helped me to grow Blend. Due to the size of my business, the advice that I received was split between things that were actionable straight away and guidance I could implement at a later stage. 

Initially, I had a meeting to look at an overview of my business. It was evident that for me to grow the business, I had to look at my time management. I also needed to delegate some of my day-to-day duties to free up time and to enable me to concentrate on building and expanding the business. It may seem obvious, but without someone telling me that it's okay to do so, I probably wouldn't have adapted.

Along with advice on rebranding, I also had some very hands-on advice from ASB Law. They looked over aspects of Blend from a legal perspective and helped us enormously to amend our legal documents.

What’s next for Blend?

We're looking to further expand, not only in physical size, premises and personnel but also broadening our offerings.

We'll always be looking to adapt in order to deliver the level of service that our clients expect.  For us to remain competitive, we constantly need to be refining and reviewing our internal processes to maximise the quality and efficiency of our output.

Externally, we'll be increasing investment in our marketing. We have a brand that we can be proud of and, as such, we want to get our message out there.

Are you an ambitious business owner looking to scale up, like Barrie? Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more and apply now.

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

15 May 2017

Lavolio: The sweet taste of success

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For some small businesses, the start-up stage can see an exciting period of exponential growth. This initial high is a pleasant surprise for most entrepreneurs but can create unforeseen challenges. Being able to deal with these changes can determine whether your business is a 'flash in the pan' or here for the long haul. A business that definitely fits the latter description is the boutique confectionery company, Lavolio. Founded by Lavinia Davolio, Lavolio has quickly become a serious player in the game of luxury treats and Lavinia credits her experience on the Innovating for Growth programme as one of the main reasons for its success. We caught up with her to find out a bit more.

Lavinia Davolio Profile with Lavolio. Photo credit_ Geoff Pugh

You gave up a high-flying career in banking to start your company, Lavolio. What would you say inspired this brave decision?

Three years ago I was busy climbing the corporate ladder on the trading floor of a large investment bank when the banking crisis helped me to decide that it was time for a change. I started Lavolio Boutique Confectionery with the desire to create something new out of my passion for food.

Some people say that I have been brave to launch my own luxury sweet business but I simply turned my redundancy into something positive. I believe it came at the right time in my life and if I look back at that time, it felt like an easy decision because I was following my heart and my passion.

It was while cooking at home that I came up with the idea for my company. I was experimenting with sweet recipes when I thought of using a thin sugar shell as a natural preservative. Inside these small shells, I could place pieces of fruit, whole nuts, jellies, coffee beans and different types of chocolate. I was then able to create lots of flavours, using spices and fruit zests and textures, from crunchy to crumbly, and that’s when I thought I was onto something really special.

Did you always believe that Lavolio would appeal to so many people?

At the time of my product development, I had no idea whether there would be a market for it. I tried out my creations on my close friends and family; everyone got samples and I received enough positive feedback to try selling my sweets to the public, setting up stalls at a handful of London food markets. This was a crucial step for Lavolio when testing things early on. Food markets were the first time that I got a real indication of whether people were willing to buy what I was making. A much more analytical market research process then followed. Lavolio has a very clear and simple vision to always provide WOW to our clients, with a delightful flavour and surprising taste, beautifully presented. This is what has allowed Lavolio to become the number 1 Italian luxury confectionery brand in the UK. We are now planning to increase our distribution to new countries and to continue adding new beautiful products to our range.

You recently completed the Innovating for Growth programme. How would you say Lavolio has benefited from this experience?

When I first entered the programme I did not know what to expect. My three-year-old confectionery business had enjoyed a very fast growth period; I was selling to Fortnum & Mason, Ocado, on Amazon Launchpad and in more than 200 premium independent stockists across England, Scotland and Wales. With hindsight, I can now see that joining the programme could not have come at a better time. With our business foundations built, and our products receiving some incredible early feedback, the next question was ‘how do we scale up?' As a founder, I faced many challenging decisions on our operations, marketing, branding and product innovation, and I felt that every aspect was covered in the programme, thus helping me to make more informed decisions in order to move the company in the right direction. Each workshop and activity has been hugely beneficial and has helped our company fast-forward to the next level. We have learned how to keep doing what we do really well and to maintain our values and strengthen our business model to ensure we are ready for such steep growth. In turn, we have seen a tangible effect on our strategy and on the way that we now prioritise different activities. I was really impressed by the quality of the advice, ideas and encouragement we received. All of this has made the programme into a very positive experience for Lavolio and one that we will carry on into our business journey.

Copy of Lavolio Fondant Lovelies Lifestyle _ high res

Lavolio’s sweets are handmade and it is clear a lot of love and attention goes into creating them. How important is this care to quality and detail for the brand?

The dream of Lavolio is to make better quality confectionery with proper ingredients and to create a beautiful taste experience for those who explore our creations. This is at the centre of everything we do. We aim to wow with our unusual flavours and luxury presentation. As soon as you open the tin you can see that each single piece is unique and handmade. Each collection comprises a variety of six different types of sweets. There are 40 – 50 unique sweets in each tin, nestling in the glassine paper inside the box. Lavolios make the perfect gift because they have been designed to provide a feast for the senses. This includes the carefully designed packaging, which delights the eye, the delicious aroma that you can smell when the box is first opened; the touch of the individual candy coatings, and the crunch of the coatings which release the explosion of flavours in the mouth. We hear from our clients every day how delighted they have been with both gifting and receiving our products and this is the single most important thing that we do - provide an outstanding customer experience.

As a successful entrepreneur, do you have any wise words of advice for those who would like to follow in your footsteps?

If you’re passionate about everything sweet, are full of energy and love talking to people, then starting a confectionery business could be perfect for you. My advice would be to put your customers at the heart of everything that you do and ensure your product tastes fantastic! Try to make sure that the wow factor is well communicated on your packaging, don't be afraid to reach out to people and always carry a box of your product with you.

Are you an ambitious business owner looking to scale up, like Lavinia? Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more and apply now.

 

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?

Domain-name-ultimate

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 April 2017

How to research digital trends with eMarketer

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Emarketer-logoWe often get enquiries in the Business & IP Centre about how to research digital trends. Such as mobile phone usage and social media growth.

Fortunately, we have access to eMarketer research, which is the first place to look for research about marketing in the digital world. eMarketer PRO is relied on by thousands of companies and business professionals worldwide to understand marketing trends, consumer behaviour. And to get hold of essential data on the fast-changing digital economy. 

eMarketer is unusual for a market research publisher in how much information they give away for through their free newsletters.

But the only way to get hold of their full content is to come into the Business & IP Centre in London and access eMarketer PRO.

Here you will find:

  • Over 200 new reports each year with data, interviews with subject matter experts, and original analysis to provide insights, understanding and context on the most important topics in digital.
  • Aggregated data from over 3,000 sources of research in the data library.
  • Over 7,500 proprietary metrics about the digital marketplace, including media trends, consumer behaviour and device usage.
  • The ability to create customised charts and tables to help tell compelling stories with data.
  • Coverage across 100 countries, including proprietary metrics for 40 core countries.

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eMarketer PRO will help to:

Answer specific questions and access data about digital related topics. Such as how much time do millennials spend with online video? How many smartphone users are there in the UK? What are the key UK digital trends for 2017?

Get deeper insight on digital topics. Such as what is programmatic advertising? What are the pros and cons of developing mobile apps vs mobile websites?

Research topics related to Advertising & Marketing, B2B, Demographics, Email, Industries, Measurement, Mobile, Retail & Ecommerce, Search, Social Media, Video

Benefit from eMarketer Forecasts using eMarketer Estimates up to 2020 for hundreds of Metrics. 

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To give you an idea of what you would find, here are some extracts from a typical eMarketer report.

UK Digital Video and TV 2017:
Who’s Watching, How They’re Watching and What It Means for Marketers.

 

Nearly two-thirds of the UK population will watch digital video content in 2017

One

 

There will be more digital video viewers than smartphone users in 2017

  Two

 

Short-form content isn’t necessarily the preserve of the young; older groups are viewing increasing amounts

Three

 

In terms of platforms, YouTube dominates the short-form space and has massive overall reach

Four

 

For long-form VOD, the BBC’s iPlayer service dominates, but Netflix is gaining ground

  Five

 

So what does this mean for Marketers?

Pre-roll ads don’t work and are mostly disliked on digital channels

Six

 

However, pre-roll is still where most of the money is going: 59% of digital video ad spending in H1 2016 went to pre- and post-roll inventory

Seven

 

Social is one area that seems like a good environment for video ads

Eight

 

Engagement with a video ad on social media often leads to a purchase

  Nine

17 March 2017

Dry Patch - A BIPC success story with a great sense of humour

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Dry-Patch-logoSo many people think running a business has to be a serious matter. So it is refreshing when an entrepreneur proves the opposite.

I guess the most well known recent brand with a funny-bone is Innocent Drinks. They have included grass covered vans, a banana phone and slides in their offices, and a whole range of humorous labels on their bottles such as this one:

Innocent bottle

I first met Chris Gomez founder and CEO of Dry Patch a couple of years ago in an Advice Clinic here in the Business & IP Centre in London.

He immediately made an impression with his passion for the product, his professionalism, and understanding of his customers' needs. He also recognised he was addressing a niche market with his first product the Moto Seat Cover below. As a fellow motorcyclist and cyclist, I could see there was a lot of potential in his ideas.

Moto_GIF_grande

Once his website was up and running, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much humour Chris had used to promote his brand. Here are a few examples:

  • With a focus on innovation and lifestyle, our premium products will keep you and your stuff dry... from the bottom up
  • We're not hairy bikers or Tour de France wannabes. We don't wear leather or Lycra to and from work but we do love the freedom of 2 wheels.
  • We're not going to ask you to start hugging each other at the traffic lights, but we are all 2 wheeled commuters and suffer the same conditions - from both the weather and other traffic.
  • We know that we are just little pin pricks in the bottom of the 1.5 million 2 wheel commuters in London, but we dream of being big pricks.

I also love the way Chris spells out his brand values in such clear terms:

When it comes to our products, we have 4 key values:

  1. it's kit you want (more on this below).
  2. it is 100% functional - our kit works really well and is made of the best materials for the job.
  3. it has to look great - there's too much stuff out there that works brilliantly for commuters on 2 wheels, that just doesn't look very good.
  4. our kit will always be innovative - we believe innovation is the key to developing brilliant new products that disrupt the rest of the market.

And even better Chris makes fantastic use of the Dry-Patch blog and social media channels. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

 Written by Neil Infield on behalf 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.

Gori4

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.

Gori1

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.