THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

81 posts categorized "Business"

15 September 2017

The three tech steps every start-up business should know

Add comment

With our national Start-up Day events on Thursday 21 September fast approaching, we are working with our specialist staff and many of our external partners to pull together the best advice and practical know-how to help make your jump to becoming a business founder as easy as possible.

Most start-ups are likely to have a website before their first customers and as such will need to think about delivering a secure and compelling online experience for those precious new clients. Written with help from our partner Lucidica, here are our top 3 factors to consider as a start-up, alongside choosing your brand name, fundraising, and staff.

  1. Make sure your data is safe and secure

As a start-up, data is crucial to the growth and development of your business. The idea of losing your data could cause long or irreplaceable damage to a business of this size. However, it’s had to find the right data backup solution for your business with so many options on the market and also with the need for it to be cost efficient. Intermediaries such as Lucidica can advise you and tell you which applications we’ve used and found to be effective and we will also implement these systems and ensure your data is safe. It’s always best to talk to an expert and find out what options you have, especially when it’s a technical subject you may find intimidating.

One such example is Cerberus who is a firm of commercial investigators specialising in assisting clients to protect their businesses and brands. They received help on how to share contacts, calendars, files, tasks and other company data not just within the London and the international offices, but also available to investigators on investigations from worldwide sites. They also needed to ensure that all data was backed up off-site.

  1. Get the best efficiency out of our tech equipment and systems

In your start-up years, technology solutions need to save your business time and also be cost effective. Whether it’s your email provider, technology equipment or other technical applications, they need to be scalable, adaptable and affordable for your business. A lot of retailers offer small businesses and start-ups special rates, even if they are run by an individual.  Lucidica is a Microsoft gold partner and reseller and also a Dell partner meaning they can give you the best deal on technology solutions.

Mango Logistics Group is a London based logistics company handling courier and storage needs for customers from consumers through to FTSE100 enterprises. They have eight computers and have been a client since 2009. Lucidica provided a virtual web server along with managed email hosting within a split Linux and Exchange environment.

        3. Have a plan to fend off cyber-crime and attacks

With more than 70% of cyber-attacks targeting small businesses, it is crucial that your start-up is protected. Cyber security is constantly on the rise and is becoming a profitable business for hackers. This means that businesses of all sizes are increasingly placing more priority on protecting their business and data. Not only can an attack cost you a substantial amount of money to fix, it can also lead to hours/days unable to work and files that cannot be reclaimed.

Make sure that you seek advice on what security best practices will help your business without making your work processes convoluted. Some of the questions you could plan to ask are:

  • How to identify the potential security flaws in the company and whereabouts it is likely hackers may penetrate to
  • How to create a practical data recovery plan
  • How to get a template to run a security audit
  • Where can you relocate important data

Quite often, the biggest cyber security breaches could have been prevented by the smallest changes. However, thanks to the Business & IP Centre’s new partnership with Tech experts Lucidica, we will pass on the advice you need to make the changes before anything can happen. Look out for upcoming workshops held in the British Library.

LUCIDICA-groups-3838


Lucidica is really well placed to offer this advice as they started small themselves – with Thomas Jeffs helping out businesses as a one-man-band in 1999. Thomas discovered he loved empowering businesses to use technology more effectively to help them grow and turned his passion into a business. Since then, Thomas has amassed an enormous amount of experience in helping over 1000 small and medium businesses solve their IT problems.  He’s gathered a team of expert engineers and support staff to help him deliver his vision. You may have even taken part in a workshop in one of his popular training sessions in the Business & IP Centre.

We are really pleased to say that some of the Lucidica team will be with us for the London Start-up Day, at the British Library on Thursday 21 September 2017. They will be on hand to answer any IT and technical questions you may have and offer their expertise advice on getting your business online and optimised.

05 September 2017

Profit with Purpose – Can you make money whilst also making a difference?

Add comment

The days of profitable business meaning a heartless, soul-less, money-grabbing monolith are long gone. These days, more and more businesses are seeking to make a genuine social or ethical change. Whether through innovation, environmental conscience or simply ‘giving something back’, and in sectors as diverse as food and drink to Fin Tech, the best new businesses know the value of an integrated approach both in terms of consumer appeal and growth prospects and the rise of social enterprise shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, a recent Business & IP Centre survey revealed that 60% of respondents stated that making a ‘social and/ or environmental impact’ was an important motivating factor for their strategy.

In response to this trend, Expert Impact and The British Library Business & IP Centre have partnered to launch a new series of events which explore the question ‘can I make money and still make a difference?’

The new Profit with Purpose series will involve engaging evenings of stories, advice and lessons learnt from entrepreneurs who have created impactful businesses in sectors ranging from the food and drink, education and retail to the healthcare, sciences and tech., sharing their personal experiences of starting and growing a business that has made a positive impact or social change.

Cemal-jpeg

(Cemal Ezal)

Our first evening, ‘The Tastemakers’, takes place on Wednesday 6 September and will be chaired and introduced by award winning business coach and motivational speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru. Throughout the course of the evening we’ll be hearing from a diverse panel of impressive social entrepreneurs:

  • Cemal Ezalfounder of Change Please, a coffee social enterprise, run in connection with the Big Issue, empowers homeless people with the skills, equipment and speciality beans they need to become fully-fledged baristas
  • Jenny Dawson Costa – founder of Rubies in the Rubble, creating award-winning condiments from fruit and veg rejected for being too ripe, the wrong size or a bit ugly. Others see rubble, they see rubies
  • Shaz Shah – founder of Harry Specters, an award winning chocolate company that creates employment for young people with autism
  • Jamie Crummie – co-founder of Too Good To Go, an app that makes it possible to order delicious food from local restaurants, cafes, bakeries and other food businesses, collect it up to an hour before closing time and enjoy on-the-go in an environmentally-friendly TGTG sugarcane box.

Jenny-jpeg

(Jenny Costa-Dawson)

As well as top tips, you can expect the founders to share entertaining insights like their biggest mistakes and to provide answers to your most pressing questions; build on their experience to achieve your own success and improve your social impact.

Shaz-jpeg

(Shaz Shah)

Kendra Walsh, Programme Director at Expert Impact added:

We are delighted to be working with the British Library to deliver this important new event series. Expert Impact helps social entrepreneurs to scale their work and their impact. We do this by connecting them with those who have done it before; advice, support and pertinent introductions from successful entrepreneurs can play a huge part in generating success.

The Business & IP Centre offers a perfect environment where businesses can receive impartial support, learn new skills and get access to a wide range of valuable data and resources which enables them to launch their idea more quickly and make a bigger social impact’. 

Jamie-jpeg

(Jamie Crummie)

The Business & IP Centre are thrilled to support this new initiative to encourage more start-up businesses to consider the social and ethical impact they can make as they turn their business dreams into a reality. Come along on Wednesday 6 September to hear word of wisdom from our ‘Tastemakers’ and don’t forget to check back to our website to be the first to find out about forthcoming events in this series.

 

29 August 2017

Are you a business virgin? We’ve partnered with Virgin StartUp to support new business ideas around the UK

Add comment

On Thursday 21st September, the British Library is to co-ordinate a Start-up Day taking place across eleven UK city libraries through the Business & IP Centre network. The event is set to be the largest national effort to help turn fantastic ideas into business realities, with over 3,500 aspiring entrepreneurs predicted to take part in over 100 sessions over the course of the day. Joining us in this huge effort are our event partner Virgin StartUp, a start-up loans provider, who themselves have lots of experience in funding and mentoring. We are delighted to be working with them on our Start-up Day 2017 campaign, and here’s why.

 

Virgin StartUp - Logo - RGB

In less than four years Virgin StartUp has helped 2,000 people change their LinkedIn profile to read ‘business founder’.  In that time over £24m has been distributed to help each one of them turn their great business idea into a reality. These people are now running businesses the length and breadth of the UK, from the toe of Cornwall to the tip of John O’Groats in the Scottish highlands.

2,000 is a big number, but behind it are thousands of ‘ones’.  One person, with one goal, striving to live out one dream. Such as Cemal Ezel, who took out a £25,000 start-up loan from Virgin StartUp to launch his coffee business Change Please. He used the funds to buy his first mobile coffee van which was managed by a homeless person near London Bridge who he trained to be a barista. Fast-forward to today and that business now has multiple vans across London and the U.S. which are exclusively run by homeless people, providing training, income and stability to help lift them off the streets.  As part of this journey, Cemal won an all-expenses paid trip to Necker Island where he was mentored by some of the best social entrepreneurs in the world including the one and only, Sir Richard Branson.

Cemal Ezel

Another ‘one’ in the 2,000 is Melanie Goldsmith, co-founder of Smith & Sinclair who also received a £25,000 start-up loan, plus one-to-one guidance from a Virgin StartUp mentor. Melanie used the loan to produce her first product – an alcoholic fruit pastille. That first batch flew out the doors and the company are now manufacturing much larger volumes with products listed in Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and more!

These are just two of the thousands of entrepreneurs who’ve taken a Virgin StartUp loan from ranging from £500 - £25,000 per co-founder. These loans are funded by the British Business Bank and given at a fixed rate of 6% interest pa over a 1-5 year period. Every single one of those founders has also been given access to their own locally-based mentor. Virgin StartUp mentors commit 15 hours of face-to-face support over a 12 month period. Even though a lot of people first think about the loan, it’s the mentoring that makes a real difference to the success for your business.

Like the British Library, once you become part of the Virgin StartUp community other opportunities do crop up. At Virgin StartUp, founders and businesses can take advantage of a whole range of activities including the popular scale-up accelerators, the most recent being ‘Platform-X’, which linked up with Virgin Trains to find start-ups who had ideas that could impact on the future of train travel and improve customers’ experience.  Five of the entrepreneurs we took onto that programme are now developing offerings with the likes of Virgin Trains and the Department for Transport.

Working with big businesses is something that we, like Virgin StartUp, urge start-ups to do. Winning contracts with corporates can give a small business the platform it needs to thrive. A recent attendee on the ‘Doing Business with Big Business’ event was Jamie McCloskey of Love Corn. Since going along he’s managed to secure deals with a whole host of retailers for his roasted corn snack product, including big high-street players such as WHSmith and Sainsbury’s.

Virgin StartUp will be at all our Start-up Day events and will be running a special master class in London at 1.15pm. This is free to attend but make sure you book your place soon to secure your seat as places are filling up fast! Come along on September 21st to find out how Virgin StartUp can help you take the first steps on your business journey. Don’t forget to check out the full programme for the day too, which features advice on a whole range of business topics including marketing, cash-flow management, building a website and implementing a social media strategy, all designed to help you turn your great idea into a booming business.

Startup-day-944x90

24 August 2017

Le Bun: Not your average burger van business

Add comment

Street food has grown in popularity over the last few years and many entrepreneurs have taken the opportunity to create their own foodie empires. One such company is Le Bun, a street food business focused on delivering quality burgers with a French-American twist. We caught up with one of the founders, Tim Talbot, to hear how it all started and find out how Innovating for Growth helped them to reach new heights.

How did you come up with the Le Bun concept? A French-American burger is pretty unique!

My business partner, Andy, and I used to cook for friends whenever we could. We both worked in the music industry, he was in a band and I was a Tour Manager. We both had a couple of weeks off early in 2014 and so we got together to make some food.

For a change, we wanted to challenge ourselves to come up with a concept. Andy suggested Thai or this idea he’d been thinking about, French American. He’d noticed both French food and American food were deeply rooted in slow cooked foods. What’s the most American dish you could have? A burger. The most French? Bourguignon. So Le Bourguignon Bun was our first creation and, still to this day, signature dish.

Rankin Portrait Photo (2)

When did you realise this could become a business?

Originally, we were just playing around with the idea of maybe doing a street food stall on Acklam Road in Notting Hill, whenever we were both off tour, for fun. We were both totally in love with the Street Food scene back in 2014, with the emergence of Breddos, Smokestak, Bleeker and Bobs Lobster.

The weekend we came up with Le Bourguignon, I got my brother, a video director, to film us messing about in the kitchen. We ended up putting a two minute video on Youtube. The next day, I had Jamie Oliver’s production team messaging me asking if they could come and film us. I thought it was one of our mates winding us up!

Three weeks later, we were in a house being mentored by Gizzi Erskine and filmed for a Sky 1 TV show. By the time it had finished, The Times Magazine had done a 6 page spread on us, Street Feast had offered us a pitch to open their summer season in Dalston, we’d shot our food with David Loftus (Jamie Oliver’s photographer) and the show was about to air on Sky 1. We didn’t really have a choice but to keep going! It was a massive learning curve.

Trailer cropped (2)

What challenges have you had to overcome along the way?

So many. Festival organisers taking you for all you’re worth and not selling enough tickets to their events (despite telling you they are sold out). Running out of cash and managing cash flow. Trying desperately to avoid wasting food after a poorly attended event. Staffing. Every day in the food industry is constantly a challenge, especially if you are moving about and “popping up”.

You were a part of the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme. How did that help with the business development?

It massively helped. It made me consider things in a more strategic way, whilst giving me the opportunity to take time (literally) out of the business to think and chat with like minded people on the programme. The tutors were incredibly supportive, informative and sensitive to the challenges of running a business. I found the whole experience incredibly positive and on a personal level, it has given me the confidence to step away from the operations of the business and allow myself more time on business development.

Le-bun- linked in logo (2)

How are you planning to celebrate National Burger Day?

Alongside the greatest burgers in the world. We’ll be at Street Feast’s Hawker House in Canada Water for Mr Hyde’s National Burger Day. We’ll be hanging out with Bleeker, Honest Burger, Lucky Chip and Mother Flipper, to celebrate the insane quality of burgers we have in London.

What’s next for Le Bun?

We’ve been working hard, after a few setbacks, to find the perfect location for our first restaurant. We’ll also be focussing in on private events, which allow us to budget and cost control more effectively than public events.

Are you an ambitious business owner looking to scale up, like Le Bun? 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.

05 July 2017

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

Add comment

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.”

 

Podcast IPO

 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.

Julie 2
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 recently gave advice and practical tips on Intellectual Property 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's opening keynote presentation on ‘Getting your business in the media’ was a great success too.

 

Brompton
The Cambridge Satchel Company / Brompton Bikes collaboration

Julie Deane will be at Start-up Day on Thursday 21 September 2017 from 12.00pm to 12.45pm. This is free to attend but make sure you book your place soon to secure your seat as places are filling up fast! Don’t forget to check out the full programme for the day too, which features advice on a whole range of business topics including marketing, cash-flow management, building a website and implementing a social media strategy, all designed to help you turn your great idea into a booming business.

 

Reach your business peak at our Scale-up Summit

Add comment

As a business owner you’ll know what it means to have to do everything and anything to get your business off the ground and flying. You’ve experienced the highs, the lows and no small number of frustrations along the way.

But at some point you’ll reach a limit to growth. And any one of these things (or more) could be holding you back; time, finance, being ‘too involved’ in the day to day, staffing challenges, cash-flow, finding new customers and markets, limited marketing and having to navigate ever changing conditions and trends.

But there’s a way through and beyond all of this; and it’s scaling-up.

The British Library’s Business and IP Centre has been supporting businesses to successfully scale up with its wealth of information, advice and support as well as the successful Innovating for Growth Scale-up Programme.

We’re thrilled to now be presenting this unique opportunity to get some of the best business brains in one place, for just one day, so you can hear first-hand how they kept their business flying and climbing higher. It’s our first ever Scale-up Summit, and it’s happening next, Tuesday 11th July, 9.30-6.30pm.

8851 Scale-up email sig v3

We’ll be introducing you to the founders of some great household names and brands such as Paul Lindley (founder of Ella's Kitchen), Julie Deane OBE (founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company) and Rob Law MBE (Founder and CEO of Trunki) just to name a few.

Hear how our top-notch speakers kept their businesses going and growing through their various challenges and what tips they have to share to successfully scaling-up. There’ll be plenty of time to ask your questions and pick the brains of no less than 20 business experts appearing throughout the day.

Here’s a taster of what to expect on the day with a few of our speakers’ top tips to whet your appetite

Raising your business profile and building a brand

As you will already know, getting your business in the press or media can be the key to raising your profile and achieve rapid growth, but lots of businesses struggle to identify their unique hook and generate a buzz around their brand. Our panel will give you the inside track on how to maximise your media coverage, pitch effectively to journalists and create strategic partnerships to increase the visibility of your business to access new audiences and scale up.

Our keynote speaker on this topic will be Julie Deane OBE, founder of the Cambridge Satchel Company and a Business & IP Centre ambassador. Having started from her kitchen table with a budget of just £600, The Cambridge Satchel Company now has a turnover of over £10million and has collaborated with the likes of Google and Vivienne Westwood.

Julie image
Julie Deane, Founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company and British Library Entrepreneur in Residence

 

Julie will share her own journey to business success and her tips for raising your business profile and building a brand. During this interactive Q&A session you’ll also have the opportunity to put your questions to our panel and get their tips and tricks for making people aware of your business and making sure they don’t forget it.

On brand and scaling-up, Jenny Costa (Rubies in the Rubble), another panellist for our branding roundtable says, ‘“Know your why.” The journey and the day to day can be overwhelming, so it’s important to keep looking up and focused on the end goal. Knowing and believing in what and why you do what you do will get you through any challenges you may hit along the way.’

Also speaking on this topic will be Will Butler-Adams (Managing Director, Brompton Bikes), Siddarth Vijayakumar (Co-founder, Grub Club), and Anne Cassidy (Editor, Guardian Small Business Network).

Going global for growth

Small businesses that seize on export opportunities are much more likely to survive and grow. However, with so many factors to consider, trading overseas can feel overwhelming and many business owners struggle to identify and exploit the market opportunities that would give them the best chance of achieving fast growth. If you’ve ever considered ‘going global for growth’ or are struggling to make your mark on the international stage, this discussion will give you a true insight into what it takes to trade successfully overseas.

Someone who has definitely capitalised on the potential of international trade is keynote speaker, Sean Ramsden, founder and Chief Executive of Ramsden International . Having identified opportunities for global growth, Sean was able to turn his food exporter business (Ramsden International) into a market leader, distributing over 23,000 British branded-food and drink products to 133 countries across five continents.  

Ramsden Image
Sean Ramsden, Founder of Ramsden International

 

Another of our panellists Paul Lindley of Ella’s Kitchen says scale-up businesses should ‘Keep your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds.  Meaning stay humble, grounded and real, but don’t be afraid to imagine, explore and be free thinking.’

The panel will also feature, Matt Lamb (Tangle Teezer) and Bill Russell (Head of Bilateral Relations, Intellectual Property Office) who will share their experiences and expertise in both growing a business internationally and also ensuring that you stay in control and your Intellectual Property is protected as you ‘go global’.

Raising finance for growth

A cash injection can fast-track your growth ambitions exponentially, giving access to the resources, expertise and people-power that you need to realise your scale-up ambitions. But raising the necessary cash isn’t always easy and access to finance can often be one of the first hurdles that a scaling entrepreneur must overcome. In this section our experts will give their input on a variety of business financing options including VC, angel investors and crowd-funding to help you decide the best way to fund your business growth.

To discuss this topic and describe the best options available small business owners will be Darren Westlake, co-founder and CEO of Crowdcube the world’s first investment crowdfunding platform. In 2015, Darren was named by Debrett’s as one of Britain’s 500 most influential people and is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years’ experience in the internet and telecoms industries.

Darren Image
Darren Westlake, Founder of Crowdcube

 

Leadership for scaling businesses

Most businesses start off with just one or two founders, but as a business grows, the team behind it needs to get bigger too. But how can you be sure you’re hiring the right people to help your business reach its potential, and when is the right time to delegate responsibility? Hear from our expert panel on how your can build a terrific team with your business values at its core.

Leadership for scaling businesses will feature a key note presentation on the theme of building a terrific team, delegating responsibility, embedding and upholding company values and ethos as your business grows and providing strong leadership.

Our speaker on this subject will be Rob Law MBE, founder and CEO of Trunki , the brand behind the much loved children’s ride-on suitcase.

His company has been trading for 11 years, now employing 80 people and was named SME of the Year at the National Business Awards in 2012.

Rob Image
Rob Law, Founder of Trunki

 

Focusing on these four key topics for scaling businesses, this event will provide a platform for entrepreneurs to ask the questions that really matter to you as a growing business. You’ll get practical, immediately implementable ideas and solutions from those in the know and have the opportunity to network with like-minded business-owners who share similar goals and ambitions.

Matt Lamb, CEO and co-founder of Tangle Teezer, says “I am happy to support the British Library’s Scale-up Summit because we recognise that scaling up is every bit as hard, if not harder, than starting a business. We are delighted to share our experience in the hope that it may help others.”

Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to take your business to the next level. Tickets are selling fast so take this chance to get inside knowledge and advice on successfully scaling up and reaching your business’s peak potential.

Book your ticket to avoid disappointment.

LGH logo transparent

30 June 2017

How the British Library can help you turbocharge your business

Add comment

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.

BIPC-10-FB-1200x630-paul-lindley-v2 (2)

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.

BIPC-10-FB-1200x630-shaun-pulfrey (2)

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.

 

31 May 2017

A snappy rebrand for business growth

Add comment

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.    

BarrieG3

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.

BarrieG4

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.

BarrieG1

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

Add comment

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

Add comment

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.