THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

92 posts categorized "Business"

02 March 2018

A fashionable way to start your business

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London-Fashion-week-logo-300x225London Fashion Week has just finished for another year and is more international than ever, with over 50% of the designers born outside of the UK. The week is a great opportunity to show off their collections to global retailers, as well as getting coverage in the mainstream media and fashion press. In addition to helping new designers with their start-up businesses the show organisers offer British Fashion Council's programme with a range of business advice and seminars.

The fashion industry in the UK currently contributes a staggering £66 billion to our economy. With London Fashion Week adding £30 million to London every year.

Perhaps not surprisingly fashion is one of the most popular topics to research within the Business & IP Centre. And we have a great deal of valuable information and advice available. Have a look at our Fashion Industry Guide to get a flavour.

Mintellogo_900x550For example our Mintel report UK Design Fashion 2017 shows that men spend more on designer clothes than women, because although men shop less, they buy higher value brands. Also 56% of men agreed that wearing designer fashion makes them feel more confident, compared to 49% of women.

The report says that casual clothing and footwear are now the products that drive the designer market. This is a result of a move to less formal wear than in the past for visits to restaurants and trips to the theatre.

Young people between the ages of 16 and 24 years dominate expenditure in every category of designer fashion, from underwear to shoes. This is due to the importance of social media, where celebrities can influence young people to emulate their lifestyles. Just look at how celebrities crowd the front rows of the top fashion shows.


Ibisworld_logo2The IBIS World retail clothing report also covers the rising importance of social media and how it is expected to boost demand for fashion. The new breed of social media celebrities have a significant influence on their followers.

Instagram has become the key social media platform for fashion. “With more than 200 million on Instagram connected to fashion accounts all over the world, Instagram has become a global destination
for people to experience this stylish industry unlike anywhere else.”

As well as market research and related fashion information in the Centre, we also run regular workshops and offer one to one advice clinics via our partner Fashion Angel.

Don’t forget, we are here to help realise your fashion dream!

Seema Rampersad and guest blogger Polly James

 

27 February 2018

The 6 steps that took Business Woman of the Year, Fleur Sexton, to the top

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Fleur-sexton
PET-Xi’s Managing Director Fleur Sexton, British Chambers of Commerce Business Woman of the Year 2018

Ahead of next week’s annual British Chambers of Commerce conference on International Women’s Day, Thursday 8 March, we welcome their newly-crowned Business Woman of the Year, Fleur Sexton, Managing Director of PET-Xi Training to share her six top tips for aspiring business owners and leaders.

1. Build your network

Networking is about building long-term relationships and a good reputation over time. It’s about meeting business leaders with whom you have some synergy, getting to know people who you can assist, and who can potentially help you in return.

Look up your old contacts and give them a call. If you are setting up a new business a personal referral from a former colleague or client to a new customer can do much to help fast track your business.

There is also truth in the phrase ‘it’s lonely at the top’ when tough business decisions need to be made, decisions which aren’t appropriate to discuss with staff.  Surround yourself with other business leaders who can provide you with the support and advice you require as a problem shared is a problem halved. Always be prepared to return the favour.

2. Don’t be surprised when things go wrong

Don’t be surprised when things go wrong, it is part of the journey. Be resilient. If you fall down, get up, find a solution rather than wallow in despair. Businesses are not sanitized and both good and bad things will happen.

3. Empower yourself

Be resilient and be prepared to re-invent yourself. What worked today won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Time moves on, trends, policies and issues change, make sure you have the solution to meet the current challenges facing your clients.

4. Champion women in business

Real queens fix each other’s crowns.  Don’t lock horns with your fellow business women; create alliances to help each other be stronger together.

Support your female staff and accommodate the needs of working mums. One size does not fit all so reinvent the rules if need be.  20% of our staff at PET-Xi Training are working mums. All of them have valuable skills to bring to the mix so we make a concerted effort to try and make their life easier by providing free childcare on a daily basis. This has done much to strengthen camaraderie and loyalty.

5. Make rules to fit the people

Make rules to fit the people rather than find people to fit the rules. If you make rules to fit your staff and ensure you have a good work life balance it will be significantly easier to create a happy and productive workforce. Stressed staff working long hours typically don’t deliver long term. According to a report from Warwick University happy staff are 12% more productive.

6. Invest in training

Most employees have some weaknesses in terms of their workplace skills. A well thought out training programme will enable them and you to develop and strengthen those skills helping employees to feel more valued, confident and happy.

And please remember the ‘return to work’ mums; those who have had a career break to look after their children. Everyone has something to give but some just need a little help to sharpen up their skills. Train them and you can create close allies – and remember happy employees make happy clients!

Established in 1995, PET-Xi Training is a nationally renowned education training provider, working with hundreds of businesses and schools across the UK.

Pet-xi

Fleur Sexton will be one of the panellists for the Diversity in Business discussion at next week’s conference for you to hear more advice from her and other business leaders. You could put top tip #1 into action straight away by building your network among all the advisors and attendees who’ll be there. The British Chambers of Commerce are offering a whopping £230 saving on tickets – contact Rose Averis: r.averis@britishchambers.org.uk to get signed up.

BCC_LOGO_MASTER_REDBACKGROUNDThe British Library’s Business & IP Centre has been a partner of the British Chambers of Commerce for over 12 years and we have long worked together to help small businesses access the support and advice they need. Giving women entrepreneurs the networks, role models, skills and confidence they need is equally important to us and our Women Mean Business in the evening of the 8 March with Hilary Devey, Dessi Bell of fitness fashion brand Zaggora, and Precious Online founder Foluke Akinlose, will be webcast for free online so you catch it after the conference!

21 November 2017

Why in-person marketing trumps content and digital

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How to use events to market your business

Contemporary marketing talk is all about marketing automation, content and sales funnels. There’s a significant amount of value to be gained from streamlining your marketing and sales processes – but there’s one thing all these marketing tactics and strategies are aiming for: to get you in front of your potential customer/partner/lead.

Marketing is about relationships, and however fabulous your website and digital marketing are, you’re ultimately aiming to have a personal conversation with the right person to buy your product or service or build a partnership.

And that happens in person.

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In-person marketing is the future (as well as the past). As people increasingly hide behind their multiple work communication channels – email, slack, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram – it seems like it’s hard enough to get someone on the phone, let alone meet in person.

And that’s why events are the heart and soul of building an effective sales and marketing strategy.

You’re either at someone else’s event – as a speaker, sponsor, exhibitor or just plain participant – and if you’ve selected the right event they’ve brought your market to you. Or you host your own events – which needs careful and targeted marketing – and position yourself in the middle of your market sector and the business potentially comes to you.

Sasha Frieze, a visiting lecturer in Event Management at Westminster University, is leading a 3-hour Masterclass: How to use events to market your business at 10am on Thursday 30th November at the British Library Business and IP Centre in Kings Cross, where she will leverage her 25+ years’ experience in the events industry to walk you through 8 strategies to help you harness the power of events to market your business.

 

10 November 2017

Innovating for Growth: We Built This City

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We Built This City is a London-based business that specialises in selling unique souvenirs that represent the famous city. Their mission is to revolutionise souvenirs by giving London's artists and designers a platform to showcase their talents and provide customers with creative and long-lasting souvenirs. Having grown at an incredible rate at the very beginning, We Built This City quickly made its mark on the souvenir market but founder Alice Mayor was still ambitious and wanted more. With the help of Innovating for Growth, she was able to achieve her scale-up wishes and went from a pop-up to having a permanent home on Carnaby Street in London's trendy West-End. We caught up with Alice to talk a little more about her journey from idea to super success and how the Innovating for Growth programme helped with this.       

How did the idea for a new kind of souvenir shop in London’s famous Carnaby Street come about?

In 2014, London was still basking in the glory of the Olympics and had just become the most visited city on the planet with the annual tourist footfall figure at over 16 million. With so many international visitors heading to the capital for creative and cultural experiences, my lightbulb moment was riding past one of the many souvenir stores in London on the bus and thinking ‘surely we can do better than that!’

My overriding priority in bringing to life the concept of ‘Revolutionising London Souvenirs’ was to find the right location for the store. I really wanted to avoid a scenario where we had the very best artists & designers to represent but didn’t have the footfall to prove the operation a success.

As such, I was determined We Built This City should be established in the West End. I walked the streets on the weekends to try and identify the best location but each time got more fearful about the barriers we were going to face with rents and rates. At the end of what seemed like a very long 4 months, I finally tracked down a landlord on Carnaby Street.

I created a detailed pitch outlining my vision for the product, interiors, and marketing campaign. Within a matter of days, they offered a 2 floor - 3000 sq ft store on Carnaby Street with just one caveat… we had 3 weeks to bring it all together and would need to launch for Christmas!

  Alice Hi Res

What challenges has the business faced along the way?

The main challenge for us at the start was being a temporary pop-up shop and having to move stores over 6 times in 18 months. We were always moving to a new store on Carnaby, so location wasn’t the issue, it was just the sheer labour involved in moving shops and setting up processes all over again. Luckily we have an amazing team who stuck with us no matter how many times we told them we were on the move!

More general challenges are that at any one time we can be working with 250+ London artists, designers and makers - with so many partners and suppliers on the books the sheer volume of admin involved can be a daunting daily mountain to climb! It’s worth it though, to see so many artists represented and supported in store.

Lastly, our core mission is always to support London’s creative community to drive sales and sustainable careers in the city. Running the business from a prime retail unit in the West End isn’t always an ideal marriage as it can be difficult to achieve margins which are complementary to both scenarios. We wouldn’t change the exposure Carnaby offers our artists for the world though!

Logo_webuiltthiscity

What has been the business’s biggest achievement so far?

Our biggest achievement to date has undoubtedly been securing a permanent lease on Carnaby Street. We’re very proud to have made the transition from pop-up to a permanent retailer in one of the world’s most iconic shopping destinations in such a short window. A permanent unit for us has freed up so much resource and time to focus on growing the business. As a result, we’ve been able to grow the consultancy arm out to helping other London landmarks open including a major curation project for Battersea Power Station’s new Design Store.

Picking up awards for the shop along the way has been an unexpected and exhilarating experience too - when we were awarded ‘Best Shop in Soho’ by Time Out readers in our first year of trading, we spent the next week pinching ourselves!

What advice would you give to any small business owners thinking of going into retail and even opening a shop?

Having a unique point of difference is critical for a new retail brand or business - especially if you’re joining a competitive market (fashion, food etc.) You need to work out the one thing that’ll set you apart and work out how you can tell that to your customer at every part of the journey - and even before when selling the concept to a landlord, investor etc.

I would also highly recommend creating a pitch presentation to set out your vision and to share it with anyone who can help you make it happen. It’s easy to become scared of people stealing your idea, but I found it incredibly helpful to get early-stage feedback and access to new contacts - many of whom ended up becoming our artists, advisors, partners and even our shop team!

Lastly, really interrogate whether you need to open a physical bricks and mortar store at all and what you want to learn from even a temporary pop up shop. It’s important to establish your objectives early on and stick to them. My parting advice is to never romanticise the idea of a shop as it’s an unbelievable amount of work, money, and energy - and if you’re open 7 days a week the sheer volume of operations can easily leave you with little time to nurture the creative side of the business.

What are the challenges of growing a business and how has the Innovating for Growth programme helped?

When I applied for the Innovating for Growth course, I was really lacking the headspace to work ‘on’ the business - not just ‘in’ it. The programme has been indispensable in giving me the opportunity to stand back from the day to day and take time to start strategising from afar.

An invaluable learning from joining the programme has been the opportunity to look at all factors that contribute to the running of a successful business - not just those that are in your existing skill set or comfort zone! Deep diving into these elements with the guidance of the coaches, guides and guest lecturers on the programme has been invaluable to analysing the business’s strengths and weaknesses in equal measure.

The real take away from the programme for me though has been the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs at the same stage - going through the same issues, problems and being able to share advice. It can get lonely and especially tough when you’re scaling - mentors are great but it’s meeting and sharing with those sat next to you on the same rollercoaster that gives you that belief to keep building!

 

Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more here.

ERDF

This programme is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the British Library.

06 November 2017

How JustPark found a space in the market

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Global Entrepreneurship Week is fast approaching and we’re catching up with one of the panellists from our upcoming Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time event, which is set to be the flagship event of this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week at the British Library. Anthony Eskinazi is the founder of the car parking app JustPark, an amazing tool that allows drivers from all over the United Kingdom to choose from millions of available spaces quickly and simply using their smartphones. With 1.5 million drivers already enjoying the benefits of JustPark, we spoke to Anthony about how he did it.

1.The JustPark app promises drivers a hassle-free experience that also saves them money. It sounds amazing but how does it work?

It’s quite simple, to be honest with you. When creating the JustPark app, I really wanted to consider the thought-process of your average driver. From planning their journey to reaching their final destination, to eventually finding a parking space and paying.

As most drivers know all too well, parking can be quite a stressful experience when you’ve travelled a long distance to find out that you cannot park your car or have to pay an absolute fortune to do so. With JustPark we eradicate this stress by providing drivers with an easy to use app that finds available parking spaces depending on their location and distance settings. The app will also tell you whether space is going to be available and how much it will cost (if applicable). You can register via your Google or Facebook login and pay using Apple or Android Pay saving you time and taking less than one minute to log in, pay and have your parking space confirmed.

Jp-black-green

2. JustPark has proven to be a huge success in the United Kingdom. Do you have any plans to expand internationally?

Yes, we do! The aim for us was to test the market in the UK and ensure that we had the right product and service before entering the international market. Since JustPark was founded, we’ve been able to develop a product that is efficient and really does solve a pressing problem for drivers across the world.  However, we strongly believe that the UK is one of the best markets for our service and therefore wanted to cement our position in the UK first before going anywhere else.

 

3. Did the idea for JustPark originate from a bad personal parking experience, or did you just spot an obvious gap in the market?

I would say both. It really stems from a frustrating experience I had driving with a friend in San Francisco when travelling to watch a baseball game. We arrived in good time for the game but ended up wasting a lot of time searching for a parking space. After searching high and low for space and not having too much luck doing so, I thought about asking a homeowner who lived nearby to the stadium if we could pay $10 to park in their driveway. I didn’t do it but the idea for JustPark had been born.

I knew that this was a common theme at events in the UK, especially focused on major events such as Wimbledon, where people would rent out their underused parking spaces. The big difference for me is that the gap was really in the online transactions market, which would make life much easier for drivers, taking away the hassle and guarantee a stress-free experience.

Anthony Eskinazi - JustPark

4. With the tech industry constantly evolving at an incredible speed, how do you ensure JustPark stays ahead of the competition?

In an industry like ours, it is very important to continuously invest in research and development. We make sure that the team are up-to-date with the latest technologies and able to learn and develop their understanding of what is happening in the technology and parking industries. It is vital that all of us are involved in this process as it allows us to share knowledge and continue to be at the forefront.

 

5. Having founded JustPark and seen it grow into a huge success, could you see yourself doing it all over again with a new company?

As things stand I am really enjoying the work I’m doing with JustPark and haven’t thought too much about what comes next. I’ve started investing in interesting high-growth tech start-ups to help me understand different sectors.  It would be exciting to try something new but we’ll just have to wait and see.

 

6. If you could give a young Anthony some advice, what would it be and why?

My first piece of advice would be to have fun and make sure you don’t miss out on life’s enjoyable moments. I think it’s easy to get caught up with your business and forget that a new feature or opportunity is likely to still be there tomorrow. Relationships with close friends and family are important. These are the people who will build you back up and give you a hug after a knock-down and cheer you from the rooftops when things are going well. It is important to find a work-life balance that works for you. Becoming an entrepreneur is a lifestyle, not a career choice.

The second piece of advice would be to work with other people. It makes the entrepreneurial experience much more enjoyable and although you may have to share a piece of the pie, you will benefit from the shared knowledge, experiences and ideas. You don’t have to do it alone!

If you’d like fire some of your own questions to some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs during Global Entrepreneurship Week, don’t forget that the Business & IP Centre will be hosting Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time on Thursday 16 November. See you there!

30 October 2017

National Mentoring Day – Ken J Davey speaks about his experience on mentoring

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Ken 2

 

In light of #NationalMentoringDay last Friday 27 October -  we reached out to our network of successful business owners who have tried their hand at mentoring others within the business and corporate realm. Mentoring has many benefits to all involved, and Managing  Director, Ken J Davey shares his first-hand experience of being a mentor and gives some insight into the benefits of mentoring.

Ken is the Managing Director of  Smarter Business Mentoring -  which draws on extensive commercial and financial knowledge and experience from Corporate and SME operations, to support and encourage business managers and owners to grow, develop and succeed in their sphere of business.

In addition, he is also the Managing Director of Original & Distinctive Limited and  a company that specialises in providing quality, niche premium artisan drink products from small producers to up-market hotels & restaurants, wine bars & private member clubs; select wine merchants & specialist shops as well as private clients

We share some insight into Ken’s experience as a mentor;

 

What drew you to become a mentor?

Mentors can provide answers to questions and suggestions that can make a big difference when it comes to navigating the business world. Having benefited on several occasions from being mentored, I was keen to return some of that value and, mentor bright and determined people on their journey through the world of work, from Start-ups to Corporates.

 

What benefits have you seen from mentoring, from both sides - yourself and the mentee?

Sharing my business experience to support and encourage a mentee to grow, develop and succeed, was critical to building trust and giving a mentee confidence and encouragement because someone else had ‘been there before’! This meant that without being a subject expert, I could legitimately challenge the mentee on any aspect of their thinking or strategies, thus opening their mind to a wider view of both themselves and their business. It also gave me, as the mentor, greater insight into the value of my anecdotes and business experience as valuable tools to help others.

 

Have you ever been mentored yourself?  (If so what was the experience like)

On several occasions, I have had the benefit of being mentored. This challenged my thinking and my business strategies, which allowed me to have a wider perspective on issues, while also encouraging me to have a better understanding of ‘why’ I pursued certain strategies and, what the consequences of the various outcomes might be.

 

What is your top piece of advice for someone looking to become a mentor?

If you are looking to become a mentor, then having the willingness to share your business experience (good and bad) to support and encourage individuals to grow, develop and succeed, will be key to a successful mentor/mentee relationship.

 

How important would you say mentoring others within the business realm is?

Mentoring others within the business realm is considerably important. At KPMG, I was often responsible for developing teams in virtual and entrepreneurial environments. This would include both business development training and mentoring key individuals, including making valuable connections in the business world. Networking is vital for climbing the corporate ladder, so seeing individuals ‘grow and shine’ through mentoring was very satisfying, while it also contributed to the development of the Firm’s professional resource pool.

 

What was your experience with the I4G programme like and how did it help you with your business?

The Innovating for Growth programme provided a wealth of expertise and advice for my business, Original & Distinctive Limited, which otherwise would not be available to me. The programme covered nearly every aspect of running and business and the combination of 1:1 and group workshops enabled a balance of views and discussions, which were most helpful. I was able to take a helicopter view of my business while also having experts challenge the status quo of, and provide incisive advice for, my business.

Shortly after undertaking the Innovating for Growth programme, when our brand was Smarter International, we rebranded to Smarter Grower Champagne - as a direct result of the Programme.  A year or two later, and building on incredible depth of learning from the Programme, we undertook an in-depth strategic exercise that not only led to our third rebranding to Original & Distinctive, but also, building on the new ideas and objectives from the Programme, put in place an innovative and disruptive approach to the UK drinks market, that is underpinned by a strategy to manage the supply chain as a single entity, in order to generate: lower costs, higher quality, better customer service and, higher returns for the organisation, its suppliers and, its investors.

National Mentoring Day offers the chance to celebrate mentoring and appreciate the fantastic work that mentors do throughout the world. We hope you take part in the array of international events and networking that will be taking place.

The Business and IP Centre runs daily workshops as part of the Innovating for Growth programme from an array of expert industry leaders who offer some insightful knowledge and brief mentoring session at the end of their workshops. 

29 October 2017

A social media trend to help your business grow

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In 2012, Franck Jehanne and Brijesh Patel joined the Innovating for Growth programme with the hope of taking their then fledgeling business, Kalory (a London-based photo and video studio) to the next level. Courtesy of the specialist support provided, which focused on everything from maximizing their Intellectual Property to refining their business model, Kalory has gone from strength to strength and now counts huge brands such as Rolex, Cartier and Habitat as some their clients

With such an impressive client-list it’s probably not too surprising that they’ve been able to amass a wealth of knowledge that has helped them to stay ahead of the game. In this article, co-founder of Kalory, Franck, talks about an important trend that he’s noticed in recent years and it’s one that all business owners should not ignore.

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 Changing trends

Approximately 87% of British consumers have made an online purchase in the last 12 months, and the United Kingdom only comes after Norway for buying online in Europe. 

With the increase of e-retailing, the photography needs of a brand or a retailer have changed. Advertising campaigns for print media, point-of-sale displays, billboard advertising and TV commercials are now sharing their budgets with the increased needs for a stronger web presence both on the website of the business and on its social media networks.  

At Kalory Photo & Video Studio, we have seen a marked change in our client’s requests since the beginning of the year. This trend has been seen across all the different industries we are working with, from multi-brand e-retailers, jewellery, watches, cosmetics, chocolates, drinks, furniture, and sports brands too.  The same trends seem to be valid for both start-ups and very established businesses. This is an empirical analysis of our field experiences in the last 12 months. 

Qualitative packshots

The first trend, which seems extremely strong, is an increase in the quality of product photography. For many, a packshot is a packshot, but there are actually different levels of quality possible and the quality of lighting and retouching can vary tremendously for the same product, and so does the final image. The camera used has an impact too. Since the beginning of the year, we have noticed a real change in the way clients approach packshots. Budget allocated to this important visual section of the website has been increased and even outside the luxury industry, brands are upgrading the attention to detail for all their e-commerce photography: positioning, colour correction, control of the reflections, visibility of the branding, etc. 

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Professional Instagram pictures 

The development of Instagram stories allows businesses to keep in touch in a more relaxed and spontaneous way with their customers, while they are paying more attention to the quality of photography posted on their main feed. Instagram stories are perfect for quick snapshots taken by the communication teams to keep their audience posted on what is going on.  The feed is increasingly becoming a visual platform showing what the brand’s values are. The colour tones (cold or warm), the type of images posted (lifestyle, architectural lines, etc.) are key elements to consider in order to create a consistent feed that attracts followers.  Posting again and again about your products is not enough. The trend we have observed since March is to organise short photo shoots of one to four hours with a selection of products and props and to shoot a series of creative images with a basic to medium level of professional retouching. This enables us to create a large number of images on a reduced budget. The images are controlled and professionally lit, but still natural and not overly airbrushed which is the perfect blend for Instagram. This is especially effective when a mood board and a shooting list and schedule have been carefully prepared; it can be interesting for example to create a series of images with a certain colour-tone followed by another series with a slight change in colours to create waves on the feed. 

Fine jewellery photography services in the UK

Videos & moving images

The use of video is also a trend that has been growing fast in recent years; product videos and event videos mostly, but we have recently seen a surge in social media videos (which are usually around 15 seconds), as well as cinemagraphs.  They are mostly visuals without interviews or any sound takes and with a simple story, but need to be efficiently edited to get the right social media interactions.

An increased involvement and commitment from brands.

An increasing number of clients are more involved, prepared and put more thought in their photography brief.  This is a clear sign of the importance photography and video has gained in the marketing and communication conversation. PR and marketing teams are also more involved and have become very hands-on, using mood boards, stories and precise creative ideas and angles, as well as a good analysis of what the competition is doing to convincingly convey their messages.

The use of photography is definitely changing quickly. Everyone is taking pictures.  The life of a picture is both very short, almost instant, and very long: the image itself has to be impactful immediately, but it is also part of an overall visual display (Instagram feed, Facebook page, etc.) that will remain online, so the thought process when creating it, is definitely key. 

Knowing how fast visual communication and social media are changing, there is no doubt, that new trends will emerge soon, and brands and retailers need to keep a close eye on what is happening in this field of communication if they want to stay on the top of their game. 

Franck Jehanne is the co-founder of Kalory Photo & Video, which offers professional photography services in London and all over the UK. The studio is located in London Bridge, SE1, but the team also shoots on location at clients’ premises. If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of Franck and believe your business has what it takes, why not apply now for Innovating for Growth and take your business to the next level?

Find out more and apply.

15 October 2017

Innovating for Growth: London tours with a tasty twist

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Jennifer Earle, with her enticingly named Chocolate Ecstasy Tours, founded her business back in 2005 by doing the things she loved best; learning, discovering London, meeting new people and tasting delicious food, especially chocolate! We caught up with Jennifer, a recent graduate of the Innovating for Growth programme, to find out how her business started and to learn about an exciting new development that is underway.

Jennifer-Earle-Taste-Tripper-Founder-London

What was your background before starting Chocolate Ecstasy Tours?

I ran the Chocolate Ecstasy tours business alongside full-time work, including a role as a Food Buyer at Marks & Spencer and a Food Developer at McDonald’s. I was already writing about food part-time and, from 2006 I started to get invited to speak on the radio and TV, as well as judge food awards and speak at events.

I finally began working fulltime on Chocolate Ecstasy Tours in 2013 and added more tours, more dates and more workshops and events – including teaching chocolate workshops in schools and running food innovation days for companies. The tours gradually became premium as the experience and knowledge of my guiding team increased and we reduced the maximum number of guests on a tour to eight.

This commitment to quality was always going to restrict how large I could grow the tours business. I really wanted to make something that could reach more people and promote more of the amazing food businesses we have in London, but in a way that still hit the core values of quality, discovery, effortlessness and fun. I’d been mulling over the options for years, but the idea for Taste Tripper didn’t all click into place until one evening in 2015. I shared the idea with my husband who was so enthusiastic about it he wanted to get involved.

What makes Taste Tripper unique?

Taste Tripper is the world’s first self-guided tasting tour business. Our Explorer Packs are a really effortless and flexible way to discover part of London’s amazing food scene. The partner locations in the Taste Tripper Explorer Packs all offer something delicious for you, just for turning up! And, like a VIP, you get a special deal on any extra purchases, too. 

What we hope will keep us unique is our commitment to quality. We will only ever send people to places that we believe are fabulous.

What challenges has the business faced along the way?

Being a new concept meant that we had to convince businesses to work with us. In principle this has been easy but, as we mostly work with small businesses that have a lot on their plate, it can take time to get them to send us the information we need and approve things.

We had some dire printing errors which were quite expensive. I don’t think we could have done anything differently to have avoided them.  We also had our trademark challenged by a big company which meant thousands on legal fees before we’d even made a hundred sales. There were tough decisions to make but we are proud that we stood our ground and won!

Through the British Library Innovating for Growth programme we had fantastic, honest feedback and we called our first customers for more of the same. It’s been so enlightening and inspiring and made us go back to the drawing board on quite a few significant things. It’s been quite frustrating that it has taken us some months to get the changes ready, but they are finally live!

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What advice would you give to any small business owners thinking of developing a new product?

The most valuable thing for us was contacting customers and asking them to speak with us and give us feedback. The sooner you can do this, the better. Trying to sell as soon as possible will show you if there’s a market. But then you need to ask those people who parted with money if they are happy and how they could be happier.

We probably would have benefited from discussing our ideas with more people and listening harder for their suggestions. But people will tell you different things so try to focus only on the things that keep being mentioned. It’s important to have the courage of your convictions over the smaller stuff, especially if you think you know your market well. 

I would also advise anyone that good products don’t happen quickly.  Whatever time span you had planned for launch or growth: double it. And maybe double it again. 

You grew the business with the help of our Innovating for Growth programme. What specifically did the programme help you achieve?

The honest feedback from experienced people was invaluable. It forced us to really look at what was working, what wasn’t and what was important. We got clearer on what we wanted the business to stand for, how we could communicate that and what changes we needed to make.  The technical advice for ensuring we have a watertight business was also brilliant and so useful.

During the three months we decided to change the redemption from tear-off paper strips on the cards to online redemption, whilst still keeping the attractive giftable Explorer Pack (it all seems so obvious now!) and we also decided to add a map to the homepage so customers could create their own London Explorer Pack. We’ll eventually offer neighbourhood Explorer Packs, too.  It really feels like we have a much more solid business with real potential for growth. I’m so excited!

Are you an ambitious business owner looking to scale up, like Jennifer? If so, 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.

13 October 2017

Business & IP Centre Norfolk opens its doors to the county’s SMEs

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The British Library is thrilled to welcome the latest addition to its network of Business & IP Centres – located in the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library.

The Centre was officially launched yesterday on the 11th October 2017 and is now the eleventh city in this network across the UK – with free intellectual property and business information, training workshops and one-to-one advice available to local entrepreneurs; the launch of this new Business & IP Centre has been extremely well received.

At the launch event, start-ups from across Norwich heard from a special panel of the region’s successful food industry founders led by award-winning chef and founder of Charlie's Norfolk Food Heroes, Charlie Hodson. Questions were put to chef and restaurateur at Benedicts, Richard Bainbridge, Candi Robertson, founder of Candi’s Chutney, and Mike Deal, founder of Wildcraft Brewery, and were left inspired to develop their own enterprises.

BIPC Norfolk

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said: “The success of the Business & IP Centre model is evidence of the strong connection between libraries and business, and I’m thrilled to see this link reinforced again with the opening of a new Centre for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Norwich.

“Our vision is to create 20 such Business & IP Centres by the end of the decade, and I look forward to working with our city library partners to achieve this goal and to spearhead business growth and innovation in cities across the UK.”

Each Business & IP Centre provides an inspirational space for entrepreneurs to come together to network, attend events and access a wealth of resources including business databases such as Mintel market research reports, plus consumer data, trendspotting for the UK and worldwide as well as information on patents, trademarks, designs and copyright.  

The Business & IP Centre at the British Library opened in London in 2006. Since then it has helped more than 700,000 entrepreneurs and helped create an average of 550 businesses and 1,200 jobs every year.

Find out more about the services on offer at www.norfolk.gov.uk/bipcnorfolk, or follow Business & IP Centre Norfolk on Twitter @BIPCNorfolk

09 October 2017

Growing your business without burning yourself out

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Starting and growing a business can be exciting and very rewarding, and at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre we can help you to achieve all of your entrepreneurial goals. However, there are factors that aren’t often spoken about when we talk about the life of a business owner. Entrepreneurs typically dedicate long hours and lots of energy and effort to building their company and there is a risk that this can lead to burn-out unless care is taken. As today is World Mental Health Day, we would like to take the opportunity to challenge the assumptions about mental health and equip ourselves with the necessary tools to maintain balance.

Tom Costley, Operations Director for Mind in Camden, explains why he thinks entrepreneurs are sometimes at risk of developing poor mental health and suggests some practical tips and strategies that entrepreneurs can employ to protect their mental wellbeing and maintain a work-life balance.

Mind

Why might there be a risk of an entrepreneur experiencing issues with their mental health?

Entrepreneurs typically have a high sense of purpose, meaning and drive in their lives, and this is actually great for positive mental health.  However, there can be a downside to this if the drive to succeed comes at the detriment of other things which help keep us in balance.  For example, if building the business becomes the only focus of the entrepreneur’s world and they pour all their energies into it, then they risk neglecting some other important factors which help sustain their good mental health, such as our personal relationships or downtime for relaxation. Often entrepreneurs can feel so driven to succeed that they imagine they are immune to the consequences of neglecting their wellbeing and ignore tell-tale signs and symptoms.  Lack of sleep, for example, can lead us to feel irritable and frustrated and affect our decision making.  Business owners may feel we can ride through this and carry on working, but ultimately it will negatively impact on how effective they are in their business and on their chances of success.  For example, they might unintentionally be snappy with an important client, forget an important deadline or experience ‘brain fog’ and lack of clarity when making an important decision with long-term implications.

Entrepreneurs can also be emotionally high-risk takers, investing 100% of themselves in their business to the extent it becomes an extension of their personal identity and it is difficult to see where the business ends and the person begins.  We see this a lot currently as the trend for social media and video content creates an expectation for business owners to be more visible than ever before, which creates additional pressure.  This may not be a problem when the business is working well and experiencing success, but should the business then take a dip that entrepreneur can find that their self-esteem is so closely entwined with their work that they experience a disproportionate reaction and fall into a ‘slump’.  This is why preserving a sense of self which is separate from the business is vitally important in enabling us to ride through challenges and maintain perspective.

World-Mental-Health-Day-10th-October-2016

For an entrepreneur, having their identity very closely connected to their business can also compromise their emotional honesty.  This may be particularly true for people who are at the early stage of building a business when the appearance of success and confidence is everything and we are taught to ‘fake it until we make it’.  Of course, there is an element of this that may be necessary as part of a business strategy.  However, to safeguard against becoming disconnected from reality it is important to have someone who you can be more revealing with, and share what is really going on: your fears and anxiety as well as your hopes and ambitions.  This might be a great friend or partner, or perhaps even a mentor figure or a counsellor.  Whoever it is, make sure you allow time in your busy schedule to connect with them.

What are the warning signs of poor mental health that entrepreneurs should look out for?

It’s important to remember that mental health is personal: it’s about understanding ourselves. We all have different warning signs which may indicate to us that we are heading out of balance.  One useful way to approach this is to be aware of how we are when we are feeling ‘ok’ and then to consciously monitor ourselves if we feel some of these things are noticeably worse. Typical warning signs that things are tipping in the wrong direction might include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Altered sleep pattern or lack of sleep
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of confusion or compromised ability to make decisions
  • Levels of sociability
  • Sense of connection to those close to us
  • Ability to see the ‘bigger picture’ and maintain perspective

It’s important to take account of our individuality when monitoring our mental health; we need to compare ourselves to what is healthy and normal for us rather than for other people.  For example, whilst social contact is important for good mental health, we all thrive off different levels and types of social engagement depending on our personalities.

Do you have any tops hints and tips that you could recommend to help entrepreneurs/business owners look after their mental health more effectively?

Again this is personal, so knowing yourself is essential.  Identify what keeps you resourced away from your business and ensure you build in time to do this with full presence and commitment.  Preserving time to switch off and be with the important people in your life, or simply spending time doing something which gives you joy and helps you connect with life beyond work, really can make all the difference.  This could be a sport, gardening, walking, reading or just being with friends and family.  Because they don’t keep set working hours, business owners can have a tendency to feel tremendously guilty about taking time out for themselves. In order to commit to doing this, you may need to keep reminding yourself of the benefits:  switching off from your business every once in a while will increase your creativity, give you renewed energy and ensure you are keeping fully charged in order to make your business a success.