THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

148 posts categorized "Entrepreneurs"

19 September 2018

Start-up Day: Meet the Speakers

Add comment

With Start-up Day fast approaching, here's an introduction to a few of the speakers who will be giving their expert advice on the day.

How to understand the UK market right now
Jack Duckett
@mintelnews

Jduckett@mintel Headshot (B&W)

I am the senior consumer lifestyles analyst at the market intelligence agency Mintel, and I am very much looking forward to sharing my presentation with you.

My presentation has two goals; the first is to help you to get a better sense of the breadth of Mintel research that you have access to at the British Library and the network of libraries around the country. The second is really to give you a sense of the important role that we believe market research plays for businesses today.

For start-up business owners, it can be taken as a given that you know your product and customers extremely well. But, when it comes to your Dragons’ Den moment, whether that be with your bank manager, an investor or a retail buyer, market research can provide the information you need to support your brand and help it to stand on its own. The second core benefit to market research is in helping you to know where to go next with your business, enabling you to see what is changing in your category and helping you to be prepared for the future.

How To Build an Authentic Business Network
Rasheed Ogunlaru
@RasheedOgunlaru

Rasheed Image 1

“Networking, love it or hate it, building a genuine network, is vital in starting and growing business.” says Rasheed. “This session will help session will help you network strategically, effectively, authentically and nerve free.”

Rasheed’s top three quotes and tips on networking and building an authentic business:

  1. Always have something shrewd to say and valuable to bring to the table
  2. Your online, website and social media presence are the window to your world - meeting people in person is the door
  3. What people feel and say about you when you leave the room is your job while you’re in the room.


How to be an entrepreneur
Matt Lumb
@mattlumb1

ML headshot

During Matt’s seven years at Tangle Teezer he transformed the brand from being a “Dragon’s Den reject” to one of the fastest growing companies in the UK and a household name. Matt talks openly about the challenges he and his team faced whilst trying to manage exponential growth overseas growth, UK manufacturing capacity, the importance of IP as well as copycat and counterfeit issues and the grey market. The Tangle Teezer story is a fascinating one as he took it from a start-up to having a valuation of £200M inside five years.


Start-up Stars: How I turned my business idea into a reality

Amy Fleuriot
@hiroandwolf
@artisansandadventurers

Amy Fleuriot

Starting your own business can be an equally exciting and daunting time. I founded Hiro + Wolf five years ago with my wonderful business partner, Bee Friedmann and we have learnt so much on our journey. What started as an accessories brand for people and their pets has grown into two distinct businesses as we launched Artisans & Adventurers two years ago with the help of the British Library. My expertise include design, branding, marketing, ethical sourcing and everything that goes into the day to day running of two shops, an online store and wholesale business. I am looking forward to hearing what challenges new businesses are facing and hope I can offer some advice on the start-up stage.

For more information on Start-up Day, to see which libraries are involved around the country and to sign up to the webcast, visit our website.

07 August 2018

If the Shoe Fits… Finding your Business Niche

Add comment

Finding your niche in any market can be tough; who is your customer? What do they want? What are your competition doing? Amanda Overs, graduate of the Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth: Scale-up programme and founder of I Can Make Shoes, set up a shoemaking school after being unable to find a course to make shoes, without the need for heavy machinery.

B-886C7442
I Can Make Shoes workshop

“I was sick of being told ‘you can’t do it like that’” (by traditional shoemakers). With the demand for slow fashion and a resurgence of sewing and crafting, Amanda decided to put a positive spin on the negative backlash and eight years later has gone from running classes in her living room by herself to employing five part-time members of staff and running workshops almost every day of the year in both London and New York.

Research was crucial in finding out exactly who I Can Make Shoes’ customers were. Amanda says, “There has been a lot of trial and error over the years, but what I have found is the fastest, most efficient way of doing research is to actually ask your customer what they think. I regularly do surveys when I have a new idea to see what my audience think of it and recently started a Facebook community so that I can see for myself what it is that my students and customers really want and need.”

_MG_1613
I Can Make Shoes now run workshops in both London and New York

Amanda is always looking at ways to improve I Can Make Shoes’ offering and the business is always changing and improving. Something Amanda says is “key to staying ahead of the competition”. Not only do they run workshops for members of the public, they also have online shoemaking instructions, sell components, and train designers from major high street brands such as ASOS, River Island and Adidas.

The Innovating for Growth programme has helped Amanda take I Can Make Shoes to the next level, “It’s helped me to step back and reassess the business as a whole and identify the key areas of potential growth. I started in a bit of a whirlwind and have been treading water ever since, so to have fresh (very experienced) eyes and non-biased opinions on my plans for the future has been absolutely priceless”.

_MG_1680
"Fail fast, learn faster and move on to the next thing.”

What tips does Amanda have for finding your niche? “Trust your gut. Don't over think every detail. Fail fast, learn faster and move on to the next thing.” Amanda lives by her rules, due to popular demand she will be offering a new sneaker course launching soon...

Apply now for over £10,000 worth of business advice!

If you are already running a business and are looking to take it to the next level like Amanda, our three-month Innovating for Growth programme can help turn your growth idea into a reality. Applications are now open, so find out more here and apply now!

  LogoERDF_Col_Landscape

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

01 August 2018

IP Corner: Patent databases, which one is right for you?

Add comment

Here at the British Library's Business & IP Centre we meet many inventors who are starting out on their journey through to patenting their inventions. The majority understand that their first action should be to search to see if their proposed invention is truly ‘new and innovative’ as it must be in order to obtain patent protection. What inventors will be searching for is known as ‘Prior art’ which is basically anything that shows the proposed invention is already known and is therefore not new. Prior art doesn’t have to be a patent, it could be a newspaper advertisement, a magazine or journal article or even a product on sale in another country. 

Most inventors will have heard of, and some may even have used, the Espacenet database. Espacenet is a patent search database containing data on over 100 million patent documents worldwide. Searching the database is fairly intuitive, but if needed there is a very informative Help section to aid the novice searcher. Espacenet is a great starting point for any would be inventor and is freely available via https://worldwide.espacenet.com.

What is generally less known by inventors is that here at the Business & IP Centre we subscribe to another search database that our registered readers can use for free. This database is the Derwent Innovations Index or DII as it is also known. 

DII is a search database that provides access to more than 30 million inventions as detailed in 65+ million patent documents. Once a search has been run, clicking through from the results list, users are able to view details of the relevant patent including any patents and/or articles cited as ‘Prior art’ against it. For most patents there are also links through to Espacenet to view the full published specification.

Espacenet also does this, so what are the advantages of visiting the Business & IP Centre and using DII

Well, it should be remembered that patents are technical documents which are written in such a way as to meet all the relevant criteria for obtaining a patent but, by providing only the most important information, give nothing away. 

With Espacenet you are searching the patents as published; the title or abstract, bibliographic data, description and claims all exactly as written in the original documents. This can make keyword searching problematic, not everyone will necessarily use the same keywords to describe the same subject, and often searchers will need to resort to classification searching to ensure they are searching in the correct technical area. Add to this the fact that patent titles can be slightly ambiguous and patent searching can become slightly more difficult.

With the Derwent Innovations Index (DII) what happens is that when a patent is published a member of the DII team who is experienced in the particular technical area covered by the patent takes the patent specification and does the following:

  • Writes a more concise title that describes the invention and its claimed novelty
  • Then writes an abstract giving a 250–500 word description in English of the claimed novelty of the invention
  • Finally, DII also add their own ‘Class codes’ and ‘Manual codes’ to the records: Derwent Class Codes allow the searcher to quickly retrieve a particular category of inventions whilst Derwent Manual Codes indicate the novel technical aspects of the invention.

To give you a quick example of this, the title of patent WO2018064763 on Espacenet is ‘Compactable bicycle’ as shown below:

Espacenet example
Espacenet Patent search

Whereas on DII the title is written as:

Derwent Innovations Index
Derwent Innovations Index

The Espacenet bibliography and abstract looks like this:

Espacenet bibliography
Espacenet bibliography

Whilst the DII bibliography and abstract looks like this:

DII bibliography
DII bibliography

Note: DII highlights, Novelty, Use and Advantage within the abstract.

Another advantage DII has is that using the Advanced search option searchers have the ability to ‘build’ a search by searching keywords, classifications, inventor/applicant details etc. and then adding search sets together as desired.

DII advanced search
DII advanced search

Searchers then click on the live link in the Results box to view the results list from where they can select relevant patent records to save to a Marked list. Searchers can then email the results from the Marked list to themselves to view later if they wish.

With the Espacenet database searchers can download and print out copies of the front pages of relevant specifications (known as covers) or they can select titles from their search results list to export to either CVS or XLS. Copies of full patent specification can also be downloaded and printed out if desired.

Both Espacenet and DII are extremely useful for searchers. Each database has their own strengths and weaknesses, but if you visit the Business & IP Centre we will be happy to discuss your needs and show you how to get the best from both databases.

Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert at the Business & IP Centre London

Maria has worked in the field of intellectual property since she joined the British Library in January 1993. She is currently the British Library Business & IP Centre’s Intellectual Property Expert, where she delivers 1-2-1 business and IP advice clinics, as well as intellectual property workshops and webinars on regular basis.

24 July 2018

Meet Martha Silcott, breaking taboos, one period at a time

Add comment

Each year 1.4 billion tampons are flushed, ending up in the sewer system, causing flooding and pollution. Water companies spend 88 million pounds per year getting all the un-flushable items out of the sewers. What can be done to solve this problem? Martha Silcott is on a mission to find a sanitary solution for this sanitary problem with her corn starch, biodegradable fab little bags...

Tell us a little more about FabLittleBag?

FabLittleBags are biodegradable opaque, sealable sanitary disposal bags that prevent aquatic pollution and actually make disposal feel good!

What inspired the creation of the product? Did you have a ‘Eureka’ moment that convinced you that this was a good idea?

Sitting on the toilet thinking “there must be a better way of doing this” as I performed the LooRoll Wrap with reams of toilet roll for the umpteenth time… Recalling the times when round at friends houses and there was no bin in the downstairs loo so I resorted to doing the Handbag Smuggle. I got cross that there was not a better solution out there, I researched it expecting to find one, I didn’t so I decided to invent one myself. I did loads of research in the British Library, researching the market, the companies involved, the blockages caused by flushing etc. My Eureka moment was when I finally figured out the design of FabLittleBag; its unique one-handed opening and that it had to seal – I ran around the house gathering bits of sandwich bags, sellotape, staplers etc. and made a Blue Peter version.

FabLittleBag_Martha_Silcott
Martha Silcott, founder of FabLittleBag

What steps did you take to protect the IP in your design?

I learned a lot about IP form the British Library sessions and their intro to an organisation called Ideas 21 – so I had a free session with an IP lawyer to establish if it was a starter or not – and it went from there, applying for my patent in 2006.

Did you use the resources and training available through the Business & IP Centre to research and launch the business? 

Yes, general market research; access to huge data resources at no cost, if you were to buy the info yourself each one costs thousands of pounds! IP information, a basic course on social media later on, all very useful along the journey.

Tell us more about how are you working with the British Library to bring FabLittleBag to more users?

We are currently trialling FabLittleBag in two toilet blocks, these are ones which have a very high level of blockages causing cost to the Library and inconvenience to users. The Library has a lot of through traffic and we know that approx. 60% of UK women flush their tampons and with other habits and cultures passing through blockages are a real challenge for the Library loos! So our gorgeous new dispensers are installed in these blocks and we have already had direct email contact from a few users telling us how fab they think FabLittleBag is! We are offering all British Library users who email us a free sample pack of FabLittleBags to try, so don’t be shy!

FabLittleBag_product2
The best disposal solution. Period

What is the vision for the future of the company? Where will FabLittleBag be five and 10 years from now?

We have BIG plans! We already have customers from lots of countries all over the world but we want to ensure that any Binner that dislikes doing the Loo Roll Wrap and wants to feel more in control and calm at point of disposal have FabLittleBags in their life and that we convert as many Flushers out there as possible into Binners – frankly whether they use FabLittleBags or not, we just want to stop the flushing of non-flushables and so prevent blockages and aquatic pollution at source.

One of our Missions is to #screwthetaboo and break down the ridiculous taboo that still exists around periods in 2017! Involving men and boys is important in this journey as they are involved even if it is not them having periods! Replacing feelings of awkwardness and anxiety around disposal of sanitary products is a core mission of ours, helping women to feel more relaxed and calm as they know that even if there is only two bits of loo roll there, or there is no bin, because they have FabLittleBag, they will be able to disposal of the product easily and without stress. We also want to support our chosen key charity (WellBeing of Women) and to expand our charitable impact as we grow, also helping to support smaller local charities and some abroad where the issues of menstruation has huge negative impacts of girls and women’s lives.

So five years' time to be a normal ‘must have’ in the handbags and bathrooms up and down the UK, Europe, USA, etc. and other countries where disposables are still the most common form of managing ones period (therefore disposal solutions are especially needed). 10 years time to be so successful that our charitable foundation Fab Friends, is making a huge positive impact on menstrual health and practical management for millions of women across the globe.

FabLittleBags will continue to be trialed at the British Library to help prevent the negative impacts of flushing sanitary products.

02 March 2018

A fashionable way to start your business

Add comment

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

Add comment

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

Add comment

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.

TBN colour

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

Add comment

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.

15 October 2017

Innovating for Growth: London tours with a tasty twist

Add comment

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!

Chocolate-brownie-notting-hill

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

Add comment

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