THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

Introduction

This blog is written by members of the Business & IP Centre team and some of our expert partners and discusses business, innovation and enterprise. Read more

Royal Wedding designer inspiration: quirky and creative merchandise you may actually want to buy (and keep)

Millions of people around the world had their hearts and imaginations captivated by the sheer scale and exuberance of the Royal Wedding. When an actress quits Hollywood to marry a prince, surely this is truly the stuff fairy tales are made of?

Naturally, there are a lot of businesses that have tried to tap into what is shaping up to be the wedding of the year. Merchandise galore fuels the spending spree: but despite the multitude of memorabilia available to fans worldwide, it can be incredibly hard to find original and quirky merchandise to commemorate the occasion. You know, something you might actually want to buy.

With Prince Harry and Meghan-mania in full swing, we've asked three businesses that scaled up through our Innovating for Growth programme to share what they have done to mark the Royal Wedding. And how they got the inspiration for their incredibly creative alternative souvenir ranges: from quirky socks to collectibles raising funds for The Windsor Homeless Project.

 

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So Over It Commemorative Plate by Modern Chintz, available at We built This City

 

Alice, founder of revolutionary souvenir shop We Built This City championing creativity in London's Carnaby Street: As soon as the engagement was announced, we spotted a fantastic opportunity to position We Built This City as the home of alternative Royal Wedding souvenirs with every purchase also supporting London's creatives. 

Alice on rickshaw

Our unique collection has been curated with both tourists and Londoners in mind, especially those throwing a party this weekend and who have a sense of humour around all the media madness! 

For those a little overwhelmed by the hype, we're selling commemorative plates 'mistakenly' featuring Meghan marrying Ed Sheeran, Lydia Leith's now famous Sick Bags and 'No Bank Holiday' Notes.

 

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Royal Wedding Sick Bag by Lydia Leith, available at We built This City

Alongside the more humorous pieces, our artists have created a really fresh and contemporary set of souvenirs that celebrate the youthful and fun nature of Harry and Meghan. And for our customers throwing parties on the day of the wedding, we're offering Royal Wedding themed biscuits, chocolate, tea, Royal Bingo and of course a Queen's Head Jelly Mould!

 

 

To celebrate in-store, we've also commissioned an artist duo Crispin Finn to create a Royal Wedding themed storefront. Their installation is called 'Together Forever' and is a nod to the royal nuptials as well as to the strength of our creative community. This has been a great PR driver for us and has been captured by the 15 international TV crews who've come to interview us since we launched the collection. 

Alice also stocks other fellow Innovating for Growth businesses' souvenirs in her Carnaby Street shop: Chattyfeet's quirky royal sock range and Victoria Eggs' beautiful British designs.

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ChattyFeet's Kate Middle-Toe in front of Victoria Eggs' Royal Wedding Canvas Bag

 

 

Gil, co-founder of funky and fun ChattyFeet socks guaranteed to put a smile on your face: Here at ChattyFeet, we’re really excited about the royal wedding and decided to go on a special sock tour around London! Kate Middle-Toe and the Sock Queen were discussing whether wearing ChattyFeet to the wedding will be allowed. We certainly hope that people won’t have to sacrifice their creativity for the sake of royal etiquette…

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A royal cuppa with the Sock Queen and Kate Middle-Toe

Many people got in touch with us via email, Instagram and Twitter asking whether Meghan socks are coming next. We’re considering this very seriously and created a long list of pros and cons that we’re still debating as we speak…

 

 

Victoria, founder of Victoria Eggs playful homeware and gifts inspired by a love of all things British: We are very excited to have launched a range of commemorative gifts to celebrate the Royal Wedding, all of which are proudly made in Britain.

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Victoria wearing the Royal Wedding Apron

The design features beautifully illustrated rose garlands, wedding bells and Windsor Castle, along with the names of the happy couple, date and location. The collection of gifts includes a mug, tea towel, apron and canvas bag, all attractively packaged to create perfect Royal Wedding souvenirs.

When starting the design I wanted to create something that that was traditional with a modern twist: I began by drawing Windsor castle, a Queen’s Guard and Union Jack, and included roses which are the national flower of England. The finishing touch was placing four church bells ringing out over the celebration of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding below! 

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More of Victoria Eggs' Royal Wedding range available at Harrods

If you're in London, take a trip down to Harrods where you can find Victoria's beautiful souvenirs. If not, check out the online shop guaranteed to brighten up your day with a great selection of elegant yet fun British-made home wares.

 

Are you an ambitious business owner looking to scale up like Alice, Gil or Victoria? 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!

ERDF

 

Ewa Domaradzka, Commercial Marketing Manager 

 

10 July 2018

Liz Earle MBE: live up to your brand principles which stand the test of time

Liz Earle is a household name. A wellbeing entrepreneur, TV presenter and the number one bestselling author of over 35 books on a range of health, beauty and wellbeing topics, she is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Liz Earle Wellbeing magazine and founder of Liz Earle Fair and Fine, an award-winning range Fairtrade gold botanical jewellery.

What you may not have known is that when starting a career in wellbeing, if Liz needed to carry out research she would always come to the British Library. 30 years later, we’re welcoming her back to share the business story behind her success with the next generation of entrepreneurs at Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Feelgood Founders.

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Liz Earle, founder of Liz Earle Wellbeing. Credit: Georgia Glynn Smith

Can you tell us more about Liz Earle Wellbeing?

It’s the hub for all my written and online work in the world of wellbeing. Liz Earle Wellbeing itself is a high-quality magazine focused on food and living well. It’s based on over 30 years of award-winning advice, experience and research and is packed with tried and trusted recipes and inspirational ideas and ways to bring out the very best in you!

Alongside the magazine, I’ve recently launched the Wellness with Liz Earle podcasts, with downloads hitting 150,000. Recent guests have included the hilarious Kathy Lette, the brilliant Hemsley sisters and the gardener, TV presenter and writer Sarah Raven. 

 

What new business habits have you introduced since starting your career in wellbeing?

One relatively new habit I’ve introduced is social media engagement - it’s easy to forget how relatively new social media is, Instagram was only launched in 2010 so it wasn’t around when I was building my beauty brand. I confess I was nervous about putting myself in the spotlight, but now I absolutely love having my own voice, especially on Instagram as it’s a lovely community. Customers just love to connect with actual founders and not faceless brands. Authenticity is such an asset.

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What business advice can you offer for budding entrepreneurs?

One of my motto’s is “if it has to be now, it has to be no”. I like to be able to at least sleep on a business decision and make sure I still feel the same way about something the following day.

 

You’ve said that you have used the British Library for your business research. Are there any major milestones you’d recommend aspiring businesses always check into before they leap?

I’d say always do thorough research on any area you are looking at working in!  You need to really do your research and know your subject – and not just via the school of Google. I have a saying that it takes 30 years to build trust and 30 seconds to destroy it and I think this is never more true than in the fast-paced world we live in today. I’ve instilled in all my team a commitment to be very careful about everything they write, post and create to maintain the trust our customers have in the Liz Earle Wellbeing brand. For example, always go back to the source when quoting any study, don’t just reply on newspaper or online headlines, which so-often misinterpret the data.

 

If you were an ambitious entrepreneur attending the 'Feelgood Founders' event, what question would you ask yourself? 

What is the key to brand loyalty? To which I would say, it’s living up to your brand principles – which have to stand the test of time and not get diluted by Committee.  Brand founders are perfectly placed to protect the core essence of what their brand is about. They are the ultimate brand guardians and the only truly authentic and genuine voice customers want to listen to.

 

Liz will be appearing at the upcoming Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Feelgood Founders event on July 10, alongside Mark Constantine OBE, Co-founder of Lush, Simon Duffy MBE, Founder of Bulldog Skincare for Men and Sherille Riley, Founder of Nails and Brows Mayfair Boutique. You’ll hear the stories behind some of the best-known health and beauty brands and also have the opportunity to ask our expert panel your burning questions and make connections over drinks and canapés at the networking reception after the event (which is included in the ticket price). Tickets cost just £10 and are available here.

02 July 2018

From Under Dog to Top Dog in the Male Skincare Industry

Bulldog Skincare for Men launched eleven years ago, and is currently driving the market for male skincare growth in the UK. Way back in 2008 we welcomed the founders to the British Library stage to talk about the brand that was changing the face of the male skincare industry with its natural ingredients and bold, simple designs. In those days Bulldog, at less than twelve months old, was a mere pup!

However, ten years on and the brand’s 40-strong range is now available in 24 countries with a product sold every seven seconds globally. We’re thrilled to be welcoming Simon Duffy to our Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Feelgood Founders on July 10, and caught up with him before the event to talk about how Bulldog became every man’s best friend. 

Bulldog was launched in 2007, now eleven years ago, but what inspired the creation of the business? 

We launched nationwide in the UK in 2007 with Sainsbury’s. I originally had the idea for Bulldog Skincare for Men in November 2005 whilst I was shopping for natural skincare products for my wife. I was buying some of her favourite products when I noticed that there were no straightforward skincare options for men which contained natural ingredients. This kick-started the R&D process, which flowed into fundraising, and culminated with our first retailer launch.

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Simon Duffy, Co-founder of Bulldog


What are the key changes in the sector since you've been established and how has the business changed to respond to that?

The 2013 European Ban on animal testing in cosmetics was a great moment for everyone who is interested in ‘Cruelty Free’. We have kept to the ‘Cruelty Free’ standards right from the very beginning. It’s a fundamental part of how we think about formulation.

Today, the focus on sustainability is more important than ever. This is also an area where we want Bulldog to continue to push boundaries. 

For example, we have never used plastic microbeads which is unusual in the industry. More recently Bulldog became the first men’s skincare brand to use plastic tubes derived from sugarcane rather than fossil fuels.

Recently we launched a new razor which uses much less plastic than conventional options and overall is trying to be much more environmentally responsible. The handle of this new razor is made from a bamboo rather than plastic, and the packaging is created using recycled card stack and environmentally soy inks. Overall there is much less plastic being used in both the primary products and in the outer packaging.

In a crowded market how have you been so successful in making your products and brand stand out?

When you don’t have the enormous budgets of the massive companies you compete with, you must believe that your products can do the talking for you. We have always set out to make amazing products and I believe word-of-mouth has helped to grow our sales.

From a branding perspective we very purposefully intended to stand out in a crowded market. Before Bulldog, the men’s skincare aisle was a sea of blacks, blues and greys. All these products were marketed with complicated skincare jargon. Our simple white packaging was chosen to be different; and our straightforward language was intended as an antidote to the unnecessary complexity we saw elsewhere.

From a formulation perspective, Bulldog also stands out as something different from the norm. There are controversial ingredients we won’t use, and instead we prioritise natural ingredients and essential oils.

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A selection of original Bulldog products


We know that all Bulldog products are suitable for vegans, are free from micro beads and use
sustainable packaging. How important is it you to create an ethically sound product and has that always been the case?

It’s fundamental. This has been our stance since day 1 and it won’t change.

If you were an ambitious entrepreneur attending the 'Feelgood Founders' event what question would you ask yourself? 

I'd ask what is the best way to make a brand famous?

What key piece of advice would you share with an aspiring health & wellness owner to give their business the best chance of success?

Collaboration really is key. Figure out what you’re good at and then build a team, both internally and externally, to support you in areas where you know you’re not as strong.

 

Simon will be appearing at the upcoming Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Feelgood Founders event on July 10, alongside Liz Earle MBE, Mark Constantine OBE, Co-founder of Lush and Sherille Riley, Founder of Nails and Brows Mayfair Boutique. You’ll hear the stories behind some of the best-known health and beauty brands and also have the opportunity to ask our expert panel your burning questions and make connections over drinks and canapés at the networking reception after the event (which is included in the ticket price). Tickets cost just £10 and are available here.

 

08 June 2018

Exploring the archives… and finding commercial treasures

Because I spent many years in business focused on developing new products I’m always looking for inspiration. New products, creative ideas and services rarely appear out of nowhere, instead we come up with them because we see something that gets us thinking in a different way. Equally, some research back in time often bring s out ideas which you can make fresh and exciting.

 

Harry Potter: A History of Magic

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A recent exhibition at the British Library focused on a history of magic, themed around the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book by JK Rowling. The artefacts they uncovered pay tribute to Rowling’s careful research as much as her fertile imagination. There were instructions on how to cultivate Mandrakes or make the Philosopher’s Stone, manuals on how to read tea-leaves or palms detailed enough to be a textbook in Divination and how to get the very best bezoar stones (from a goat). Although she obviously decided against the advice on fending off basilisks (keep a weasel in your pocket), opting instead for the more elegant Godric Gryffindor’s sword.

The archives of the British Library are not just useful when you’ve got a PhD thesis to write. Instead they offer a treasure-trove of materials, ideas, illustrations and texts that any creative entrepreneur would give their eye-teeth to use for inspiration. Think of Rococo Chocolates, whose signature packaging comes from an 18th century catalogue of chocolate mouldings. Theatre company Undercurrent created a sell-out theatre production Calculating Kindness which was inspired by material from the Library's contemporary scientific archives.

Meanwhile fashion designers wanting to focus on the current interest in kimonos might want to explore the Library’s Japanese collection, which contains original kimono patterns from before the twentieth century. I have a book which offers advice to young ‘memsahibs’ heading out to British India, the details in it almost make creating fiction unnecessary.

We think of copyright as providing protection. But at the moment when it expires (in the UK, 70 years after the death of its creator, to give you a very rough idea – you should always check each item individually for any exceptions but there are experts on hand in the Business & IP Centre to do just that), it opens up a whole new world of inspiration and product possibilities which could be a goldmine for businesses.

 

A little exercise for your business

Here is an image from the British Library’s archives. It’s a beautiful illustration of a llama.

Llama

How could you use it as inspiration in your own business? Stop reading right now and write down 5 ideas. Right now. I dare you. Thinking out of the box around unusual items often brings us new ideas, whether directly connected or not, so it’s a useful exercise to do regularly.

Here are a few ideas: Ex libris (stickers proclaiming a book is yours) designs for a stationery business; using old illustrations for a new ABC or storybook; a design for fabrics/upholstery; branding for your llama picnics (there is such a business, I want to go…) and the decor for a Peruvian restaurant or range of ‘superfood’ products from Peru. A t-shirt design; a video game where you get allocated certain animals and have to look after them; a wool or clothing or home furnishing company specialising in llama and alpaca fibres; a travel company specialising in South America… I think you get the picture.

 

Workshop

I’m running a workshop in June where we will be looking at business plans for people in the creative industries. And I think it is just these creative entrepreneurs who could make it part of their strategies to draw on the archives to create new and outstanding ideas, products and services. There are millions of amazing items just waiting for your business to find them and turn them into new bestsellers. Come along and explore: https://www.bl.uk/events/business-plans-for-creatives-june-2018

 

Melissa Addey on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

 

*Melissa Addey spent fifteen years developing new products at Sainsbury’s Head Office and then went on to mentor over 500 entrepreneurs as part of a government grants programme. Now a fulltime author, studying for a PhD in Creative Writing, she has written six books including fiction and non-fiction. www.melissaaddey.com