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

16 February 2018

Meet the entrepreneurs who made their mark online

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As part of the The British Library’s Business & IP Centre’s flagship Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons event, a panel of entrepreneurs who made a success of online business gathered to share their knowledge.

 

Starting a business can be daunting enough. But what about starting up online? Do you need a lot of experience in tech, or can you outsource that to others? Will that cost you a fortune or is it cheaper to run your company in-house?

These and a whole host of other questions were answered by people who have been there, done it and (more importantly) made a success of starting up an online business. A panel of experts gathered at The Knowledge Centre on 6 February to talk about their experiences of making an idea work for them online, plus impart some important lessons they picked up along the way. The event was live-streamed online and at a record-breaking thirteen local libraries around the United Kingdom.

 

Taking the lead

Rikke Rosenlund talked the audience through how she set up her business BorrowMyDoggy,  a trusted online community for dog owners and dog lovers. Her idea was simple: to create a service that connected dog owners in need of help and people who wanted to experience having a dog, but perhaps couldn’t have one full time. Conscious of the very high failure rate of tech companies within the first couple of years, she decided to try something called a Lean Startup Model to see if her vision was viable. This is a methodology that allows you to test out your idea without investing too much so if it needs tweaking or rethinking, you will know before you’re too far down the line.

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Rikke’s idea turned out to be not only viable, but incredibly popular. She set up a landing page after testing the concept manually and within 3 days 85 people across the UK had signed up. “Doing it manually first, mapping out addresses and matching people and dog owners in person saved me both time and money in the long run,” she explained.

When it came to promotion, the BorrowMyDoggy community helped spread the word. “A friend with a big following on Twitter tweeted about it, the media picked up on it after an article appeared in Emerald Street and this was all while it was a little idea!”

Rikke finished with some sage advice. “Starting the business has been a fantastic journey but also incredibly hard. You cannot be perfect at it all—the Business & IP Centre can help. Find sources of guidance. Find people that will help you—and for free or cheaply!

 

Turning tables

Karen Hanton, founder of Toptable.com, comes from an HR background. Her time in recruitment was a great learning curve before working in digital—it was the late 90s and the internet was starting to be a thing. "I saw the rise of lastminute.com and then one night, at the kitchen table, my friends and I all started talking about our own ideas for an internet business.”

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Realising that more people not only had access to the internet but were confident booking holidays and buying products through it, Karen hit upon her own idea. “I wanted to give people the option of booking a service online, but holidays weren’t frequent enough. I thought about being able to book tables at popular restaurants and Toptable was born!”

Toptable went from strength to strength and had soon attracted attention from an American competitor, OpenTable. After selling Toptable to them in 2013, Karen wasn’t sure she would venture into online business again. But then she saw something interesting happening in the pet business...

She now runs PetsPyjamas which is in its fifth year, specialising in dog friendly travel. "Everything takes much longer than you think. Some budding entrepreneurs have expectations of 2-3 years for things to really get going and you should be delighted if it takes you any less, but building a brand or business is hard. It often doesn’t turn out how you planned.”

 

The perfect fit

Tom Adeyoola founded Metail  to solve the online shopping sizing problem. A holiday in Vietnam proved inspirational after his wife had some clothes tailor-made and Tom saw how much better the fit was when her measurements were taken into consideration: it inspired him to use AI and tech to make shopping easier.

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Metail uses computer vision technology developed from Cambridge University to create 3D virtual models of both shoppers and garments. You ‘try on’ any number of clothes in a virtual changing room, to see what it would look like in 360 degrees and find out whether it would fit.

Tom is an economist who likes to fix big problems. “I wanted to see if I could harness academic research and global scale, cutting-edge tech to make Metail work. Plus, I wanted it to be able to grow and compete with larger markets, say in the US". 

Because he’s using tech and AI to build his business, Tom is constantly protecting his new ideas. Metail currently owns 10 patents and has a further 20 pending. With Patents in mind, Tom recommended the Business & IP Centre for finding out as much as you can about Intellectual Property (IP). “Intellectual property is a game you have to play, and we actually had a strategic lawyer to help us out. Think about where you’re going with your business, the key territories you’d want your idea protected from key competitors. Use that information to help build your patent. It can be a long process, but building IP is important. ”

 

Constant innovation

Sara Murray is the founder of confused.com, but has since moved on. Her latest venture Buddi is her real passion now. “I’ve been working on Buddi since 2005, but people still want to know about confused.com, I guess because it is such a well-known name,” she explains. Using research to push boundaries has always been a huge part of her motivation. Although she went on to sell confused.com and could easily have retired in her early thirties, she knew she wanted to do it all again.

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“My daughter went missing in a supermarket when she was around four years old.” This prompted Sara to begin researching modern tech. "I couldn’t find anything out there to help avoid a situation like that in the future, at least not in the right size, so I decided to make it myself.”

Sara hired engineers to help her design GPS tracker small enough for a child to hold. “They were all too big!” Determined to get what she wanted, she had a clear objective: something imperative for a business plan. By 2008 the trackers were significantly smaller and better. “You have to make a product that people want to use – it might not fit a business model, but I knew people wanted it, so I set out to create it”.

To one of the most commented questions about how much money does it take to start up an online business, Sara has a simple answer: cash is king. “I’m very aware of turnover, but what matters is cash flow. The only thing that makes a business fail is running out of money. And it’s better to have less people funding your business than a lot—there’s less bureaucracy that way.”

 

 

* The British Library’s Business & IP Centre, supports small business owners, entrepreneurs and inventors like you. The team is on hand to offer advice, masterclasses and support for your business. You can visit us in the British Library at St Pancras, London six days a week, or one of the ten National Network Centres around the UK.

14 February 2018

Valentine's Day in numbers: a heart-stopping spending splurge in 2018

 

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Valentine's Day is upon us and our partners at Mintel have put together this handy report to reveal which retail event is closest to the hearts of UK shoppers.

Love is clearly all around us with Brits proving their romantic side by splashing out more money on Valentine’s Day gifts than Easter. Love struck Brits spent a heart stopping £620 million* on Valentine’s gifts in 2017, compared to the £575 million* they spent at Easter. And despite the challenging consumer outlook, Mintel forecasts that sales of Valentine’s Day gifts will increase to an impressive £650 million in 2018 - a rise of 5% compared to last year.

Valentine’s spending received a boost from a significant increase in average spend: consumers spent £60 on average on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2017, compared to £41 in 2016. By contrast, the average spend for Easter was just £41 last year and £35 in 2016.

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Older Millennials and men are driving the boost

Older Millennials (aged between 28 to 37) are the most active Valentine’s Day spenders, with 60% of them buying gifts in 2017 and spending £81 on average. Meanwhile, there is a big divergence between the sexes: over half of men (53%) bought Valentine’s Day gifts in 2017 and they spent an average of £72, compared to 39% of women who spent £44 on average.
 

Food and drink the way to the nation’s heart

Food and drink consumed at home tops the list of products Brits spent the most on for Valentine’s Day, reaching £128 million in 2017. They also liked splashing the cash on other romantic favourites, such as jewellery (£112 million), with flowers (£102 million) and clothing or footwear (£80 million) rounding up the top four purchased Valentine’s products. Spending on traditional Valentine’s staples, such as confectionery (£53 million) and greeting cards (£53 million), also generated significant amounts.

 

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Businesses such as Innovating for Growth graduates Lavolio Boutique Confectionery offer a Valentine's gift staple

Shoppers want more personalisation and experiences

Six out of ten (59%) Valentine’s Day shoppers think retailers should offer more options to personalise gifts, while over half (55%) think that experiences make better gifts than products. They would also like more inspirational gift ideas, with more than half (53%) saying they think retailers’ suggestions in the run-up to spring/summer seasonal events (including Valentine’s Day) are boring.

 

According to Samantha Dover, Retail Analyst at Mintel, Valentine’s Day is now the biggest spending retail event in the first half of the year, overtaking Easter by a significant amount. This year shoppers are expected to trade up as retailers continue to increase their Valentine’s Day ranges with both premium and personalised gift options, and tapping into consumer demand for quality gifts.  Shoppers are looking for creative ideas ahead of the 14th February, especially those that go beyond the traditional assortment of lingerie, flowers and jewellery, with experiential gifts one way to make gift suggestions more appealing. With more demand for personalised gifts, retailers also have the chance to encourage higher value purchases by offering services such as monogramming and engraving, which have become increasingly popular. 

 

 

Mintel is the world’s leading market intelligence agency. They cover 38,000 product launches a month and track consumer spending across 34 countries. Find out what they can do to transform your business by accessing their reports for free in the Business & IP Centre reading room.

*Estimated market size (including VAT), 2017

06 February 2018

5 questions with... Karen Hanton, a dotcom veteran and serial entrepreneur

From toptable.com, Europe's largest online restaurant booking website sold to Opentable.com in 2010 to one of the numerous start-ups she is currently involved in, Karen Hanton is an entrepreneur with experience spanning over two decades.

We caught up with her ahead of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons event to find out more about her route to the top, how the digital landscape has changed since the early years of dot-com businesses and what are the projects she is currently involved in.

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What is the one most significant event that shaped your career?

Leaving the croft in Aberdeenshire aged 17 and coming to London... where everything is possible!

 

Toptable.com is one of the few businesses that didn’t just survive the dotcom crash, but thrived in its aftermath. What do you think was the key to its success?

Sheer hard work and belief as so many people were skeptical but we were in so deep we just had to carry on. And losing my house just wasn’t an option!

 

If someone were to ask you what does it take to make an online business succeed now and 15 years ago, (how) would your answer differ?

Oh yes it’s completely different today. Much more competition - if you have a good idea you will be copied within a terrifyingly short time. Corporations like Amazon have whole departments scanning the horizon for sectors to ‘invade’. Harder to hire and keep good people who have their pick of exciting start-ups with  bigger table football tables and beanbags than you!

 

Tell us a little more about projects and businesses you are currently involved in?

PetsPyjamas.com is one of them: the number one website and travel company for dog-friendly adventures. PositiveLuxury.com is another project I am involved in. Founded in 2011 with a mission to close the trust gap between people and brands, it identifies and celebrates luxury brands committed to sustainability. To earn the PositiveLuxury coveted trust mark, brands must pass a stringent annual assessment that examines sustainability from a holistic point of view encompassing governance, social and environmental frameworks, philanthropy and innovation.

 

What are your top tech trend predictions for 2018?

I think everybody knows that cryptocurrencies are here to stay. And only this week I have seen an example of AI first hand where we did a trial to produce a piece of content. With just a title searching Google, it was incredible how much relevant information and how well it was put together without any human intervention. Great and scary all at the same time!

 

Don't miss Karen's inspiring talk and hear more from our panel of tech trailblazers, join us for Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons  on Tuesday, 6 February. See you there!

30 January 2018

How to unlock the power of the internet and social media for your business

Digital is currently bigger than ever with both entrepreneurs and investors keener than ever to try and spot the next big thing and our panel of tech trailblazers at this week's Internet Icons event was a great opportunity to get the inside track on how you can turn your business into an online success story and accelerate your growth online.

The Business & IP Centre are committed to help people from all walks of life boost their digital skills and increase their chances of success: in fact, last year we successfully supported over 12,000 business owners to increase their digital know-how as part of the Do It Digital campaign. We achieved this through our regular programme of training, skills and support that runs day-in, day-out at the Centre and includes the following sessions:

 

Get started workshop

Get the knowledge and information you need to successfully launch a business! In this full day workshop we will cover the essentials of what you need to do to set up and launch a business.

14 February 
10am-5pm
Free

 

Tips for better smartphone photography for business

5 top-tips for smartphone photography for your business

Learn how to optimise your website on a budget by taking top-notch photos armed with just your smartphone and some enthusiasm! You'll leave this workshop with some tips and tricks to take your photography to the next level and ensure your business looks slick and professional online!

14 February 
5.30-7.30pm
£20

 

WEBINAR: Introduction to Lean Start-up

Learn the basics of Lean Start-Up philosophy and practices! Lean Start-Up helps entrepreneurs reduce the cost of developing new products and services by ensuring that they do not waste time and money designing features that customers do not want. Increase your chance of success without large amounts of outside funding and elaborate business plans with our free webinar.  

19 February 
11-12 am
Free

 

Online marketing masterclass

At this one-stop-shop for digital marketing you'll learn about the 9 must-know strategies for getting your business seen online. You'll leave the workshop knowing which online marketing methods will be most effective for your business to generate new clients and raise awareness of your brand.

20 February 
2-6pm
£48 (usually £98 - use discount code onlinemarketing)

 

WEBINAR:Introduction to using social media for business

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Covering blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and more, this webinar will teach you the basics about the different types of social media and how to use them effectively for your business to engage your customers to increase sales and brand awareness.

20 February 
1-2pm
Free

 

You can also browse our full programme of events, workshops and webinars here, covering everything from exploring your market to trade mark searching. With all this support available, now's your chance to become an 'Internet Icon' in your own right and take full advantage of the digital work to grow a successful business!

20 January 2018

Lean writing: 18 ways to get maximum impact from minimum effort

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What’s the point of writing if nobody reads your words and nobody takes action? A big part of doing anything great inside an organisation is telling the story. Our partners at Fluxx have created this handy Guide to Persuasive Writing; eighteen tips, many stolen from George Orwell and Umberto Eco.

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1. Before doing anything else, write the headline. An article without a great headline isn’t worth writing. Far more people (often 100x more) will see the headline than read the whole article, so it’s sensible to spend significantly more time writing the headline than writing the article. Clickbait gurus Upworthy suggest writing 25 headlines for every story, which is an interesting and exhausting process

2. Never write ‘I’ in an article.

3. One lazy cliché can kill an argument. Familiar words and arguments have lost the power to surprise. As George Orwell puts it: “every such phrase anaesthetises a portion of one’s brain”. Scriptwriter Robert McKee writes “Cliché is at the root of audience dissatisfaction, and like a plague spread through ignorance, it now infects all story media.” In the listicle at the end of Politics and the English Language, Orwell writes “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”

4. When you get stuck, stop trying to write. Do one of two things. First, read a good article. Try a ‘Talk of the Town’ piece from the New Yorker, a long read in Bloomberg Businessweek, or a GDS blog post. Then… 

5. Do more research. It’s very hard to tell a compelling story without the memorable fact, detail or anecdote that brings it to life. Visit the call centre, talk to another customer, run the numbers again and again to find an image as memorable as the black thumb-print on Page 3 of Road to Wigan Pier.

6. Don’t try to write like a writer. Umberto Eco, in How to Write a Thesis, writes “Are you a poet? Then do not pursue a university degree.” Words are a precision tool. Their job is to persuade readers that your argument is correct, win them over, and probably sell them something*. Inexperienced writers try to be writerly — adopting a weird, mannered style. Confident writers write like they talk, but with the luxury of fixing every ‘um’ and ‘er’. On a recent Fluxx project, we transcribed call-centre tapes to learn how sales people explained a really complex set of products (a technique we learned from Conversion Rate Experts)

7. Has someone already written this article? Google makes it dispiritingly easy to find out. At the moment, it’s really hard to find a fresh headline for an article about blockchain, VR, AR, autonomous cars, Uber or Pokemon Go. If the article is already written, don’t write it again.

8. Use short paragraphs. Umberto Eco writes: “Begin new paragraphs often. Do so when logically necessary, and when the pace of the text requires it, but the more you do it, the better.”

9. Use short sentences. Umberto Eco again: “You are not Proust. Do not write long sentences. If they come into your head, write them, but then break them down. Do not be afraid to repeat the subject twice, and stay away from too many pronouns and subordinate clauses.”

10. Use short words and not many of them. George Orwell again: “Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”

11. Give the reader something to do next. Good writing inspires action. George Steer’s 1937 report in The Times inspired Picasso to paint Guernica. Half way through Paul Ford’s epic essay What Is Code? the reader is taught to fire up the Terminal on their mac and start coding C. What is your reader supposed to do next? It might be as simple as following a link or buying a book, but make it explicit and easy.

12. Writing an article is like launching a product. Use ethnographic research to find a story. The headline is the value proposition. The reader is the customer, and the writer needs to understand and map the customer’s journey through the article. At Fluxx we’re experimenting with a Story Generation Canvas based on the Business Model Canvas — get in touch if you want to take a look.

13. Share your work Having someone read your work is helpful twice. The reader may spot a mistake or suggest something useful. But more importantly, it lets you look at your words through their eyes. That often opens up ways to make it clearer or simpler, or simply reveals the boring bits. If there’s nobody around, reading the piece out loud to yourself can also help. There’s something about talking the words into an empty room that can loosen an idea that’s become stuck.

14. Create a banned words list for yourself or your organisation. Update it regularly. The GDS ‘Words to Avoid’ list includes robust, streamline, incentivise, disincentivise and “foster (unless it’s children)”. The BBC Academy warns against ecosystem, exponential, step change, synergy and raft (“When was the last time you heard someone say ‘I must get home. I’ve got a raft of ironing to do’?).

15. Write for the narrowest audience possible, people who really care about what you have to say. The internet is huge, so you’ll find plenty of people. Trying to write for an imaginary wider audience risks patronising those readers who might care.

16. One idea in each article. If an article contains two big ideas but only one can fit into the headline, the other is wasted. Consider splitting the article in two.

17. Make it long or make it short. A normal newspaper article tends to be 500–800 words long. It’s very hard to make that work online. Very short bits like tweets or tabloid-length stories under 500 words work because they’re fast, focussed, shareable. Very long articles — chunky features or Medium posts, over 1,500 words, can also be very shareable if they provide a real pay-off for readers who take the time. This idea is called the Quartz Curve, after the business news site.

18. If in doubt, write a list.

 

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Fluxx is an innovation company on a mission to unlock potential in organisations, helping them to change and innovate at pace. Find out what they can do to transform your business here.

11 January 2018

Is starting a business your New Year’s Resolution for 2018?

If you’ve returned from the Christmas break resolving this will be the year to become your own boss, you may be questioning whether now is the right time to take the leap into entrepreneurship? With concerns about Brexit looming large, an uncertain economy to contend with, increasing costs and political shifts, there are plenty of factors that might prevent new businesses from launching. However, with great change comes great opportunity and we’ve spoken to small business expert Emma Jones – founder Enterprise Nation – on why, when it comes to being your own boss, there’s no time like the present.

In fact, over the past five years, the UK has witnessed a start-up boom as over half a million people from all walks of life turn their business ideas into realities each year. If this is something you’re considering, here are 5 good reasons why you should give it a go and keep the resolution:

1. You can start without quitting the day job

Don’t feel you have to dive into self-employment on a risk-it-all basis. Most people start a business whilst holding onto the day job, meaning you keep the security of a regular salary whilst giving yourself time to build confidence and cashflow in the business and get your brand ‘out there’ into the market. Often referred to as having a ‘side hustle’ or ‘working 5 to 9’, this really can be the best way to start. Providing you’re not launching a business to compete with your employer, bosses can be often be very receptive to this way of working too as it means you’re picking up new and enterprising skills without the company having to pay for it!

2. Gaps in the market still remain

You may be put off starting a business because you think that all the good ideas have been taken, people come up with all sort of amazing new and niche ideas every single day so think outside the box! From indestructible laptops for boat owners, to HR services for award-giving bodies, to new food products that respond to market trends – so many gaps in the market remain, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to sell a specific product or service to a particular audience. If you want to set up a business, it’s your job to fill that gap!

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Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation

 

3. Technology has opened up a world of opportunity

With idea in hand, you need a route to market and there’s never been a better time to embrace technology as that route. Turn to the likes of Amazon marketplace, Etsy and Trouva for selling products online, or Kindle, iTunes iStock for selling services. It’s also never been easier to engage with your target community thanks to social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so use these opportunities to drive traffic to your own website, encouraging browsers to sign up for newsletters and special offers so you have permission to contact them again. With a basic understanding of these powerful platforms, the world is quite literally your trading oyster.

 4. Support is in abundance

Whether you’re starting a snack or app business, you’ll find there’s plenty of support available. This ranges from incentives for people to invest in your start-up (EIS relief) through to accelerators, local Growth Hubs and mentor programmes, not to mention all of the incredible resources that you can access for free here at the Business & IP Centre. It’s not difficult to access support as a start-up, you just have to know what’s available and then make the most of it! 

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Our partners at Enterprise Nation are on a mission to create a more entrepreneurial society in the UK

 

5. Freedom and flexibility is yours

The benefit of self-employment cited most often amongst those who’ve taken the plunge is the freedom and flexibility that comes with working for yourself. You can decide where, how and with whom you work, which gives meaning and purpose to your everyday life and a much greater sense of achievement and satisfaction when you see great results. If these are the benefits you’re after in 2018, it’s time to get started!

If you are looking for some inspiration, advice and support to get your business idea off the ground, there is plenty out there to take advantage off. Innovating for Growth - Start-ups is a fully funded two-day course designed to give you all the information you need to take the first steps on your business journey, and is delivered regularly both at the Library and at satellite libraries across London.

So here’s to making 2018 the year you become your own boss!

08 January 2018

2017: A busy year at the Business & IP Centre

The Business & IP Centre Team are spending this week getting ready for a busy and prosperous 2018, supporting more entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and scale successful businesses both in London and around the UK. However, whilst there is a lot to look forward to, we’re also taking this opportunity to pause, reflect and look back at some of the successes and key achievements both for the Centre itself and amongst our network of users, supporters and partners too. Here’s a look back on some of the Business & IP Centre highlights of 2017:

Record-breaking Inspiring Entrepreneurs 

The year got off to a great start back in February when we delivered our first Inspiring Entrepreneurs of 2017 and welcomed Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella), Aron Gelbard (Bloom and Wild), Sarah Wood (Unruly) and Rupert Hunt (Spare Room) for a lively discussion on how to exploit the power of the digital world in your business. Of course our Inspiring Entrepreneurs events are always a highlight, but Internet Icons in 2017 was particularly special as we delivered live webcasts to a record-breaking eleven partner libraries across our National Network, meaning businesses right across the UK could participate. The event was so successful we’re even running it again next month with a great line-up of expert panelists. Just click here for further information, or visit our YouTube channel BIPCTV to catch-up with highlights from last year’s event.

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Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella) and Aron Gelbard (Bloom and Wild) answering questions at Inspiring Entrepreneurs - Internet Icons

Innovating for Growth graduate successes 

We were thrilled to see so many of our Innovating for Growth graduates go from strength-to-strength this year too. The talent agency Young Guns Group hit the headlines in June when one of the acts that they represent (Tokio Myers) won ITV’s prestigious Britain’s Got Talent competition. Co-founder Dominic Lyons also participated in a Start-up Stars event at the Centre in July and said that the win was definitely keeping the company busy and had given the business a real boost. Boutique confectionary company Lavolio featured in a high profile article on the BBC about online business. We were also delighted for Arit Eminue, founder of DiVA Apprenticeships, when she was awarded the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ accolade at the prestigious PRECIOUS Awards in September. And 2018 has already gotten off to a great start for Innovating for Growth graduate Anthony Impey (CEO of Optimity) with the announcement that he was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for services to small business.

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Arit Eminue celebrating her PRECIOUS Awards win with the judging panel

Endorsements for our Scale-up Summit and Start-up Day 

In July we delivered the first ever British Library Scale-up Summit, designed to support small businesses to scale-up and achieve their potential. The schedule featured an incredible line-up of over 20 successful entrepreneurs and business experts sharing insight and guidance on key topics including branding, raising finance, export and leadership with an audience of 150 ambitious small businesses. We were especially thrilled to welcome Deputy London Mayor for Business Rajesh Agrawal to the event, held in partnership with the Mayor’s Office and the London LEAP. In an article published on LinkedIn Rajesh described the event as ‘a fantastic opportunity to hear from some household names and brands’ and a great way to inform the London Growth Hub’s support strategy for scaling businesses.

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Rajesh Agrawal delivering the closing address at Scale-up Summit 2017

Moving into September we also held our biggest ever Start-up Day – a nationwide event delivered across our network of UK libraries designed to give aspiring entrepreneurs all the information and inspiration they need to take the first steps on their business journey. Over 1600 people took part in this event and we were especially pleased that Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility participated in our London programme to speak about the importance of new business to the UK economy. You can catch the Minister’s speech in full, as well as our other keynote presentations on BIPCTV.

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Margot James speaking at Start-up Day in September

Accolades for our case studies and Ambassadors 

At the Business & IP Centre we feel fortunate to enjoy close relationships with past users of our resources who have gone on to start and grow successful brands. One such user is Paul Lindley who used the valuable resources available in the Centre to research and launch the Ella's Kitchen organic baby food brand. Paul frequently generously ‘gives back’ time and expertise to the Centre in his role as an Ambassador and we were thrilled that he was named as Director of the Year by Director Magazine in December. Jane ni Dhulchaointigh, investor and founder of Sugru was also pinpointed by NESTA as ‘one of 5 female inventors that changed our lives’ for her mouldable glue product that has been described as ‘the most exciting product since sellotape.’ Congratulations are due to both Paul and Jane on their success.

A growing network of Corporate Partners

We are committed to working with a network of professional corporate partners and to sharing information on their relevant services and support with our network. We were delighted to welcome London based IT support company Lucidica as a Business & IP Centre Corporate Partner this year. Lucidica have been working with us to advise small businesses on a wide range of IT issues, providing their expertise in technology to help businesses succeed. Lucidica will be joining us in the Centre again this month to deliver a workshop helping small businesses avoid cybercrimes and there are still some places available.

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The Lucidica team

Of course this just gives a brief flavour of what we’ve been getting up to this year and there’s much more to celebrate, not to mention expanding our National Network of Business & IP Centres by officially launching services in Northamptonshire and Hull during 2017 too. We’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all of our users that launched their business or continued to expand it in 2017, and to our partners and speakers who supported them in their achievements. We look forward to working with you all in the year ahead to help your business go from strength to strength.

05 January 2018

Revival Retro: an award-winning London boutique creating timeless styles for every figure

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Rowena in front of the Revival Retro London boutique

 

Have you ever struggled to find a stunning retro outfit that looks great, but won’t fall apart when you wear it? Do you often feel like all that gorgeous vintage clothing is just a size too small? Fear not, because Revival Retro, a London-based vintage boutique shares your frustrations... and stocks the very best in modern day reproductions or reinterpretations of original 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s designs sourced from all over the globe. The outstanding service Revival offers in their central London boutique has won them not one, but two Time Out London awards!

We caught up with the owner of the company and past Innovating for Growth participant, Rowena Howie, to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey and hear her top 3 business resolutions for 2018.

 


Hi Rowena! Can you tell us a little more about the Revival Retro business?

For the discerning woman who despairs with the trend led, throw away fashion available on the high street Revival Retro is the place to go to for high quality clothing designed for women with curves. We all want to feel confident, comfortable and stylish and our staff care about finding you the outfit that fits and flatters your figure. That’s why a trip to our London boutique is such a special experience, the team’s genuine passion and expert knowledge often inspires customer’s to give us glowing reviews and recommend us to others.

 

What inspired the creation of your award-winning boutique?

An attempt to buy specialist swing dance shoes from America gave me the idea. I bought three pairs not knowing that the US has different shoe sizes , unaware I would pay additional import taxes and fees and not realising that by the time the order arrived in the UK the returns period would have already elapsed. My frustration led me to ask why are these products not available in London or at least the UK. I hated internet shopping, and could see the demand from fellow dancers so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I purchased £500 worth of stock on a credit card and sold the shoes to friends and acquaintances in dance class. Once I was known as the ‘shoe girl’, people started asking me if I knew where to find suitable vintage clothing. As swing era originals were hard to find, I researched reproduction vintage clothing which had significant benefits: it could be washed and worn repeatedly by dancers. When (non dance) friends saw what I was wearing and liked it I knew that I had a business that could take me beyond my niche!

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How did the Business & IP Centre and our Innovating for Growth programme help you along the way?

From the very beginning I used workshops at the British Library to further my knowledge about running my own business. Long before I ever opened the bricks and mortar store I was examining the viability, profitability and likelihood of scale for the venture. I started the business because I was thirty something and couldn’t envisage ever owning my own home on the salary I was earning. The drive for me to learn and grow was fundamental to commercial success of the business, helping me achieve my personal goals.

 

What are your tips for the perfect vintage party dress?

Feel fabulous! Don’t get too hung up on a theme, dress code or what everyone else is doing. If you feel good and have a smile on your face, everyone will compliment you on how amazing you look.

 

Revival Retro Boutique London Greta Gardner-172
The Bombshell Sequin Gown is a staff recommendation for a show-stopping party dress

 

And finally, as we look ahead to a new year full of opportunities, what are your top 3 business resolutions for 2018?

It’s all about content not keywords for the website in 2018! We well be reviewing our messaging to make sure viewers better understand the what, where and why.

For marketing we are going to use our best assets (our staff and our products) to convince new audiences they should visit the boutique: we will be popping up in selected spots all around Greater London.

Last but not least, we will develop our own range of clothing further. Greater control of our product range, delivery dates and pricing without competing with other online retailers of the same goods gives us an advantage especially if we continue to listen to feedback of what our customers expect.

 

 

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.

23 December 2017

A little bit of Christmas cheese: an interview with the owner of Chalton Street cheesemongers and café, Cheezelo

For many people, Christmas simply isn’t Christmas without the traditional festive cheeseboard. So what better time to catch up with Eleonore Deneuve, owner of the British Library’s local neighbourhood cheesemonger, delicatessen and café situated on Chalton Street?

Over the last year, Eleonore has worked with the Library’s Business & IP Centre to start and grow the business, and joined us to tell us how she’s benefitted from the Centre’s services, as well as to share some of her hints and tips for the perfect Christmas cheeseboard.

Tell us a little more about the Cheezelo business.

Cheezelo is a cheese retailer offering products to end consumers and catering services to small and medium businesses. The business officially started trading in December 2016 when it was renting renting a commercial kitchen in East London and focusing on online sales, both via our own website) and online delivery platforms. We also had a regular presence at weekends markets such as Roan Road, Brick Lance and Columbia Road. We really wanted the business to have its own physical presence and I acquired a shop lease in April 2017 which allowed me to offer my products and services face-to-face to end consumers in the Kings Cross area (on Chalton Street). The shop itself has now been open since mid June 2017. We offer a wide range of 70+ artisan cheeses from all over Europe, British, French, Spanish, Italian, Swiss, ad are constantly increasing our range to satisfy the multiculturality of London. Cheezelo also specialises in regional and bespoke ready-to-eat cheese platters, composed of a variety of cheeses, seasonal fruits, chutney and crackers. Those are available to consume at the shop, take away or for online delivery.

 

Cheezelo
Eleonore Deneuve, owner of Cheezelo cheesemongers and deli

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

Well really, like all good business ideas it started with a personal passion, that being my own love of cheeses and wine and hosting dinner parties with friends, just generally preparing cheese platters and sharing a good time and quality food with the people I love. I had also observed that tapas, aperitivo and shared food platters were more and more popular in the UK, and I wanted Ceezelo to respond to those trends by specialising in ready to eat cheese platters.

Did you use the resources and training available through the Business & IP Centre to research and launch the business? If so, how have you benefitted from this?

Indeed, I actually prepared the business plan and did all my market research with the help of the amazing resources at the Business & IP Centre. I alsa participated in various workshops and classes too which really helped me understand my market, develop my idea, structure my research and write my business plan, and ultimately to launch of my company. The amount of resources available in the Library for businesses to use is incredible, and I benefited a lot speaking to experts and entrepreneurs at the Centre and gaining their insight. Once I had actually opened the shop, I was also really lucky to be selected to have a business mentor for 6-month period which has been really key to the recent development and growth of the company. I am so grateful at the amount of resources and support available at the Centre. Aside from gaining practical information, coming to workshop also allowed me to network with various other small business owners and really increased my confidence to start the shop.

You recently took part in a Christmas market at the British Library – tell us more about that?

I was glad to be part of this year Christmas Market at the British Library, It is where it all started in some ways, being there and presenting a range of my cheeses and delicatessens products was ideal, also given that my shop is located only 2 min walk away, It was also a way to promote my shop and products to the members of the british library and their visitors.

What makes your business unique from other cheese retailers in London?

 

I think I am different from the competition in the sense that I offer a really wide range of European cheeses, so there’s always something to meet your tastes. Whereas a lot of other cheese retailers are focused specifically on specializing in either British French cheeses, I source Spanish, Italian, Swiss and Dutch cheeses so the range is really diverse. The shop currently offers about 75 different cheeses from all over Europe and I am aiming to extend the range even further in the new year. I also offer a very popular range of homemade vegan cheeses to serve the dairy free community, and am passionate about sourcing locally made products such as fresh bread made on Caledonian Road, vegan crackers and houmous made locally in Hackney and so on. My little shop is on a quiet street in a central location but still with quite a residential atmosphere. It was really important to me to be remain close to the community and offer fresh, excellent quality and affordable food to people from all walks of life, and I think that community engagement is something that also sets the business apart from other competitors.

Being close to the community is obviously very important to you, but what factors affected your decision to base the business in the Somers Town / St Pancras area?

Since I moved to London, I always lived in Kings Cross and Camden area and I have seen this part of London developed and improve significantly over the past 6 years. When started my research for setting up Cheezelo, I realised that a cheese monger was a service that was currently missing in the area, and with the continuous development of the area bringing in diverse new groups of people who live and work nearby, I decided this market gap was the perfect opportunity to start my company. When it came to choosing a location, I visited many vacant retail units and ultimately settled on the Chalton Street location for two reasons.  Firstly, the location is directly between King’s Cross and Euston stations and so there is lots of passing traffic. But secondly, being located in Somers Town meant that the rent was more affordable than being on the High Street, so it was a more feasible location for a start-up business like mine.

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

Well the first priority of course is to concentrate on making Cheezelo on Chalton Street a great success. After that, I would eventually like to open another shop in East Lonodn and possibly also in another UK city one day too, so watch this space!

Finally, we all love a nice bit of cheese at Christmas, but what are your expert tips for creating the perfect festive cheeseboard?

Ohhhh my favourite question – I could talk about cheese all day! For the perfect cheeseboard you need a good variety of textures and flavor intensity. I would recommend the following: start with a soft cheese like brie de meaux, camembert or pont l'eveque. Then add a semi-soft cheese with some strong flavours like a cornish yarg, Saint Nectaire or a cider Normandy cheese (la bonne cauchoise is a cider cheese which I import directly from Upper Normandy that’s always very popular!) Of course a blue cheese is also essential: stilton is traditional at Christmas, but bleu d auvergne or Roquefort also work really well. You then need a good strong hard cheese to complete the board, something like manchego curado, farmhouse cheddar like Wookey Cave aged, comté mature or gruyere alpage 24 months. You could finalise the perfect platter some goat cheese like a rosary goat, or selles sur cher type soft goat, and if you want to really be extravagant maybe something with some flavours of truffle for extra Christmas indulgence. I think it is important to have a minimum of 3 cheeses for enough variety, and also garnish with some seasonal fruits like grapes, apples, pears, strawberries, chutney. Don’t forget some good quality fresh bread and mixed crackers too. My final big tip is to say don’t hesitate to mix the cheeses from different countries. There is so much variety to choose from and mixing up cheese from British, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch or Swiss producers really adds some diversity to your selection and ensures that you’ll be getting a great mix of flavor profiles and textures to enjoy with friends and family over the festive season.

Cheezelo is open at 46 Chalton right up until Christmas Eve to meet all your last minute festive cheese needs.

And don’t forget, if your New Year’s resolution is to finally take the plunge and set up your own business, the Innovating for Growth: Start-ups programme can give you all the essential information you need to get started on your business journey in 2018.

19 December 2017

Smartify: an image recognition app that's changing the art world

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Smartify user scanning Paul Emsley’s portrait of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge (2012)
Smartify user scanning Paul Emsley’s portrait of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge (2012)

 

Whether you're an art aficionado, or just an occasional culture buff, we have just the app for you. Smartify is a free gallery guide that launched earlier this year at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and is already in use in over 30 major galleries and museums around the world. It lets you scan a work of art with your smartphone and uncover the story behind it, revealing the title, artist and background to the piece you're looking at. You can save a digital copy of the painting and create your own library, just like you would on Spotify for your favourite songs. The app will also recommend similar works at a nearby venue. 

The company hope their product will turn the perception of smartphones in galleries as an object of disruption on its head, and enable users to engage with artwork in a more meaningful way instead.

We caught up with Anna Lowe, Director of Partnerships and co-founder of Smartify, to find out a bit more about their journey and hear how the Innovating for Growth programme helped Smartify scale up.

 

How did the idea for Smartify come about and did it take long to develop the app?

The Smartify co-founders have always loved visiting museums and seeing art. We also found that we developed a much deeper understanding and connection with an artwork when we learned about its context while looking at it. Imagine having an enthusiastic and knowledgeable friend telling you more about a work of art, and the extra enjoyment or connection that it brings. Finally, we were aware that there is disagreement around the etiquette of using digital devices in art galleries and wanted to reframe the use of mobile phones as engagement rather than distraction.

The development of the app is a constant process of user-centered design and improvement.

 

Smartify app demonstration
Smartify app demonstration

  

Smartify is now with some major galleries around the world. How easy (or hard) was it to have them buy into the concept?

Working with museums can be slow moving as it is a notoriously conservative sector with lots of internal stakeholders. However, as a social enterprise, part of Smartify's  mission is to support public arts organisations with audience reach and financial resilience. Our ambition therefore, is to build the platform in collaboration with museums and to evolve the arts sector for our digital economy and new cultural consumers.

 

What has been the businesses biggest achievement so far?

Apollo International Art Magazine selected Smartify as winner of the Digital Innovation Award 2017. After a really busy year it was a massive honour for the team and an indication of the impact we are starting to have in the sector.

 

Visitor scanning Rembrandt’s portrait of Herman Doomer (c.1595) with Open Access at The Met  NYC  2017
Visitor scanning Rembrandt’s portrait of Herman Doomer (c.1595) with Open Access at The Met, New York

 

What are your future plans for growth?

We are working to scale up our team to meet demand, to include more and more museums on the app, and to build new product features our users want!

When thinking of innovation in any sector, it is useful to consider the entire value chain and all the services, teams, people that might be impacted by the disruption. This approach has lead to what is called full-stack startups that look across all the different parts of the industry's/organisation's value chain and collaborate with partners and clients to identify solutions together.

Smartify user scanning Frans Hals’s The Laughing Cavalier (1624) at The Wallace Collection, London
Smartify user scanning Frans Hals’s The Laughing Cavalier (1624) at The Wallace Collection, London

 

How did Innovating for Growth help with Smartify?

The programme helped in lots of ways! It gave us the space to think about our company purpose and how to translate that into a sustainable business model. For example, when bringing ‘positive disruption’ into any sector is useful to consider the entire value chain and all the services, teams, people that might be impacted by the disruption. This approach has lead to what is called full-stack startups that look across all the different parts of the industry's/organisation's value chain and collaborate with partners and clients to identify solutions together. This model helps reframe some common obstacles as opportunities to differentiate yourself.

It was also brilliant to have access to the British Library’s extensive Business and IP library. It is an amazing resource for market research and ideas!

Finally, we made a few good friends on the Innovating for Growth* programme who are going through the same scale up challenges and who have been great people to bounce ideas off.

 

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.