Innovation and enterprise blog

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


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

29 August 2017

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

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


Virgin StartUp - Logo - RGB

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

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

Cemal Ezel

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

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

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

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

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


24 August 2017

Le Bun: Not your average burger van business

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

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

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

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

Rankin Portrait Photo (2)

When did you realise this could become a business?

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

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

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

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What challenges have you had to overcome along the way?

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

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

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

Le-bun- linked in logo (2)

How are you planning to celebrate National Burger Day?

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

What’s next for Le Bun?

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

Are you an ambitious business owner looking to scale up, like Le Bun? Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more and apply now.

22 August 2017

From barrier to business opportunity: a spotlight on 121 Captions

Being an entrepreneur with a disability can come with its challenges but has also brought great opportunities for our Innovating for Growth alumnus, Tina Lannin. Here, Tina shares her story about how an urgent need in live-captioning services inspired her to found 121 Captions. The company has gone from strength to strength, expanding to serve new markets at home and abroad; while also picking up some Stelios and diversity awards along the way.

What was your background before starting 121 Captions, and where did the idea for your business come from?

While freelancing as a forensic lip reader I also worked as a financial controller for the charity Hearing Link, who ITN would often call on for help as our offices were across the street. I took part in their coverage of high profile events such royal weddings and christenings, interviews with tennis players and coaches at Wimbledon, as well as footballers the World Cup for their real-time Twitter feed – all good fun. The captioning side of the business came later on, which I saw as simply adding another string to my bow.

It was at Hearing Link that I met speech to text reporters (stenographers and palantypists) who would join our meetings and write what they heard in shorthand, their laptops then translating the shorthand into English, so the deaf staff could read the live captioning and follow what was being said.

Barrier blog 1

The pool of speech to text reporters in the UK is tiny; there are fewer than 30 available for 14 million deaf and hard of hearing people. Can you imagine that? There is such a huge need for this service but not enough service providers are available. Around 2008, I saw this service being delivered remotely in Australia and could see this was needed in the UK and Europe. There are different ways to deliver this service and I focused on quality, speed, hardware and software reliability, and deaf awareness – all aspects which are vital to the deaf viewer. As a deaf person myself, I am very keen that the deaf client gets the best service possible so that they really do have equal access in the work or learning environment. And it was this motivation that inspired me to begin 121 Captions and getting help to scale it was how I came across Innovating for Growth.

What challenges has the business faced along the way?

Our current challenges are growing the business effectively without losing our personal touch, and managing the ever-changing world of technology! Technology moves so fast these days and we have to move with it, and make sure our service continues to work well and to work within the client’s environment. To that end, we now provide captioning services from a UK server which, with our enhanced security features, meets the security requirements of our government and corporate clients in the UK.

Other key challenges have been to ensure we are able to meet the demands of our clients by providing them with a high quality service whilst managing their expectations; we do this by being transparent and clear on how we expect clients to work with us. We do not really advertise: our business comes to us by word of mouth.

We then have to manage the supply of service providers, and ensure they meet our requirements. It has helped that I have a good knowledge of the industry and I am a client myself, so I know a lot of the service providers already and have good relationships with them. To me, my business is not just a service: it’s all about the clients and the service providers. They are the heart of the business.

Barrier blog 2

What has been the businesses biggest achievement so far?

We were the first to bring remote steno captioning to the UK, the Middle East, and South Africa. We are building the business in the Middle East and gaining respect for the work we do in that region, which is fantastic as there is nothing available for deaf people and my deaf friends out there.

We have some great partnerships and clients such as Twitter, Google and Sky. Our clients range from corporates and city banks to universities – yet we also provide service to the deaf individual who claims Access to Work funding for interviews. I get a lot of job satisfaction when I am able to help a deaf person to develop their career through advocating for their access needs, using my career counselling skills to advise them, and finally providing them with a captioning service to give them equal access at work.

I love that my work has a positive effect on the lives of other deaf people and benefits them so much; this is what I see as my biggest achievement.

 Do you think it’s more difficult for a disability-led business or are the challenges just different?

The challenges are different and also more difficult. It’s more costly as I have to rely on (hearing) staff to help with phone calls, as I can’t hear on the phone at all. I rely on email more than a hearing person would and have to wait for people to respond, rather than have instant answers. The access issues are time-consuming and expensive to implement.

 But in a way, we have it a bit easier with marketing and sales. Being deaf myself, I live the business and I am the business. I know so much about captioning services as I have used them every day for years. I have a real passion for captioning to be available to everyone and to work as well as it should. Everyone should have equal access to information without asking for it or fighting for it to be made available. When it is available, it should be of the best quality. I know all the ins and outs, what makes captioning work well and what can cause captioning to fail. This is much more persuasive to a client than someone who is just in this business for a profit. Tina shares her ‘7 keys to entrepreneurial success as a deaf or hard of hearing entrepreneur’ on her website.

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

I achieved a lot of great and very helpful one-to-one guidance on how to run the business more effectively. I gained clarity on the purpose of my business and how to set goals, making it a much sexier organisation to work for. We have a more professional image and service, which in turn has helped us to bring in more clients and hire more staff.

The team at Innovating for Growth offer a very supportive environment and I would not have been able to access such expertise elsewhere.

Are you an ambitious business owner looking to scale up, like Tina? Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more and apply before Wednesday 6 September to be in the next cohort.



16 August 2017

The Business & IP Centre’s Start-up Day is back!

The Business & IP Centre has been helping entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and grow successful business for over eleven years, providing access to the UK’s largest collection of intellectual property resources, business data and market research alongside free and low-cost training and support in our inspiring, accessible space. In this time we have supported over half a million people, and enabled the commercialization of thousands of new ideas.

To celebrate these achievements, and to mark the tenth anniversary of the Centre, we held our first ever Start-up Day on September 27 2016 where we invited any London with a business idea to come and find out how the Library could help them achieve their entrepreneurial ambitions. This high-octane event day saw over 700 aspiring entrepreneurs attend a jam-packed programme of workshops, training and inspirational talks, including a keynote address from the Library’s Entrepreneur in Residence Julie Deane, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company

Julie Deane speaking at last year's Start-up Day


Isabel Oswell, Head of Business Audiences, said of the Start-up Day 2016:

There are lots and lots of people out there who have a business idea but aren’t really sure what steps they need to take to turn that seed of an idea into a reality. The aim of Start-up Day has been to encourage people to access the amazing Library collections and training that give them all the skills and market knowledge they need to increase their chances of business success. It has been wonderful to see so many aspiring entrepreneurs kick-start their business plans by attending today, and beginning to build their networks. We look forward to welcoming them back to the Centre over the coming months and years as these fledgling business ideas begin to take flight.

This year, we’re planning for a Start-up Day that’s bigger than ever! We’ll have events taking place not just in London, but simultaneously in partner libraries right around the UK through our Business & IP Centre National Network, encouraging more people through the country to take advantage of library resources to start and grow businesses.

The London programme features over talks from entrepreneurs and business experts on a diverse range of essential business topics including:

  • How to charge your worth
  • How to get your business in the media on a budget
  • How to write a great business plan
  • How to get your business online
  • How to start a successful fashion business - and much, much more.

We will also be bringing the founder of Cobra Beer, Lord Karan Bilimoria, to our stage to share the story of how he brewed up business success, growing Cobra from a small start-up in 1989 to a brand that turns over £60 million and has a 90% market share of all Indian restaurants in the UK. Other speakers include the first ever winner of BBC’s The Apprentice and founder of the Bright Ideas Trust

Attendees at Start-up Day 2016

We are also excited to be supported in our efforts to help thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs put business ideas into practice by both the Google Digital Garage who will be running hands-on master classes at all eleven of our Business & IP Centres, and Virgin StartUp, who are joining us to share information about the government-backed Start-up Loans opportunity to raise seed funding to get your business off the ground. At all of the Start-up Day events around the country, you’ll also have the chance to see, touch and feel some of the practical marketing tools offered by Vistaprint to help you get your brand out there, including printed leaflets, banners and those all-important business cards. Start-up Day 2017 takes place on Thursday September 21 (09.30-19.30 in the British Library, and at various other locations across the UK). 


How I brewed up success
Lord Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beeer, will speak at the British Library's Start-up Day

Book your free place to attend your choice of over 20 events, talks and workshops now by visiting our booking page . All sessions are free to attend, but places are limited and are selling quickly so don't delay and secure your place to get the know-how you need to turn your great idea into a booming business.



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 Start-up Day is a free event, funded by the European Regional Development Fund.




15 August 2017

Three golden principles to master the art of public speaking and presenting

Whether you’re pitching for business, dealing with a crisis or thanking your team for their hard work, the ability to speak confidently in front of others is an important business and leadership skill - so important, that the internet is awash with hints, tips and do’s and don’ts that promise to make you a brilliant speaker.

In the heat of the moment however, when you’re about to speak, it’s sometimes hard to remember all the advice that’s out there. In this blog, award winning presenter and author of Insider Secrets of Public Speaking.  Nadine Dereza shares her Three Golden Principles for successful presenting:

Nadine 1

 1. Authority

The audience is listening to you, so be in charge. Be credible, feel comfortable and own the room. Know more about the subject than you have put in your speech and be at ease with the subject matter. You are an expert on the topic, and your opinion matters. 

Audiences like to be guided. If it gradually dawns on them that you’re nervous, they will start to worry about you and stop listening.

Public speaking is an act of leadership, and if you lack authority on stage, the audience will assume you lack authority off stage too. Your job as speaker is to focus on delivering the key messages that the audience needs to hear, and one of the most effective ways of dealing with nerves is to really know your subject.

Part of being authoritative is being in control of your performance space, and arriving early to check the slides and video footage are all working and do a sound check if you are using a microphone, will help bolster your confidence - there is nothing worse than unexpected feedback from a microphone or a rogue PowerPoint slide.


Nadine 2

 2. Authenticity

Be the best version of yourself, rather than a second-rate copy of someone else. Audiences like to feel that they’ve been let in to see the ‘real’ you. Get rid of the idea that to be a ‘good speaker’ you have to deploy ‘tricks’: good speakers are, above all, themselves.

What do people like about you? What are the qualities that attract people to you? Play to your strengths rather than worrying about your weaknesses.

We all have unconscious habits that we adopt when under pressure, and if your presentation has been recorded, you should review footage of yourself. You’ll catch any distracting hair touching and shuffling from side-to-side that you do without thinking about it. Watching a replay will teach you a lot about yourself.  

If you really do suffer from nerves, shift the focus from yourself, and turn that nervous energy into enthusiasm for delivering your speech.

Nadine 3

3. Audience

The audience is the most important part of any speech or presentation. Give the audience information in a way that is useful to them. It’s really not about you.  

You won’t please everyone all the time, but think about who you are talking to, and what sort of information they need, be it facts, a personal story, inspiration or a heartfelt thank you.

Audiences are not passive: they are either actively engaged or they are turned off. Be conscious of this, and if you sense they’re not engaged, turn the speech into a conversation that draws people in, have a few anecdotes or statistics that will help you achieve this.

 Audiences respond well to a speaker who is having a good time: with authority and authenticity, it gives you that indefinable ‘something’ that says ‘I should be here speaking in front of you’.

 Try and try again

Wherever you are speaking and whatever you are speaking about, try to feel satisfied with what you have done. If you don’t, ask why not - and think about what you could do differently next time.

Follow these Three Golden Principles and your speech will be remembered, talked about and possibly acted on, for all the right reasons.

 Nadine Dereza is an award winning journalist, experienced business presenter, conference host and co-author of the book Insider Secrets of Public Speaking. She has presented for CNN, BBC, Sky TV, SABC, Global Business TV, Simply Money and Associated Press. As London Markets Correspondent for the Financial Times and Summit TV, she was awarded ‘Financial Journalist of the Year’. Nadine chairs, moderates and speaks at conferences and live events for a diverse range of clients across many industries and sectors in the UK and abroad. And through her company PS Programmes Nadine delivers coaching programmes to individuals and teams, which include presentation skills, media training and crisis media management training.

For more advice about how to speak and present to inspire, motivate and influence an audience, why not come along to one of Nadine’s Speaking and Presenting workshops at the The British Library Business & IP Centre. The next session takes place on Monday 18th Sptember and you can book your place here





27 July 2017

Great partnerships and life-changing experiences

It has been 6 months since the Business & IP Centre arranged our first match as part of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneur Programme (EYE).   EYE enables new and aspiring entrepreneurs (of any age) in an European country to spend 1-6 months with experienced entrepreneurs in another European country.   We have helped 13 experienced entrepreneurs in the UK to host new entrepreneurs and sent two new entrepreneurs from the UK to other European countries, The countries involved have included Portugal, Spain, Cyprus, Italy, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece and Hungary and the hosts have come from sectors as diverse as marketing, training, publishing, IT,  architecture, environmental sustainability and retailing.

One of these exchanges involved Elpida Lambi from Greece and Merilee Karr in London. Elpida is a new entrepreneur who had a business idea in the events planning sector. Merilee is a founder of the highly successful UnderTheDoormat agency.  The exchange lasted 3 months during which Elpida learned from her hosts’ experience and Merilee had the benefit of new ideas, perspectives and all the energy that Elpida brought with her. 

Merilee said   “As an entrepreneur its incredible to be a part of this program and support the growth of cross-European entrepreneurship.   UnderTheDoormat is by nature an international business and Elpida is our second young entrepreneur.  We are so proud of her success and contribution”

Merilee and Elpida
Merilee and Elpida at the agency during their Erasmus exchange


Elpida said: “This program really targets people like me, young Europeans who want to work and make their own businesses but they don't have that opportunity. Joining UnderTheDoormat was the right call. An international company in hospitality where everyone was more than happy to teach me things. They trusted me with projects and important documents since the first day. I am really excited that they valued my work..”

Merilee and Elpida will work together closely in the future which highlights the long-term business relationships which result from so many of these exchanges. This positive experience has been echoed across many more of the exchanges in which we have been involved and it has been fantastic to be involved in something which has had such a positive impact and helped bring entrepreneurs across Europe closer together.

The Business & IP Centre is an Intermediary Organisation the EYE programme until the end of 2018 (maybe beyond) and we are always looking for applications from host entrepreneurs and new entrepreneurs. Hosts have to have been a business founder for at least three years and new entrepreneurs must have had a business for less than 3 years or have a clear idea for a business.   See here for more information:


19 July 2017

Top business advice from the British Library Scale-up Summit

The British Library welcomed over 130 ambitious businesses to the Knowledge Centre on Tuesday July 11th for its first ever Scale-up Summit, in partnership with London Growth Hub and Lucidica.

Attendees were able to pick the brains of over 20 entrepreneurs and business experts on issues such as building a brand, researching export markets, raising finance for fast growth and cultivating a top-team of employees.

If you weren’t able to make it on the day, never fear – we’ve rounded up the top-tips and advice from our stellar line-up of business brains here.

Raising your profile and building a brand:

The day kicked off with a session on how to get your business in the media and raise your profile. Julie Deane OBE (The Cambridge Satchel Company) and Will Butler-Adams OBE (Brompton Bicyles) gave a keynote exploring the strategies they have used to generate media interest in their companies.  Will and Julie were joined by Jenny Costa (Rubies in the Rubble), Siddarth Vijayakumar (Grub Club) and PR expert and Founder of JHPR Jessica Huie MBE.


British Library Entrepreneur in Residence Julie Deane

The top tips from this session were:

‘Believe in your business’ – Both Julie and Will stressed that, as a business owner, you have to have 100% passion, conviction and belief in your product. Passion is the secret ingredient that will help journalists and the media really engage with your business.

‘Know your customer’ - Before you can build your brand and make sure you’re getting it in front of the right people, you need to understand your customer really well. Jenny Costa recommended taking advantage of all possible sources of information to learn about who is most likely to buy your products in order to communicate with them most effectively. The Business & IP Centre provides access to all of the latest market research intelligence, reports and sector trends through its £5 million collection of business data and journals which you can use to get to know your customer.

‘Be authentic’ – There are no original business ideas, there are only original people, and as a business owner you are your own USP. Siddarth from Grub Club encouraged businesses to embrace their own authenticity to give their business a competitive edge.

Going global for growth

Delegates reconvened after a short break to hear from Paul Lindley (Ella's Kitchen) and Sean Ramsden (Ramsden International) about the challenges and opportunities of growing a business internationally, and how to stay in control when you do ‘go global’. After the keynote, Paul and Sean were joined by Bill Russell (Intellectual Property Office) and Matt Lumb (Tangle Teezer) for a lively discussion on how export can help you unlock your business growth.

Paul Lindley speaks about growing Ella's Kitchen internationally

Important advice from this session included:


‘People are more the same than they are different’ – Businesses can feel overwhelmed when considering entering foreign markets, and it’s easy to get weighed down worrying about differences in currency, cultural and social behaviour. However, our panel encouraged the audience to remember that, ultimately, potential customers across the world share more similarities than differences, and chances are that a good business idea will speak to people on a universal, human level. Businesses seeking to scale through export should have confidence in this fact.

‘Remember your WHY’ – Paul Lindley stressed the importance of remembering your overarching mission and objectives to help stay focussed as your business grows. Paul said that even though Ella’s Kitchen makes baby food, that’s not the reason the company exists. Rather, the company’s real mission is to improve children’s lives through developing healthy relationships with food: making baby food products provides them with the funds to keep on with their mission. Remembering the bigger picture helps to maintain focus when things are moving quickly in your business and you risk losing control.

‘Protect yourself’ – Although it sounds obvious, many businesses make mistakes when going global by not protecting their product and brand, exposing themselves to potential copycats and IP infringement. Before launching in new markets, businesses should check the IP protection they have and conduct an audit of what they need, ensuring that they minimise risks.




‘Go and visit’ – Astonishingly, business owners often think they can successfully grow in a foreign market without ever having set-foot in the country in question. There really is no comparison for field research, so if your business wants to expand globally don’t forget to travel, meet people face-to-face, have conversations and build relationships to give you the best possible chance of international growth success.

Raising finance for growth:

After lunch, the Summit moved on to tackle the thorny issue of finance. Helene Panzarino (author of Business Funding for Dummies) brought the audience up to speed on the current funding landscape, exploring the challenges and opportunities of funding a scaling business.  Next up Steve Moore and Paul Barham (Flight Club) took to the stage to share the amazing (and entertaining) story of how they raised finance to grow their social darts concept to two central London venues and 200+ employees in just three years.  Founder of Crowdcube Darren Westlake joined the panel and helped address a barrage of questions from businesses keen to understand more about the best ways to raise finance and minimise risk whilst scaling.

Top takeaways for raising finance included:


‘Know your financials (or find someone who does)’ – Business owners often shy away from finance, but if you are seeking investment you need to know your numbers inside out and be prepared to answer some pretty difficult questions on them. Investors and lenders can sense when businesses aren’t confident about their cash, are ‘winging it’ or – worse – are trying to conceal information. The key to successful fundraising lies in having confidence in the financial facts and understanding what they mean for your business growth.

‘Don’t be afraid of debt’ – There are lots of negative connotations surrounding debt, but it’s an essential element of any business growth and successful scaling-up is all about striking a healthy balance. Before you start to raise finance, work up a plan that sets out how much money you need and how much debt you’re comfortable with, and stick to it.

‘Find out what support is available, and use it’ – Whether your plan is to fund your growth through investment, crowdfunding or debt, there are plenty of public and private initiatives that can help to enhance your growth potential. Steve and Paul of Flight Club spoke in particular about the Government’s Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme and Enterprise Investment Scheme, both of which helped their business to maximise growth whilst minimising risks.

‘See the bigger picture’ – Entrepreneurs are naturally protective of their companies, and this is especially the case when giving away stakes in the business to potential investors. However, it’s important to see the bigger picture and keep the end goal in mind. As Paul Barham said on the day, ‘it’s much better to have 40% of a really valuable business than 100% of nothing.’

Our panel discuss strategies for raising finance


Leadership for scaling business:

As we all know, most businesses start with just one or two founders, but as the business grows the team behind it needs to get bigger too, yet entrepreneurs often struggle when it comes to delegating and relinquishing control. For these reasons our final session of the day focussed on strategies and tips to help business owners build terrific teams. Rob Law MBE from Trunki gave a great keynote all about how the Trunki team grew from 1 to 80+ employees, and the strategies that helped them keep their team values, authenticity and – most importantly – fun at the heart of the business. Rob was then joined on stage by business and life coach Rasheed Ogunlaru, Irene Graham of The ScaleUp Institute, Simon Pitkeathley (London LEAP Member) and Adrian Philips (Bradt Travel Guides) to debate and answer audience questions.


 Here’s what we learned about building a terrific team:

‘Ask the right questions’ – When recruiting a new team member, it’s important to ensure that their skills match the role, but don’t forget to find out why they want to work for you and what they know about your business. Asking questions that focus on soft skills, personal interests and long term goals gives a much more accurate sense of whether a potential employee will add value to your business.

‘Listen to your team’ – When you first launch your business you’ll be taking care of every element of operation. However, as you scale and take on a more leading role in your company’s structure, it can be easy to unintentionally lose touch with what’s happening on the shop floor, or to assume that you already ‘know it all’ because you’ve been there and done it yourself. But scaling companies face very different logistical challenges and things will have changed over time. For this reason, don’t forget to take the time to regularly listen to your team members and be open to implementing their ideas and suggestions.

‘Create a culture of development’ – Staff stay motivated and committed to an organisation when they identify opportunities for professional development and feel they are being invested in. Offering perks such as training creates a more skilled workforce and reduces staff ‘churn’ as well as capitalising on accumulated ‘insider’ knowledge and expertise as your business grows.

‘Keep it fun’ – Rob Law said the best piece of business advice he could give is to ‘have a vision, share your mission and play with whoever turns up’ and this really encapsulates the sense of fun that is intrinsic to the Trunki brand. Keeping this sense of fun a visible part of your organisational culture – whether through team socials, competitions or celebrating success – boosts morale, keeps your team motivated to do their best for your business and ensures that you never lose sight of the reasons you started your business in the first place.


Rob Law responds to a question on leadership in scaling businesses

Attendees were also able to attend a roundtable forum with London Growth Hub to hear about other support available to help London businesses grow, and listen to closing remarks from Rajesh Agrawal (Deputy Mayor of London for Business) on the important role scale-up businesses play in building a more vibrant and prosperous city.

Scale-up Summit attendee Michael Murdoch (Founder and CEO of The House London Ltd) said "The Scale-up Summit at the British Library was fantastic.  It's amazing to hear stories from successful entrepreneurs who have been there and done that, plus there was a wealth of helpful and practical knowledge offered all at an affordable price!  Looking forward to more events like this in the future."


Attendees enjoyed a networking reception after the event


If you’re a growing business with big ambitions, you might be interested to apply for a place on Innovating for Growth - our three-month small business support programme which gives ambitious business access to over £10,000 worth of specialist advice. Applications are open now and the deadline is September 8th.


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10 July 2017

London is the place to scale up your business

Many of the guest speakers at the British Library’s Scale-up Summit event on Tuesday 11 July 2017, have launched, nurtured and grown their business while based in London. Household brand Brompton Bikes celebrates these London roots by saying they’re a ‘bike born in the city’. Other exciting London-based scale-ups on the programme are the founders of Grub Club and the award-winning Rubies In The Rubble and Flight Club social darts venues.

Grub Club Founder Siddarth VijayaKumar speaking at the British Library's Inspiring Entrepreneurs event in October 2016


Further to the day’s programme of inspiring entrepreneurs’ talks and expert Q&A panels, will be an extra opportunity to find out about new projects and activities run by the London Growth Hub on behalf of the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP) and the Mayor of London.

Over the lunch hour we invite you meet London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP) Member, Simon Pitkeathley, and find out what could deliver the next big milestone for your company.

LEAP Member Simon Pitkeathley

Simon is the CEO of Euston Town and Camden Business Improvement Districts and CEO of Camden Collective workspace. Simon has extensive knowledge of the issues affecting SMEs and has also been appointed by the Mayor as the champion for small business as part of his role as a Member of the LEAP.

During this time - and throughout the day - the Growth Hub team will be eager to get your thoughts on how confident you feel about unlocking the huge opportunities that London based businesses can take advantage of, have a discussion about the LEAP’s plans to showcase, promote and support entrepreneurship and hear your ideas to help shape specific interventions aimed at the capital’s growth businesses.

We are also very honoured that the Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal (a fintech business owner himself having founded Xendpay) will be joining our Summit to give the event’s closing remarks.

Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Rajesh Agrawal

You can find out more about the London Growth Hub, business events and upcoming opportunities available at  

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05 July 2017

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

So many small businesses lack IP awareness and understanding, but IP is something of an unsung hero and can prove critical in making or breaking a business.

The Business & IP Centre team are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and SMEs understand what IP is and why it’s important, what IP they might have created and how they might increase their business success and profitability by protecting and exploiting that IP in the future. Over the years the team have supported thousands of small businesses unlock the value of their IP, and much of the support we provide in the Centre uses case studies and real-life stories to demonstrate how having a handle on your IP gives you a huge commercial advantage.

One such example is Julie Deane OBE, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company, who has taken her business from the kitchen table and a £600 start-up budget to a global success story with a turnover of £10 million. Along the way Julie has overcome numerous business challenges including managing designers, manufacturers and overseas distributors, establishing web and physical retail sites around the globe and dealing with thousands of imitator brands. Here, in a free 30 minute podcast with the Intellectual Property Office, Julie lays the truth bare on how she’s developed strategies to tackle copycat websites, build the brand, keep putting the quality of the product at the heart of the business and “hang on to the passion that made you start the business in the first place.”


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 Here are our 3 ‘top tips’ for what you need to know when it comes to your Intellectual Property:

  1. Think about trade marks - Is your business name protectable in the countries that you wish to trade? Is it already being used or does the word have another meaning in a different country. Future investors will want to know that you have the rights to trade in the countries that they wish to trade in, and you need to consider this right from the start to give your business the best chance of success.
  2. If you’re creating a ‘thing’ - Do your research before filing for a patent; is there a market for your product? It is expensive and takes a long time to protect your idea so make sure you do your market research and can be confident that somebody will buy it at the end of the day. If you have paid for your product to be patented and want somebody to manufacture it for you, you also need to ensure you have agreements in place limiting their rights to your initial idea or design.
  3. Founder’s agreement - It is easy to set out a document with your business partner right at the start when setting up your business agreeing things like % of ownership and what should happen in the case of a dispute, or if one of you wish to sell then business and the other one doesn’t. Once a dispute has started it is much harder and messier so you need to make sure all parties are clear on this from day one.

You can find further help, support and information on IP in any of the eleven Business & IP Centres up and down the country, including the British Library in King’s Cross. Speak to any one of our specialist staff face-to-face, over the phone or by email. You can also log on to our free of charge online workshops to grow your knowledge about IP, and increase your chances of business success.

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Julie Deane in the Business & IP Centre

Julie Deane is Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library and a huge champion for ambitious business owners. She recently gave advice and practical tips on Intellectual Property at the Library’s Scale-up Summit alongside Will Butler-Adams, CEO of Brompton Bicycles. Cambridge Satchel and Brompton recently launched a range of colour-matching bags and bikes where the satchel fitted perfectly to the handlebars. This ‘made-in-heaven’ brand match caught the attention of the press and delivered extremely high sales. Will and Julie's opening keynote presentation on ‘Getting your business in the media’ was a great success too.


The Cambridge Satchel Company / Brompton Bikes collaboration

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


Reach your business peak at our Scale-up Summit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raising your business profile and building a brand

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

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

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


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

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

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

Going global for growth

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

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

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Sean Ramsden, Founder of Ramsden International


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

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

Raising finance for growth

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

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

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Darren Westlake, Founder of Crowdcube


Leadership for scaling businesses

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

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

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

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

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Rob Law, Founder of Trunki


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

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

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

Book your ticket to avoid disappointment.

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