THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

53 posts categorized "Success stories"

17 March 2017

Dry Patch - A BIPC success story with a great sense of humour

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Dry-Patch-logoSo many people think running a business has to be a serious matter. So it is refreshing when an entrepreneur proves the opposite.

I guess the most well known recent brand with a funny-bone is Innocent Drinks. They have included grass covered vans, a banana phone and slides in their offices, and a whole range of humorous labels on their bottles such as this one:

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I first met Chris Gomez founder and CEO of Dry Patch a couple of years ago in an Advice Clinic here in the Business & IP Centre in London.

He immediately made an impression with his passion for the product, his professionalism, and understanding of his customers' needs. He also recognised he was addressing a niche market with his first product the Moto Seat Cover below. As a fellow motorcyclist and cyclist, I could see there was a lot of potential in his ideas.

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Once his website was up and running, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much humour Chris had used to promote his brand. Here are a few examples:

  • With a focus on innovation and lifestyle, our premium products will keep you and your stuff dry... from the bottom up
  • We're not hairy bikers or Tour de France wannabes. We don't wear leather or Lycra to and from work but we do love the freedom of 2 wheels.
  • We're not going to ask you to start hugging each other at the traffic lights, but we are all 2 wheeled commuters and suffer the same conditions - from both the weather and other traffic.
  • We know that we are just little pin pricks in the bottom of the 1.5 million 2 wheel commuters in London, but we dream of being big pricks.

I also love the way Chris spells out his brand values in such clear terms:

When it comes to our products, we have 4 key values:

  1. it's kit you want (more on this below).
  2. it is 100% functional - our kit works really well and is made of the best materials for the job.
  3. it has to look great - there's too much stuff out there that works brilliantly for commuters on 2 wheels, that just doesn't look very good.
  4. our kit will always be innovative - we believe innovation is the key to developing brilliant new products that disrupt the rest of the market.

And even better Chris makes fantastic use of the Dry-Patch blog and social media channels. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

 Written by Neil Infield on behalf Business & IP Centre

23 September 2016

Find out how one man turned his “light bulb moment” into reality

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Guy Jeremiah invented the Ohyo collapsible water bottle when he had a “light bulb moment” in the train station, proving that inspiration can hit you anywhere. Guy then took the crucial steps to turn his idea into a viable business. Today Ohyo bottles are stocked by a large number of major retailers and are exported all over the world. We asked him what he needed to do in those early days to make it happen.

Hi Guy! Where did the idea come from to start your own business?

Ohyo was born out of necessity. I found myself at St Pancras station with no water fountain in sight, no bottle in my pocket, and no option but to buy a bottle of water. From my background in running my own environmental consultancy business, I knew the wasted resources that made that bottle of water. It takes a quarter litre of oil and up to 7 litres of water to make 1 litre of bottled water. There are enough plastic bottles discarded every year to stretch round the world 1,000 times!

I concluded that people are reluctant to carry re-usable bottles because they are too bulky and invented Ohyo as a handy, collapsible water bottle that’s easy to take anywhere. An extended Ohyo holds 500ml, or 1,000ml for the larger version. When empty, an Ohyo will compress down to fit in a pocket. Using (and re-using) an Ohyo avoids the need to buy environmentally-damaging bottled water. In summer 2009 we cycled round London looking for fountains and established a free app for users to find drinking water sources near them.

How did the Business & IP Centre help you along the way?

The next step for Ohyo, was just a stone’s throw from my Eureka moment! Having seen an ad on the tube declaring “Got a great idea, we can help you protect it”, I made my way to the then newly-formed Business & IP Centre at the British Library. They quickly helped me to do some research that established that my design was patentable and, furthermore, did not breach anyone else’s patent. This gave me the confidence to invest the time and cash to develop the idea and protect my intellectual property.

Having traded for a few years, I was then accepted on to the Innovating for Growth programme to help me get my business to the next phase. Participation on the programme included attending workshops and valuable face-to-face support. Launching your own business can be quite lonely, but with the support of the Business & IP Centre and networking with like-minded businesses I never felt alone. When times got tough, such as bullying from major retailers, the Business & IP Centre was my first port of call for expert help in establishing my clear legal position.

What have been your greatest achievements since starting up?

From my initial idea in 2008 to prototype, it took me two years before launching to great acclaim in 2010 at Prince Charles’ “Garden Party to Make a Difference” at Clarence House. In 2012, I struck a major deal to stock the bottles in Marks & Spencer as part of their “Plan A Sustainability Campaign”; a great example of how sustainable credentials can help to promote a product. The bottles are "carbon neutral" after just two to three uses. M&S were great to work with and made a major contribution to our worldwide sales total of 700,000 bottles since 2010!

What one piece of crucial advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting a business?

Understand your cash flow by keeping accurate records and making realistic predictions. You’ll sleep better at night if you know the money isn’t about to run out. And if it is going to run out, it’s better to have enough warning so you can do something about it!

We’ve been helping people like Guy turn great ideas into businesses for over 10 years now. To celebrate we’re holding a day of free workshops, talks and events on everything you need to know to start a business, from raising cash to getting your business online. You’ll meet like-minded people, chat to seasoned business experts and entrepreneurs and even get your first professional headshot. And our new ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’, Julie Deane (founder and CEO of The Cambridge Satchel Company), will be showing you how to start a business from your kitchen table. So join us at the British Library on the 27 September and get inspired to take your first step to entrepreneurship.

 

19 September 2016

How one woman turned her passion for swimming into a successful business

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A keen swimmer and all-round active person Lisa Irlam noticed a gap in the market and took the plunge into the wearable fitness technology world. Her business, Swimovate, launched in 2007 and since then the business has gone from strength to strength, selling the innovative PoolMate - a waterproof watch the counts your laps while you swim.  We asked Lisa some of our burning questions about how she got started and became the success story she is today.

Hi Lisa! Where did the idea come from to start your own business?

As amateur triathletes, my husband Jim and I realised that there were plenty of products to monitor performance for runners and athletes, but nothing for swimmers. We talked to retailers, magazines, triathletes and swimmers who all said they would buy a product if it existed. There was a gap in the market and the PoolMate idea was born.

How did the Business & IP Centre help you along the way?

Initially we did some technical research, reading scientific papers at the British Library and discovered the Business & IP Centre and what an amazing range of support and services it offered. We attended free workshops on intellectual property and researching your market and spent a lot of time searching the databases that the Centre provides access to. It really helped us to understand our field and what we needed to do to make our business a success. Through the Business & IP Centre we met some inspiring and very helpful people who gave us invaluable advice and support, completely free of charge.

What have been your greatest achievements since starting up?

The best feeling was selling out of our first batch before it had even been delivered and knowing we were at the start of something massive. After selling over 100,000 units, it still gives us a buzz to see our watches on people’s wrists on the street.

What one piece of crucial advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting a business?

Be very careful with your finances, it’s easy to get carried away with costs. Make sure you only risk what you are prepared to lose. Try to do as much as possible yourself, this will teach you so much and don’t forget to make use of all the great free resources out there, like the Business & IP Centre.

 

We’ve been helping people like Lisa turn great ideas into businesses for over 10 years now. To celebrate we’re holding a day of free workshops, talks and events on everything you need to know to start a business, from raising cash to getting your business online. You’ll meet like-minded people, chat to seasoned business experts and entrepreneurs and even get your first professional headshot. And our new ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’, Julie Deane (founder and CEO of The Cambridge Satchel Company), will be showing you how to start a business from your kitchen table. Join us at the British Library on the 27 September and get inspired to take your first step to entrepreneurship.

 

15 August 2016

Waste not, want not. The business of turning discarded food into delicious chutney

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We caught up with Jenny Dawson Costa, founder and CEO, of relish range Rubies in the Rubble. But Rubies is much more than just a range of yummy relishes – the business is built on sustainable values turning surplus fruit and veg into something tasty rather than wasting it. Their range of relishes is inspired by home-cooked recipes they started making in their kitchen. Now they’re stocked in major retailers throughout the UK and the business continues to grow day-by-day.

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When was Rubies in the Rubble set up and what was it that inspired the business?

The idea for Rubies in the Rubble came after a very early morning visit to a wholesale fruit and veg market on my bike one frosty day in November 2010.

I fell in love with the market - such a diverse range of people living by night and sleeping by day; a world of farmers, wholesalers, restaurant owners and market sellers trading anything from durians to brussel sprouts.

But just along from the bustle of the traders were the piles of unwanted fruit and veg - mange tout from Kenya, mangos from the Philippines, tomatoes from Turkey, cranberries for California which bypassed the bustle of traders and headed straight for the bin! And what really saddened me was that much of these, though potentially with a short shelf life, were perfectly edible!

It got me thinking about the impossibility of matching supply and demand when you have unpredictable weather, unpredictable humans and supermarkets that provide everything in plentiful piles throughout the year.

I then buried myself in researching food waste and realising its scale and implications – both environmentally and financially. However, it was a simple fact that compelled me to act: we are wasting 1/3 of all the food we produce, whilst 1bn people go to bed hungry. I’m not saying I know the solution but there are improvements that we can make to the current system.

And then it came to me: a premium food brand making delicious products from fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded.

What challenges have you faced along the way?

There seems to be a never-ending array of new challenges each day which keeps life interesting!

Initially the challenges were mainly around educating people about why waste or surplus existed and the need to value our supply chain. However, our greatest challenges now are around scaling up our production and winning new customers.

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

The most exciting was being on the BBC News. They sent a car just 5 mins after calling me about the interview. I was in a hoody, looking pretty much the worse for wear, with no knowledge of the news story but off I went and had an amazing live interview on food waste in the UK.

But my proudest moment was a letter from the Queen. I’m a big fan of hers so I wrote to her asking what her favourite chutney was as I wanted to make her one for the Jubilee. She probably thought I was 10 years old, but wrote back with a lovely letter saying she couldn’t tell me her favourites but would love to try my chutney - so I sent her the range and she loved them!

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What one piece of advice would you give to any business owners struggling to take their business to the next level?

I would advise them to really test their business out on a small scale first. Talk to lots of people, know how you are going to make your product and get it into the hands of the consumer to see where the challenges might lie.  

Then, when you know there is a market for your product and how you are going to make it, just go for it whole-heartedly – give it your best shot and hope for the best.

How has the Innovating for Growth programme helped you?

It was great to have some time out from the day-to-day business and focus on the big picture and plan for growth. Reminding us that you can’t do everything at once and you need to concentrate on getting what you’re currently doing right before moving on to the next thing.

Finally, what’s next on the horizon for Rubies in the Rubble?

We’re really excited for the future and our next steps. We have been focused on making sure we nail it before we scale it for the last 3 years at Rubies and we are now confident that we have a valued brand and robust plan to really go for it. We are now developing new products with the hope of becoming an umbrella brand of great tasting foods made with the same ethos.

Watch this space!

 

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

Are you a start-up looking to scale up, like Rubies? Innovating for Growth is a fully funded three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality.

Covering everything from intellectual property to reaching new markets and branding, we'll guide you through every step of the way to help your business achieve its growth ambitions.

Find out more and apply now 

 

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11 August 2016

How we amped-up our business strategy and our trading firm took off

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Amplify are a trading firm that provide training and expertise for those interested in moving into the financial markets to become a trader. They have pioneered a new training programme, raising the industry standard for trading talent. We asked them about their unique approach to trading and how they have established their high-regarded reputation in the industry.

Will and Piers
 

When was Amplify set up and what was it that inspired you to start the business?

We started Amplify in 2009 as a small trading firm in Canary Wharf. As we grew our team we wanted to create a new and better way to develop our new traders. Rather than relying on out-of-date models and theory, we wanted to revolutionise the way economics and finance were taught, using technology and experiential learning to make their training relevant to the markets today.

What challenges has the business faced along the way?

The industry is incredibly competitive and at first it was hard to make our mark. Reputation is everything, so we always tried to treat every person that has ever come into contact with Amplify with the upmost care and consideration.  This has meant growth has perhaps been slower than it could have been, but as we enter into our eighth year the hard work in building a reputation of quality and integrity is starting to pay off.

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

Many of the world’s largest financial institutions, and some of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions, use our technology to perform better and this is great justification of the value of what we do.  It’s also excellent to see candidates that we have worked with landing some of the best roles in the industry, from central banks to hedge funds and investment banks. Receiving their feedback and seeing how well they have done is incredibly rewarding.

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What one piece of advice would you give to any business owners struggling to take their business to the next level?

As soon as you can, hire an employee to manage the operation that you have built so you can get on with helping it grow.

You were successful applicants on our Innovating for Growth programme – how has it helped you?

The sessions during the three-month programme gave us an invaluable reminder to refocus on the bigger picture, along with giving us the necessary tools to create value from that focus.  For us the most useful elements were redefining our business strategy and implementation; making sure the whole team is aware of the business objectives and core values of the firm, and that all involved are on board in helping to achieve those objectives.

Finally, what’s next on the horizon for Amplify?

Since the Innovating for Growth programme we have made our first hire abroad with our office in New York officially opening in September.  The co-founders have moved away from the London trading floor to be based in a separate location so we can be physically removed from the day-to-day running and focus on the growth objectives of the firm.  After New York opens in September, we start a road show in Hong Kong and Singapore this November.

 

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

Are you a start-up looking to scale up, like Amplify? Innovating for Growth is a fully funded three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality.

Covering everything from intellectual property to reaching new markets and branding, we'll guide you through every step of the way to help your business achieve its growth ambitions.

Find out more and apply now 

 

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

10 August 2016

How I took my business from a small start-up to a super success

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Arit Eminue started her business because she was passionate about giving young people opportunities to achieve their dreams no matter what their background, social class, gender or ethnicity.

Her business, DiVA, matches young talent with outstanding employers through government backed apprenticeships, giving people the opportunity to ‘earn while they learn’ and help businesses gain the skills they need to remain competitive.

Since the launch of the business in January 2011, DiVA have provided apprenticeships to over 200 creative youngsters with employers like 20th Century Fox, UK Music, Universal, Southbank Centre, Sadlers Wells, Crossrail and many more.

We caught up with founder and Director, Arit, to find out how she’s done it.

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Hi Arit! Where did the idea for your business come from?

We started delivering apprenticeships in 2011.  Before this, I had secured grant funding to provide a wage subsidy to film businesses hiring graduate talent.   At the time the entry route to the industry was through unpaid work placements, which the sector was trying to combat.  Our graduate programme addressed this issue, and was incredibly successful with a high number of graduates gaining full-time employment post-internship.

Low-cost recruitment worked, but the grant funding dried up.  Apprenticeships in the creative sector launched, essentially allowing businesses to recruit and train employees at a budget they could afford.  I enjoyed playing the “Fairy Job Mother”, matching the right candidates to the best role for them, so I switched focus to apprenticeship recruitment and training. We started with six apprentices and now have 150 young people currently engaged in apprenticeships, carrying out many jobs businesses depend on such as; general administrators, social media assistants, marketing assistants, HR administrators, receptionists and finance assistants.

What challenges did you face in the early stages?

Changing perceptions.  Apprenticeships were viewed as a poor alternative to a degree.  Employers had such low expectations of non-graduate talent, and thought hiring an apprentice was too complicated and it would take too long for an apprentice to get up to speed.  Having recruited graduate and non-graduate talent I can say with surety having a degree does not guarantee you’re work ready.

In addition to changing perceptions about apprenticeships, running a small business gives me an understanding of the pressures employers are under, so my team and I work hard to make their lives easier.  We take the headache out of recruitment by providing a full service. We submit grant funding applications and have all paperwork and training schedules issued up front so there are no surprises.    We’re also at the other end of a phone throughout the process and beyond. 

What has been DiVA’s biggest achievement so far?

Still being in business five years down the line - with not a grey hair in sight!  Also we have a very high conversion rate from an apprenticeship into full-time employment and each time this happens I’m reminded that apprenticeships do work.  

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

The Innovating for Growth programme helped me to develop my team in line with my plans for growth.  The programme also helped increase our client base.  I had previously focussed on creative companies as opposed to creative occupations (e.g. marketing and communications), which are in any sector.  Being encouraged to shift my thinking in this regard helped broaden our reach and attract non-creative businesses such as the CBI, Hackney Council, Greenwich Council and JJ Roofing. 

What one piece of advice would you give to any business owners struggling to take their business to the next level?

Scheduling one day per week to work on the business (rather than just in it) was the best piece of advice I was given, so it seems only fair to share it.  Admittedly, it wasn’t an easy habit to adopt. However, forcing myself to do it has paid dividends. Also, apply for Innovating for Growth and let experts give you the help you need to succeed – it doesn’t cost you or your business anything other than your time.

 

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

Are you a start-up looking to scale up, like DiVA? Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality.

Covering everything from intellectual property to reaching new markets and branding, we'll guide you through every step of the process.

Find out more and apply now 

 

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

 

19 May 2016

Kikka Digga - Business & IP Centre Success Story

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Kikka-Digga logoOn Saturday I visited Plumpton College near Lewes, for their annual open day. On display amongst the new-born lambs, Sussex wines, tractors and chainsaws was a stand for Kikka Digga. With my curiosity for all things new, I sauntered over and chatted to the demonstrator Nick Skaliotis. It turned out this was the very first public outing for the his new invention, which he claimed would make digging gardens significantly easier.

Mid-way through our conversation I asked if Nick had patented his invention, he looked more closely at me and said, "I know you". It turned out he has been a regular in the Business & IP Centre at the British Library. In addition to getting help with his patent from our wonderful Inventor in Residence Mark Shehean. He also attended several of our workshops including lean start-up webinar, social media for business and trade marks.

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After hearing Nick’s story I just had to buy his product to see if it really did live up to his claims. Also, I hoped it would help me to avoid the lower back-pain I now get every time I dig over my vegetable patch.

As soon as I got home I took the two pieces of metal out of package and installed them onto my fork. This was as simple as the instructions indicated with just two items to clamp onto my fork.

As you can see from my photos below, I was able to dig over a small section of my very weedy heavy clay soil quickly and easily using Kikka Digga. And, even better, I had no twinges in my lower back afterwards. So I am definitely sold on the product.

I also like the name Kikka Digga, for being simple and memorable. And it has even more k’s than the legendary Kodak brand. George Eastman said about the letter k, “it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter.” I am also glad to see that Nick has registered the name at the UK Intellectual Property Office.

Kikka Digga trademark

You can see a demonstration of the invention in action on YouTube. And keep up to date with Nick’s progress on Facebook or Twitter.

I can’t wait to see how the gardeners of Great Britain take to this wonderful invention.

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Kikka Digga newly assembled on my fork in seconds

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My first few digs into my heavy clay soil are surprisingly easy

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Misty is as impressed as I am by the speed and ease in digging up the plot.

 

By Neil Infield in the Business & IP Centre London team

04 April 2016

Spotlight on … Tangle Teezer

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Inventor Shaun Pulfrey‘s life changed when he launched a revolutionary hair product, Tangle Teezer, in 2007. Nine years later innovation is still at the heart of everything Tangle Teezer do. We asked Shaun about his entrepreneurial journey and he told us how working with the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme helped him along the way.

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Where did the idea for the Tangle Teezer come from and how did it get off the ground?

I was working as a colourist at Vidal Sassoon when I realised tangled hair was a huge problem in salons. I had mastered my own technique to detangle hair using a brush and a comb together, tapping at the tangles to loosen them. My idea was to put this technique into a tool so that anyone could detangle as well as I could. I spent hours in the British Library researching plastics and injection moulding to find a material that would work best, it needed to be flexible but still return to its original position. I worked with a designer to finally come up with The Original detangling brush, when I got my first sample back even I was shocked at how well it worked. Once I had my finished product, I lined up a stand at The Clothes Show Live and also took my product on Dragons’ Den. These both came within a couple of weeks of each other. After Dragons’ Den, even though I didn’t get backing, my website crashed instantly with sales. I knew I had a product that worked and I knew the viewers understood it. The next week at The Clothes Show Live a buyer for Boots tried The Original and that’s when the ball really started rolling.

The brand has gone from strength to strength – how do you tell the story of the brand/business?

I have learnt so much from building Tangle Teezer; the first being that I always try and take a negative and turn it into a positive. I worked with my rejection on Dragons’ Den and turned it around to work in my favour. After the show, I started to build worldwide awareness for my brand by listing on global websites and it was from this I gained enquiries from distributors all around the globe wanting to distribute my product. This was really encouraging as many brands have to source their own distributors. My first enquiries came from Belgium and the Netherlands. It was from then, my brand started to snowball. I’m now working with a strong team of 45 and I couldn’t do any of it without them. Although I had created the product, I knew I wasn’t an expert in all aspects of the business so I hired people who were. We’re now selling in over 65+ countries worldwide, have sold 27m brushes since launch and sell 20 brushes a minute. Even I still find those stats hard to believe.

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What has been your biggest achievement so far?

For the brand, I think it would have to be winning two Queen’s awards, one for innovation and one for international trade. This was a really proud moment for me and I even got to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

What challenges have you faced along the way?

I experienced many challenges while building Tangle Teezer and that’s the way I saw them, as challenges not setbacks. With Tangle Teezer, we began shipping overseas really quickly with word spreading like wildfire about the product and although this was incredible the first major problem we faced was meeting the demand. In the first stages it was really difficult to keep up, although now we’re able to reach demand for all of our overseas markets.

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

More than anything the programme gave me the rare opportunity to take a temporary step back from the business and to review what we had done well, and why – and also where there was scope for improvement. Having experts give us advice on the programme enabled us to reflect upon our current processes and knowledge gaps. This has given us a real sense of renewed momentum and perhaps even greater confidence that we are prepared for the challenges ahead.

What one piece of advice would you give to any business owners struggling to take their business to the next level?

Speaking on behalf of Tangle Teezer I have to say think about your investments. These may not be things that give instant return but down the line become invaluable. I invested a huge amount of money in intellectual property to protect my product at the very beginning and a lot of the brand’s success is owed to this.

 

If you too would like to be as big as Tangle Teezer but need some support along the way, sign up for our free three-month Innovating for Growth programme.

 

 

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Innovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund 

07 March 2016

How to make your business an internet sensation

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Credit: Luca Sage

Online businesses are bigger than ever with entrepreneurs and investors eager to spot the next big internet phenomenon. Last week we brought together a panel of internet icons including; Justine Roberts, founder and CEO of Mumsnet; Ning Li, Co-founder and CEO of MADE.com and Renaud Visage, Co-founder of Eventbrite. They told us how they created some of the best-known global internet brands. Here are their unique stories and some tips they shared at the event.

Ning Li, Co-founder and CEO of MADE.com

Ning Li
Credit: Luca Sage

Since 2010, Ning’s mission has been to make great design accessible to everybody with the MADE.com brand. 

How did he do it? Ning had his first job in investment banking and decided to treat himself to a sofa. He had his heart set on a leather one. He took a snap of it on his phone and showed his friend who recently took over his parents' furniture manufacturing business – the very place the sofa was made. Ning realised his friend was selling the sofa for $300 when the one he initially wanted to buy was priced at £3,000! This made Ning think about the supply chain and the intermediaries along the route to market who take a cut of the final cost.

Ning saw this as a business opportunity. His reasons for starting his own business were, in his own words, ‘selfish’. He wanted to do something he could enjoy and that would make him excited to get out of bed every morning.  Now, he’s happy that his business can create jobs for others and solve people’s problems.

MADE.com had to compete with big names like Ikea and John Lewis. MADE.com looked to young designers and entrepreneurs, teamed up with them, and launched smaller collections more frequently – something the bigger guys weren’t doing. His advice for would-be entrepreneurs? Think outside the box and turn your weaknesses into strengths. Being the smaller players in the game doesn’t mean you can’t compete with the best of them.

Justine Roberts, founder and CEO of Mumsnet

Justine Roberts
Credit: Luca Sage

 

Justine Roberts founded an online haven for parents who need advice from others who have been there and done it. The idea for Mumsnet came from a disastrous first family holiday which made Justine think that, if there was an online network of parents she could have tapped into before the holiday, it could have saved her a lot of hassle.

Her vision was to ‘make parents lives easier’ by creating a space where they could get trusted advice at any time of the day. Back in the early days of the business she created many aliases and would go on forums to ask herself questions so that she could answer them. If her friends wanted to ask her something about parenting – she would make them post it on the forum. She didn’t have much of a budget, so relied heavily on Mumsnet members telling their friends about the site. It worked, and eventually the idea caught on.

Justine’s advice for entrepreneurs is to always go back to your mission when in difficulty and put purpose before profit if you want to succeed - hanging on to what you believe in is essential.

Renaud Visage, Co-founder of Eventbrite

Renaud Visage
Credit: Luca Sage

 

Renaud Visage co-founded the world's largest self-service ticketing platform that allows you to create, share and find events that interest you – anything from concerts to conferences and everything in between. When Renaud and his business partners worked together to co-found Eventbrite in 2006 they saw a gap in the market and acted on it. They wanted to bring an online ticketing service to the general public that anyone could use to host an event. Since then, they’ve helped millions of event organisers easily create, promote and sell tickets.

Renaud told our audience that you don't need to be an expert at everything, ‘create your own definition of what an entrepreneur is’ and don't be afraid to jump in - even if you know nothing about the industry. ‘The best business ideas are found at the crossroads of trends, creativity and curiosity – every one of us has the potential to be the next great entrepreneur.’

 

Feeling inspired? Visit the Business & IP Centre for help with starting and running your business.

 

26 February 2016

Spotlight on ... Kalory Photo and Video Studio

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London based visual content marketing studio, Kalory, grew their business with the help of the Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth programme. Now, on their fifth anniversary, we asked Director and Co-founder Franck Jehanne to reflect on his experience of starting and running a successful business. 

Franck Jehanne

Hi Franck - Kalory is turning five this year, congratulations! Thinking back to when you started, what prompted you to start a business?

I always wanted to have my own business and from my early teenage years I was drafting business plans. However, I started my career in the corporate world and eventually left my job as a luxury brand manager to pursue my own business. However, I wasn’t sure what my business would be at that point.

I started to explore different industries with my partner, Brijesh, who was working as a freelance photographer.  We were initially thinking of starting a clothing company but I received a call from a client from my previous job who was looking for a photographer.  And, just like that, our business started to come together. My partner and I worked together, combining my retail and luxury industry experience with Brijesh’s sense of aesthetics and technical photography skills.

Youve worked with big brands like Montblanc and Habitat - how do you stand out in the market and get the attention of brands like these?

Some of our customers come by word of mouth and others from Google search.  They look at our photography portfolios online. They like what they see and contact us.  We also do a lot of work on our SEO.  

A large part of our success with big brands is our attention to detail and our clients often mention our reliability as a key factor for working with us.  We work as a team and almost 100% of our images go through several processes to ensure best quality: technical and creative lighting and photographic skills, retouching skills and editing and composition skills before and after the shoot, so that the final image meets the client’s brief and objective.

You were a participant our Innovating for Growth programme, what obstacles did it help you overcome?

The Innovating for Growth team helped us a lot by giving us the confidence to hire our first employee.  The programme is also really good at forcing you to step back and analyse your business.  You are often so busy that you neglect your strategy or marketing. By raising questions and discussing the business, we changed some crucial elements in our branding and commercial strategies. The group sessions were also extremely useful. We met entrepreneurs with similar issues but in other industries and that’s a great way to make you think outside the box.

Interior and architectural photographer

What advice would you give to other small businesses on the importance of using visual content on their websites?

Great visuals are vital to creating your brand and they also help distinguish you from your competitors.  Using stock photography can be convenient but, as they are not exclusive to your business, they can be damaging for SEO (Google doesn’t like content that’s not unique and targeted). Budgets are usually tight, but it’s crucial to spend whatever budget you have wisely. 

If clients come to us with a budget for photography or video, we help them define their needs and what is possible in that financial frame. For example, there are many different ways to shoot and various levels of lighting and retouching, so we can always manage to deliver a project within a budget.

It is about the quality of images, not the quantity.  Fewer images that are well planned and executed say a lot more about the product or the company than many images with no real meaning. They are also more versatile and can be cropped in different ways - a good image, in general, can be used in different formats: banners, square, portrait, landscape, etc.  The best way to maximise your photographers’ time is to brief them before the shoot with as much information as possible about what you want your photos to ‘say’ about your business or product.

What do you feel have been your biggest achievements during the past five years?

We were finalists in the London FSB Business Awards 2013 in the "Best New Business" Category, which was great recognition for our business.  

But our biggest achievement is the very loyal and recurrent client base we have grown. Some trust us with very large projects that we shoot every year. We have also expanded to take on clients outside the ‘luxury’ market including fellow SMEs. This has enabled us to create a broader client base and we now work with all sizes of business, from small start-ups to large global brands.

Our clients trust us and are happy with the results and I think that’s definitely the best reward you can have when you have your own business.

We are now taking applications for the next Innovating for Growth programme find out how you can apply today.

 

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Innovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund

 

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