THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

55 posts categorized "Success stories"

05 July 2017

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

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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.

 

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The Cambridge Satchel Company / Brompton Bikes collaboration

 

Reach your business peak at our Scale-up Summit

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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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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

Kikka Digga 3

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