Innovation and enterprise blog

News from our curators and colleagues

Introduction

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

11 December 2019

Meet our delivery partners: Bob Lindsey

Bob Lindsey, founder of Thames Productions, runs one-to-one workshops for entrepreneurs at the British Library's Business & IP Centre, for innovators seeking advice on their product ideas and what to do next. He also runs a workshop on How much will it cost to get my new product to market.

Bob Lindsey

Bob Lindsey’s background includes, manufacturing, product design, and marketing. Originally a student/apprentice at the Ford Motor Company, he obtained a honours degree in Mechanical Engineering at City University. After working in Zambia (in copper mining) he studied for an MBA at Sheffield University, specialising in marketing. Subsequent experience included general management of manufacturing plants in the UK including responsibility for product design. After a spell in New Zealand (advising on capital project in pulp and paper manufacture), he moved into consultancy covering managerial and technical matters, and running training programmes on new product development. He won a DTI SMART award for developing a new industrial process and designed new products and sold manufacturing licenses. He knows all the challengers of turning that gem of an idea into a successful, profitable product.

Bob says, “I’m happy to meet innovators in my one-to-one sessions who are at any stage in the process, whether they’re at the ideas phase, right through to them having full demonstrable prototypes. There are many steps to that often tortuous journey, and I can advise on many aspects of it, including working out the likely routes to market. Attendees can ask all the questions which have been in the back of their mind, often for a while. I have learnt most of the obvious mistakes, and also the rare ones. I can share my experience to reduce the probability of clients repeating them.

“The British Library themselves provide excellent workshops on Intellectual Property (IP) and this is an area I can also cover in the context of the product areas being discussed. Manufacturing might often involve the adherence to mandatory standards which have to be met, and which might not be so obvious to those starting out in this field.

“In recent months I have seen some of the perennial favourites; food and drink products, hair treatments, skincare products, fashion and footwear and travel items. But there have also been household items, lifestyle products and interesting medical devices. Over the years there have been pet-care products, personal hygiene, and even adult toys. In addition to physical products I can discuss the provision of services or APPs."

In 2020 Bob will be running the workshop How much will it cost to get my new product to market, where all the hidden and surprising items of expenditure will be highlighted, particularly during that difficult start-up phase when sales might be small, but where the costs are high. In this workshop he will cover:

  • Market testing
  • Researching IP opportunities (and impediments)
  • Product safety standards
  • Prototyping
  • How to commission a designer, together with a framework of professional charges
  • How to source tooling
  • How to source a manufacturer
  • The challenges and extra costs of sourcing those small start-up batches and what it is like to sell to a professional buyer in the retail market.

In the workshop, Bob will look at case studies of successful entrepreneurs who have got their products to market, but whose eventual journeys were not as they had originally planned. If applicable, Bob will also be able to suggest other people attendees could be talking to, including specialised designers and IP advisors.

You can also see Bob at the Business & IP Centre's monthly Inventors Club at the British Library, which meets on the last Monday of the month. This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to float their ideas to gather feedback. Bob says, "sometimes what you feel is a great idea, might not have the support in the wider market. This is a good opportunity to network with fellow entrepreneurs.”

You can find out more information about Bob's workshops on his website. To find out what workshops and events are taking place at the Business & IP Centre, visit our website.

10 December 2019

A week in the life of... Loretta Awuah, Start-ups in London Libraries Greenwich Champion

Loretta Awuah is our Start-ups in London Libraries SME Champion for Greenwich. She is based in the borough providing support to aspiring entrepreneurs as part of the Start-ups in London Libraries (SiLL) programme.

Monday

I start the week off by working through my inbox and responding to all the emails from people who are requesting one-to-one sessions and enquiry emails from people wanting to join the SiLL programme. It’s always great to see the wide range of potential businesses who I can register to the project. On this particular Monday it’s a food business and a social enterprise. We also have a weekly meeting with our borough SiLL team to discuss upcoming events and the support they may need. In the SiLL project, we support two types of entrepreneurs – people who have an idea which they haven’t yet developed and those who have been registered for a year or less, so we also look at ways of supporting and reaching these two different groups.

A big part of my job is showing the resources available in the library and supporting businesses in making the most of them. So in the afternoon, I do a COBRA tutorial with a newly registered business who is interested in finding out more information about ethical fashion and industry trade shows. It is amazing how much you can find on these databases so she leaves with a pack of information that will help give her direction and inform her next moves.

Loretta in a 1-2-1 session

Tuesday
One of the best things about being able to offer the one-to-one sessions is that in one morning I can be looking at very different businesses and helping them map very different things, using varying techniques and models. This morning I have two sessions: one with an aspiring entrepreneur where we create a business model canvas and discuss her company structure; and another with someone wanting to start a social enterprise during which we developed a value proposition statement. No two sessions are ever the same and I love hearing how many ideas are springing out of Greenwich – it’s definitely a buzzing borough and that shows in the range of businesses I talk to.

The afternoon brings a presentation I delivered as part of  Black History Month on the history of the black entrepreneurs across the African diaspora (past and present) and the impact of their products and services, combined with a workshop on ‘can you turn your passion into a business idea?’ I think it’s so important to acknowledge the benefits of a diverse business community, and how transformational this can be for the entrepreneurs, customers and their local communities   

Relationship building with local organisations is also a big part of my job and I finish the day by confirming dates to collaborate with GLLaB (Greenwich Local Labour and Business) which is a council run organisation working with employers to promote job vacancies for local people. The aim of this meeting will be to promote the SiLL programme amongst job seekers interested in starting a business in different areas within Greenwich.

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Loretta wearing a t-shirt from one of the businesses she has supported in Greenwich - Greater Brits

Wednesday

More meetings today with a presentation to the Plumstead Traders Forum about the SiLL programme and the support they could receive and a meeting with the GCDA (Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency) about the support they provide to aspiring food  entrepreneurs.

The one-to-one I had scheduled in for today was with a potential businesswoman looking at applying for funding for a project she would like to deliver next year, and sourcing a bid writer so again, we are able to make some definite progress in that area.

As I am the midpoint between the Business & IP Centre at the British Library and the borough I also have regular meetings with the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s business engagement team. Today we have one to discuss collaboration opportunities in 2020 and information about business licenses on behalf of SiLL clients

Thursday

Greenwich has a really active Start-ups in London Libraries community, which has been born out of people attending the workshops, receiving one to ones etc, and so we run a monthly session with our SiLL clients and other start-ups. It’s a safe space where they can all share updates on achievements, progress made and discuss challenges they are facing which they would like support. This month we also had Gary Parker, Director from CNT Associates deliver a presentation on funding for small businesses and social enterprises.

A big focus for me this month has been preparing for the Greenwich Christmas Start-up Marketplace we are delivering on 4 and 5 December to enable SiLL clients and other local start-ups to promote their business, trade and test out ideas. A lot of the time, these small businesses can use this sort of platform really effectively, to not only sell their products and services but do some market research and evaluate out the appetite out there.

There are smaller jobs I fit in where I can like arranging catering for the ‘Get ready for business workshop’ on December 11 2019 at West Greenwich Library – not the most exciting job but crucially important. We don’t want our workshop attendees going hungry!

Then there‘s time for one more presentation this week, this time to the Black Female Entrepreneur Greenwich organisation on effective time management tips and an overview of the SiLL programme. I love talking about the programme and getting the name out there as much as possible. People are always so surprised that they can get this support completely free.

Loretta in Greenwich Library

Friday

All 10 of the SME Champions from each of the boroughs have monthly training sessions at the British Library to hear from some of the key organisations like HMRC and big banks which ensure that our knowledge of the business support landscape is up to date and relevant. Things are changing so quickly, and there will be lots to learn particularly after Brexit has happened, so these sessions are always really eye-opening. As well as providing the support, we need to make sure we’re signposting other sources as much as possible as well and acting as a convener.

After a full day of training, I pick up my baby son Joshua from the childminder, which is always a perfect end to the work. I’m looking forward to spending a restful weekend with him before getting going again on Monday.

To find out more about the Start-ups in London Libraries programme, visit bl.uk/SiLL.

The Start-ups in London Libraries project is generously supported by the European Regional Development Fund, J.P. Morgan and Arts Council England.

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06 December 2019

The 12 Days of the BIPC

It’s fair to say that 2019 has been a jam-packed one for the BIPC. We wanted to have a look back at some of the highlights this year has provided for us and so without further ado, we present to you the 12 Days of BIPC and first off, our true love (by which we mean our BIPC community) gave to us….

A brand new series of blogs

In January, we started our Week in the Life Of... blogs, taking a look into the weekly tasks of entrepreneurs, staff and others involved in offering business advice services. Since then, we've heard…

🌳 how Jan Kattein Architects are involved in the British Library's Story Garden

🏠 that for Merilee, founder of Under the Doormat, exercise helps to set a positive outlook for the week

🐶 the importance of dog walks to The Foldline’s co-founder Rachel's week

👥 the difficulties in managing a team spread around the country with Superwellness

🏊 how sometimes running your own business means you just have to go to your daughter's swimming gala in a cocktail dress with The Foraging Fox

switching off from work with Sandows

👶 running a business whilst pregnant with Mama Designs

🚆 the amount of travelling involved for a member of the IPO’s Business Outreach Team

🎥 some days are glamourous and involved being filmed for a UK media company with KeriKit

🍸 and finally, how to balance your home and work life with Conker Spirit

In the second month, we got…

A brand new BIPC

In February, we celebrated the launch of our Cambridgeshire and Peterborough BIPC, our 11th BIPC in the UK. The new centre is a hub for entrepreneurs, bringing them together to network, attend events and access a wealth of resources like databases, market research and other business info. On the day, Julie Deane OBE, founder of Cambridge Satchel Co and Entrepreneur in Residence at BIPC London, gave a speech and highlighted the importance the Centre would have on local entrepreneurs: “It’s easy to be put off in the early days of setting up your business. You can’t know everything from the start, but you do need a vision and the will to achieve it. I believe this resource will help entrepreneurs on that journey!’

Cambridge launch

In the third month, our treat was….

Our sold out Start-up Stars

On the topic of 'How I Disrupted My Market', with a panel of trailblazing entrepreneurs including CompliMed, In A Wish & 33Shake, alumni from the Innovating for Growth: Scale up programme, chaired by motivational speaker and coach Rasheed Ogunlaru. Our audience learnt out how the panel of businesses challenged the status quo and shook up their sector.

On the fourth highlight day, our beautiful National Network gave to us….

A brand new BIPC (again!)

Another month, another launch at the Mitchell Library for BIPC Glasgow. The first BIPC in Scotland, the 12th as part of our National Network, and a partnership between the British Library, Glasgow Life, the National Library of Scotland and Santander. Dr John Scally, National Librarian at the National Library of Scotland, said of the launch: “Creativity and innovation among entrepreneurs and start-ups rely on the most up-to-date information and advice available. We have vast business and intellectual property resources in our collections and want businesses throughout Scotland to know that help and expertise is there. We are pleased to partner with the British Library and the Mitchell Library to open this service in Glasgow. By our combined efforts we will help local businesses thrive.”

Glasgow launch

Our fifth day brings us to…

Our Start-ups in London Libraries launch

For our latest programme, Start-ups in London Libraries which brings start-up support to 10 London high streets, we had an amazing launch event in City Hall at the beginning of May, where the Deputy Mayor of Business, Rajesh Agrawal, announced that he was going to be the Champion of Champions for the project and threw his support behind the plan. He said “This initiative will deliver vital support to our burgeoning small business community while providing a huge boost for the capital’s libraries.”

Fast forward to now and a total of more than 850 businesses have attended Start-ups in London Libraries workshops and seen our borough support teams for help getting their business off the ground. And it’s onwards and upwards from here!

Start-ups in London Libraries launch

Which leads us nicely onto the sixth day of the BIPC…

Our new Start-ups in London Libraries look and feel

In June, after our Start-ups in London Libraries launch, we released our brand new campaign for the project, featuring some potentially familiar faces – our London success stories (or BIPs). From cats with cake to coffee with a conscious, these brilliant businesses cover the wide range of companies we’re hoping will also come out of the project, and it provided a great opportunity for us to showcase just some of our BIPC community who were already sitting in specific boroughs, including Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, Cyclehoop, Change Please, Sabina Motasem and HR Sports Academy. And as you’ll see, Start-ups in London Libraries wasn’t the only thing getting a makeover this year…

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On the seventh day we’re remembering…

How we cemented our reputation with stats in our economic evaluation report (and celebrated it in Westminster!)

July saw us head to the House of Lords to launch our Democratising Entrepreneurship report, which looked at libraries as engines of economic growth, highlighting that the BIPC had helped create 12,288 new businesses, 7,843 jobs and £78m GVA. Out of those we helped start a new business, 22% were from the most deprived areas, 55% were women and 29% were aged 35 and under. We are committed to continue offering accessible business support across our National Network and in London, to help you plan, start and grow your business.

House of Lords Event - Jen Lam

The eighth day of the BIPC brings us..

More makeovers!

We continued to spruce up the BIPC with our new marketing materials, featuring talented entrepreneurs who received business support at the BIPC and also from our network of national hubs. We’re so delighted to have been able to show off the tangible results of the BIPC business support this year in our new campaign and capture the range of people who have been able to start up or scale up in part through our services. Included in our community and photographed for our marketing materials were: Annie from Campbell Medical Illustrations, Gil from ChattyFeet, Amanda from I Can Make Shoes, Abigail and Chloe from Buttercrumble, Joe from Krio Kanteen, Natalie from Acacia and Marcela from Sacpot. We can’t wait to keep growing our business community up and down the country and look forward to adding more faces to these in 2020.

New BIPC brand

On the ninth day was when we started to realise that 12 is a lot of highlights to pack into one blog, but luckily, we had plenty of exciting events to see us through the last couple of months of 2019… so for our ninth day…

We got inspired

In September, we were thrilled to host another stellar Inspiring Entrepreneurs event with a wider focus on people who are at the forefront of the UK’s creative industries. With our incomparable moderator, Night Czar, Amy Lamé and a panel consisting of Jamal Edwards, Irene Agbontaen and Rick Lowe, no one could leave the auditorium without feeling inspired and energised.

Inspiring Entrepreneurs Cultural Changemakers

On the tenth day, we find ourselves at…

Our biggest event of the year

Maybe our biggest day of the year was Start-up Day which took place in October. There are too many highlights to mention but include panel discussions on starting up on a shoestring and profit with t a purpose, a brilliant presentation and candid chat with the charity, Mind, and Julie Deane OBE about looking after your mental health while getting started, and an epic keynote from Steph McGovern, where she discussed embracing your authenticity and finding business potential in recessions and times of economic hardship. It was a truly inspiring day and we can't wait to hear about the progress of the 400 entrepreneurs who stepped through the doors! We'll be back with Start-up Day 2020 before you know it.

Steph McGovern - Start-up Day

On our penultimate day we received…

The chance to discuss the BIPC in the Anything but Silent podcast

In November, we were featured in the British Library podcast ‘Anything but Silent’, with our Innovating for Growth alumna and Start-ups in London Libraries’ ambassador, Mickela Hall-Ramsay from HR Sports Academy, and were able to discuss and celebrate one of our favourite topics, community in the world of business. It's worth a listen all year round!

Which brings us to, our 12th day…

A touch of luxury

Our final 2019 Inspiring Entrepreneurs, Leaders in Luxe, took place earlier this month, where we saw our panel – Frieda Gormley from House of Hackney, Clare Hornby from Me and Em, Jennifer Chamandi Boghossian from Jennifer Chamandi, Rupert Holloway from Conker Spirit and Darren Sital Singh from The Jackal, moderated by Walpole’s Helen Brocklebank - discuss the future of British luxury, how they built their brand and overcame challenges along the way. You can watch the catch up discussion on our YouTube channel, link in bio.

Inspiring Entrepreneurs - Leaders in Luxe

And that is it for 2019! What an exciting year and we have particularly loved seeing our support spread to more places and people than ever before.

Stay tuned for even more in 2020…. See you then.