Innovation and enterprise blog

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

Introduction

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

15 May 2024

Two worlds collide: when your family member becomes your business partner

What's it really like to have a family member that's also your business partner? In honour of International Day of Families, we caught up with just some of the family-run businesses that we have supported on their journeys to success.

Buttercrumble

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Abigail founded creative design consultancy 'Buttercrumble' with her twin sister Chloe, and we are proud to have supported them through our scale-up programme Get Ready For Business Growth (applications are now open, email [email protected]).

What made you decide to set up a business together? 

"Ever since we can remember, we’ve loved collaborating. As children, we’d always be drawing joint pictures together. We had a creative calling, and knew we wanted this to be our career. It would be rare to find a workplace that would employ both of us simultaneously, so we made our own opportunities. We’re following our passion and we love it!"

What is it like having a business partner as a family member?

"Comforting. You have to trust your business partner completely because business is tough! When we work together, we know we’ll receive honest feedback and authentic support. It’s in our best interests to help each other out. We feel fortunate knowing someone always has our back."

What’s your favourite thing about working with a family member?

"We see each other nearly every day! Yes, sometimes it can be intense, but we’re grateful for all the time we can spend together doing something we enjoy. We get to share in the successes, and that benefits the rest of our family too. It brings everyone together."

Is it hard to separate family time and work time?

"Whenever we go out for a casual coffee date, we always end up talking about business. It’s tricky, but we enjoy our work, so sometimes we can’t help ourselves. That said, it’s important to take breaks. It can help to bring along friends and other family members to curb our work chat. It helps to have hobbies too!"

What advice do you have to anyone who is looking to go into business with a family member?

"Separate business from personal matters. It’s easier said than done. We continue to learn, but we must retain professionalism when we’re working with our clients. Sort out squabbles outside of the office! Don’t let them harm your business efforts."

You can hear Chloe speak about collaborating with her sister at our Start-Up Stars: Creative Collaboration event next week - an evening of inspiration and networking as successful creative businesses tell their collaboration stories. Book your free ticket here.

London Fine Art Studios

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Ann founded 'London Fine Art Studios', a school dedicated to teaching the classical techniques of drawing and painting, with her twin sister Clare and husband Scott. They also received support from our Get Ready For Business Growth programme.

What made you decide to set up a business together?

"As family members you know you can trust their work ethic and that they have your best interests at heart."

What is it like having a business partner as a family member?

"I work with both my husband and my twin sister. I think it can be very amazing as you can short cut so many questions and you know you don't need to worry about how you phrase things or if you upset each other as it is more important to be time efficient."

What’s your favourite thing about working with a family member?

"It's nice to be able to see them every day and at meal times: it allows you to get to know them so well."

Is it hard to separate family time and work time?

"This is the only downside, as often my husband will want to talk about work at home. We all need switch off time, and it can sometimes be unfair on the children if work is always being brought up."

What advice do you have to anyone who is looking to go into business with a family member?

"Establish your boundaries before you start. See that person in a working environment, both in terms of their work ethic and how they treat other people. I worked with my husband for five years in a separate business before we set up our own business. It is obviously great if the work is going well, but also can be nice if one of the couple has a steady income."

Ann will also be speaking at the Start-Up Stars: Creative Collaboration event, find out more.

Sweet Paper Creations

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Patty founded handmade piñata brand 'Sweet Paper Creations' with her eldest child Ali. They received business support from their local BIPC and are now business ambassadors for our BIPC Local in Waltham Forest.

"When Ali was struggling with their mental health, I didn't know how to help or motivate them, so I started making piñatas as a relief strategy to cope with the waiting time to see a professional. We found that making piñatas together allowed us to relax and simply exist around each other, and this led to us setting up our business, as well as being able to open up to each other. 

Working together has been quite a journey, but it always brings a great feeling of achievement. From the very beginning, we decided to differentiate between the roles of mother and child and allocate responsibilities to each other. This has helped us to stay organised and on track. We have established effective communication and mutual respect for each other's abilities and roles."

Thinking of starting up with a family member? Sign up for our free Kickstart Your Business programme that offers tailored, accessible workshops and webinars to help you on your business journey. Topics covered include financing your business, researching your market and protecting your business's intellectual property. Find out more here and sign up today!

10 May 2024

Starting up? Here are top tips from business owners to help you on your journey

Happy Small Business Day! We are proud that supporting small businesses is at the heart of what we do here at the Business & IP Centre (BIPC). This year we reached out to some of our BIPC London business ambassadors, as well as entrepreneurs who received help on their business journey through their local BIPC resources and our Get Ready For Business Growth programme, to provide advice on coping with the inevitable stresses of starting up. 

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1. Celebrate the small wins

"Celebrate every small win. When you’re motivated your creativity improves and it’s easier to develop new solutions for business-related problems or invent new products. The connection between physical and mental health is stronger than I thought. It’s important to exercise both mind and body to fully use all your skills on your business. Female entrepreneurs can often face a wider range of challenges: in my case I’ve started my pre-menopause at 42. This brings short periods of depression and lack of sleep, some mornings I don’t want to even get out of bed. It’s difficult, but exercise helps a lot."

- Judy Chicangana, Founder of Delmora and BIPC Local Bromley business ambassador

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2. A SMART tip

"It is so common to experience stress if you're a small business owner: it's practically inevitable, unfortunately. To cope with the pressure, I recommend setting SMART goals for your business (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely). I always reassess priorities and break down tasks into manageable steps. It's also crucial to ask for help when you need it - reach out for support from mentors and professional networks as they will help you to see the bigger picture. For example, the Get Ready for Business Growth Programme helped us to put things into perspective when it comes to diversifying our revenue streams and organising internal processes. It's worth remembering that challenges are only a natural part of growth!"

- Dana Storo, Co-founder of Codex Anatomicus and Get Ready For Business Growth graduate

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3. Visit your local BIPC

"Running a business is a challenging endeavour, especially in the beginning, and new business owners have a lot to learn. My advice would be to visit your local BIPC for business support instead of struggling to work things out for yourself. This, in turn, will reduce your stress levels and give you breathing space. When things feel too much it's important to take some time out to think and do something that excites you. Spend time with good friends and loved ones. That experience will boost your mood and confidence."

Find your local BIPC here. 

 

4. Networking is key

“If we were to give any advice to small businesses it would be to invest in and harness the power of your network. When we started TwelveTwentyFive we secured our first clients through our network and quickly learnt that we needed to develop it and curate it. Through the support of BIPC Northamptonshire and their in-person and online sessions, events and training we've been able to grow our network of like-minded small and start-up business owners. Through their Build Your Business grant we have been able to invest in our podcast 'Building' and are now featuring many guests who we met through the BIPC network.”

- Harry and Brendan, Founders of TwelveTwentyFive

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5. Put yourself first

"In the whirlwind of entrepreneurship, prioritising yourself is essential. Remember our guiding principle: 'Put Yourself First.' Your wellbeing is the cornerstone of your business's success. Feeling stressed? Just pause, breathe and prioritise self-care. Lean on support networks like BIPC; you're not alone. Be courageous in reaching out for assistance in areas causing stress. As coaches, we know this will help you navigate challenges, ensuring both you and your business thrive."

 

6. Get out there and grow

"Immerse yourself in as many events and exhibitions as possible. This exposure not only fosters business growth but also provides a wealth of motivation from observing fellow entrepreneurs. The most significant support from BIPC Northamptonshire wasn't just the grant I received, it was the networking opportunities that really made a difference. Although the financial support was a bonus, it was the connections that proved invaluable. The guidance on constructing a robust business plan and continued support from the BIPC were true game changers for me."

- David Sikharulidze, CEO of Mavis Technologies 

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7. It's a marathon, not a sprint

"Slow progress is better than no progress. Always think about the compound effect when starting a business: doing small things frequently adds to the big achievements over time. Your business journey is a marathon, not a sprint, so stay focused on your lane and compete with nobody but yourself. I recommend using the business tools and networking events that the BIPC offer to equip you with the knowledge to navigate your start-up journey and meet other like-minded business owners with whom you can share ideas and gain inspiration from. Whenever you feel stressed in your business journey, remember why you started: when you find your why, you'll find your way!"

- Mel Nichols, Founder of Chayses Boys Book Club 

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8. Ask for expert advice at your BIPC

"It can be really overwhelming when you start off as a business, especially for a grassroots not for profit like us at WIILMA that doesn't quite fit into a particular box. However, my BIPC consultant really helped to identify and break goals down into small, manageable steps. They revisited these with me, and also checked in on how life commitments were going too, so I didn't feel alone through the process."

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9. Rome wasn't built in a day

"When starting a business, it's important to understand the purpose behind it before thinking about scaling. When your business provides solutions to problems, your business success will speak for itself through your clients. Remember the organisations and brands you buy from did not scale in one day; it took centuries and decades of hard work, dedication and the willingness to persevere amongst the delays they encountered. As a book publishing company, we continue to emulate gradual growth as we understand the needs of creative writers and use our platform to represent and support other local businesses. Our role as a BIPC Business Ambassador is to give value and support first-time and established business owners on their building journey. We are aware that running a business is not an overnight success but takes patience, tenacity and the willingness to come out of your comfort zone."

Esther Solomon-Turay, Founder of Authentic Worth and BIPC Local Lewisham business ambassador 

 

Kickstart Your Business

If you're thinking about starting up but aren't sure where to begin, sign up for our free Kickstart Your Business programme that offers tailored, accessible workshops and webinars to help you on your business journey. Topics covered include financing your business, researching your market and protecting your business's intellectual property. Find out more here and sign up today!

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25 April 2024

How IP can save the world: creating a sustainable future with intellectual property

There is no denying that the world faces ever increasing environmental challenges for the 21st century: from climate change and energy consumption, to clean water, population growth and the sustainable use of our earth’s finite resources. How we meet and overcome these challenges is largely dependent on new innovations and the successful launch of products and services that are global game changers.

Did you know that intellectual property (IP) protection and commercialisation is the key to these innovations working? It’s no exaggeration to say that IP can save the world.

That’s why the World Intellectual Property Office’s (WIPO) World IP Day theme this year is sustainability and why the British Library’s Business & IP Centre is playing its own role in supporting IP and innovation.

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How can IP save the world?

Every country, institution, industry and individual can make changes to make a difference.

In 2015, the United Nations set 17 sustainable development goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by all member states, which underpins much of the focus and resourcing from governments and industry.

WIPO’s role is to “encourage and amplify the innovative and creative solutions that are so crucial to building our common future.” They work with these Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and have provided some fascinating data around which areas of technical innovation are making a major contribution.

In their Innovation Maturity Matrix for SDG-related patents, it won’t be a surprise to see significant numbers of new technologies in Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Climate Action, Affordable and Clean Energy and Responsible Consumption and Production that are the current hot topics. You can read the analytics here.

There are thousands of new patents (a protection given to new technical inventions or processes) being granted all around the world that can potentially help in overcoming these global challenges, but there are other forms of intellectual property that can be just as important for any new invention or product, big or small.

To provide a tiny taster of some fascinating new ideas and businesses that are making waves, here’s a small sample of what’s happening right now that shows us how IP can save the world.

Fancy a flight on an electric powered plane?

Battery powered flight is the holy grail of aviation innovation. If the aviation industry, along with sea and road, can drastically reduce its carbon emissions it will go a long way to meeting global carbon reduction targets.

One significant step toward that is the ‘Spirit of Innovation’, which is claimed to be the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, travelling at a top speed of "555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over 3 kilometres, smashing the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132mph)". Rolls Royce was a partner within the 'Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’ project, part funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK. 

An important part of securing and reinvesting in innovation is patent protection. A company such as Rolls Royce will invest significantly to do this, with thousands of patents filed in scores of different technical areas and advances.

One such example of a patented technology by Rolls Royce to do with electric powered flight is 'Combined AC and DC Turboelectric Distributed Propulsion System'. All the technical details can be found here: EP3318492A1. By contrast, another company Aurora Flight Sciences Corp has a patent for a ‘Hybrid Propulsion Vertical Take-off and Landing Aircraft’. (Patent number WO2017123699A1), proving beyond doubt that the sky is no limit to sustainable innovations in aviation.

If you think you’ve a world changing invention, you can sign up to our patent searching webinar every month on our listing of workshops and webinars.

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Solar energy innovation is a walk in the park

Reimagining the everyday things around us and converting it into a sustainability solution is the perfect example of innovation at its finest. That’s why the product 'PlatioSolar', created by a Hungarian firm, Innovatív Térburkolatfejlesztő Kft. (PLATIO Solar), is a fascinating step forward (literally).

It uses the pavement where we walk as photovoltaic cells, also known as solar cells. The product is itself made of recyclable material and is heavy duty and scratch resistant, essential for its outdoor use. The composite frame and shape of the product is certainly interesting and it may explain why it has a registered design protection for the United States. You can view that protection here.

A product like this has the potential for other uses and applications, strengthening the business model of the company behind the innovation. Customers could be local authorities but also home users too, so it’s not a surprise to see the product marketed for residential homes and gardens as well as smart cities. The company picking up awards along the way certainly helps as well.

Could the future of solar power by under our feet as well as up in the sky?

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Carbon foot prints and paw-prints

The thought of eating insects for protein is not exactly everyone’s idea of cordon bleu, but there has been an undeniable shift in our awareness of what we eat and where it comes from. The move away from meat to more plant-based foods and the increasing take up of vegetarian and vegan options is a consumer shift that’s likely to stay. As with humans, so too with pets.

Pet food sales are a major part of meat usage, estimated to be at a quarter, and this of course has an environmental impact too. This is why award winning UK firm Mr Bug has come up with a completely different product and solution to the use of meat and dairy in pet products.

Theirs are insect-based dog treats, packed with the protein your dog needs. Mr Bug bases its product on veterinary science and studies that support that their mealworm product is as beneficial as other alternatives: with of course the added benefit of being environmentally sustainable.

With such a memorable brand and a product that people no doubt will share and talk about, protecting the brand name 'Mr Bug' as a registered trade mark is essential. You can see their trade mark on the UK trade mark register here.

Every business will build a brand and a reputation around their name, which is why registering a trade mark is of potential interest for every business start-up and even sole trader. Trade marks are another form of intellectual property protection.

New product innovations such as Mr Bug, with IP protection and a sound sustainable business plan, go a long way to not just reducing our carbon footprint but also our paw-print too.

If you’d like to find out more about trade marks and the importance of owning your own brand when starting up, then sign up to our free Kickstart Your Business workshops.

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The future is always innovative…

One certain thing in our time is change. Governments, industry and citizens make choices to invest, spend and create things that can help or hinder our life and environment on this precious blue jewel we call earth. Innovation will be central to how we overcome these challenges. So today, being World IP Day, provides us a chance to rethink, redo and reinvent for the future.

With so much change and inventiveness, the planet’s future sustainability that we hope and work towards, can certainly be saved with IP.

Written by Jeremy O’Hare, Research and Business Development Manager at the BIPC.

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