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

27 September 2021

Meet Chloe Bailey-Williams, Founder of The Breakhouse Café

If you're looking for somewhere new to have a coffee and enjoy some tasty food, why not visit The Breakhouse Café?  Founded by Chloe Bailey-Williams, with her passion for coffee and amazing food, she has created a space that the local community love. Chloe aims for the business to be sustainable and ethical wherever possible, and to be inclusive of a variety of tastes, reflecting the diversity of her customers. Now, let's hear more from Chloe...

Chloe Bailey-Williams, Founder of The Breakhouse Café

What was the spark that made you want to run your own business?

I’ve always worked in hospitality, always loved taking care of people. I used to be a duty manager for Block nightclub in Hackney Wick, when they were closing down, the owner asked if I wanted to oversee the other studio spaces. I have always wanted my own space, so I spoke to my business partner and looked at the options for taking on a café. As it turns out, my previous employer had a café and they didn’t want to renew the lease with the current business, so although I wanted to set up more of a coffee shop, I took the opportunity to take on the café. It was a big step as I wanted to set up a coffee/ wine bar type of business, more drink focused. I had never tried starting a business before, but I had experience running venues for clubs. But this was very different to selling food, it makes sense because of allergies, health and safety…etc.  for a kitchen you need more certificates, more training, a chef… etc. Although I never intended to go down the food path, I really enjoy it even with the challenges, I was very lucky in finding a great chef and there were some ups and downs but once you get through the challenges and how busy it is, it’s fun.

Did you feel that you knew what you needed to know when taking the business on?

 I was a bit surprised because I was originally looking to serve coffee and other drinks, but there was lots to learn. When I added the café where you are selling food and you throw in PAYE, VAT , insurance , pensions, contracts , it was a lot to get your head around.

Have you sought help from other places as well as the Library/SiLL or has it just been us?

I looked at other places for workshops and advice, fortunately I had a few months to catch-up and I found a bookkeeper and accountant. I also did several courses to increase my knowledge, lots of people claim to tell you stuff and take your money even when it’s not useful, but what was good is that they were all saying similar things. For me the best support was with the SiLL programme, lots of useful and practical information and free of charge.

I found SiLL through Eventbrite while I was searching for business support, I saw what SiLL offered was good and it was free which was a good change, as I didn’t feel I was getting value for money for the courses I had already paid for. With the workshops being in the libraries and in partnership with BIPC, I felt like that’s where you go for information, they are the people I want to know. The support was also delivered in partnership with the local council and those are the people you want on your side when setting up a business.

Have you felt that the SiLL programme has still been there for you, even though everything has been run online throughout the pandemic?

Yes, it’s been good to catch-up with Abraham in our 1-2-1's and through emails, some other programmes that I have tried just don’t keep in touch. It’s quite challenging setting up a business in a pandemic so I appreciate that Abraham would visit me at the Café to go over different strategies. He would also inform and support me in taking up opportunities like the mentoring, which I successfully applied for. It really helps to speak with him about my business and I continue to benefit from his experience and advice. His ideas on how to use the space ( like setting up a film club) and some Café tips I can’t mention (it’s a trade secret) have been great, we are currently planning our first film night!

What do you like about the area local to the café and its community?

I love the area, Victoria park is a short walk away and the local community is very friendly. I like to have a chat with the regulars and the locals, it’s a very creative area and is part of the CEZ (creative enterprise zone) in Tower Hamlets and Hackney. There is a strong and growing business community, and this includes community groups. We’ve definitely noticed local businesses working together, it's great to be a part of it and to see the community the Café is building around itself. We now do catering for The Shellworks 3 days a week, so they all get to eat together at the same time. We also joined up with one of my friends that makes sole food to sell Jamaican Rotis, and we’re doing catering for The Outrunners, a local runners club that do workshops and mentoring.

Do you employ any other people at the café?

Yes, all the staff are great. its challenging managing teams when running your own business, but finding a balance of being nice while making sure standards are kept is key. I encourage a healthy work environment that’s focused on respect and wellbeing and I’m grateful that I have found the right mix of people. The staff work really well together, it’s taken a year to get to this stage, but I haven’t had to let anyone go that was an asset to the business.

What are you most proud of achieving?

Opening and staying open through the pandemic, getting the level 5 hygiene rating, doing external food catering for the first time, showing the football ( England in the Euro finals) and being able to do it in a safe environment where everyone was happy.

What’s your next goal for the business?

My Next goal is to increase the number of customers per day, build on our social media and work on evening events. We have a creative team including our Head Chef who wants to add Sunday roast and daily specials to the menu. We also want to increase our opening times, adding more options for builders and other tradesmen that have an early start. 

What do you think will be the business support you may need going forward?

As a new business, increasing our revenue is a top priority, so definitely support in generating more awareness to build our customer base. Also support in accessing grants that can help the business grow and help us engage with the local community.

 

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.

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30 August 2021

Introducing Rose Arouca-Claro, Rosy Clean Spaces

We spoke to Rose Arouca-Claro, founder of Rosy Clean Spaces, an after builders cleaning business. Rose took part in the Start-ups in London Libraries programme to help get her business started. Let’s hear more from Rose about her business journey…

Rose

“Rosy Clean Spaces started focusing on after builders cleaning for residential developments. I worked in the construction business for 15 years. I began as a document controller and ended up as an assistant site manager.

After completing my master’s degree in construction project management, I decided to start my own business. 

For many years, there has been a joint consensus that women are underrepresented in the construction sector, due to various reasons, the work environment, the hours, etc, I noticed that in most sites that I worked even the post-building cleaning team was predominantly male, which is ok, however, I believe that as women we can work on a construction site without necessarily building but offering cleaning services.

I believe that with the major regeneration happening in London boroughs of new builds there are opportunities for local women who want to get back to work but struggle to find flexible working hours to accommodate their childcare needs. We wanted to bridge this gap by allowing flexible working hours.  We also provide end of tenancy deep clean, commercial cleaning, but the main motivation to start the business was to address the underrepresentation of women on building sites, not as builders but providing after builders cleaning service.

I also have a passion for clean spaces, I have had the opportunity to supervise various apartments being cleaned and ready to be handed over to clients, knowing that I am part of that process of handing over a property that is spotless brings great satisfaction to me.

SiLL has been awesome, from the first meeting with an advisor in Lewisham library my business journey was transformed from a mere dream to what it is today.

I attended various workshops and have had one on one meetings. During the pandemic in 2020, SiLL was there for me every time I had a question or needed guidance, from cash flow and elevator pitch, to how to set up a business account and being visible on various platforms. I was advised on grants available to business.

The pandemic did hinder the start of the business, however, we sought opportunities in the middle of the pandemic, we started thinking outside the box, where we offered to pack, especially for tenants who found themselves stuck abroad unable to travel back to London due to Covid. We packed, stored and handed the properties to the estate agents. We started using specific steam cleaners that eliminate 99% of viruses. During the pandemic, I also took the opportunity to complete an online course for cleaning businesses on how to dispose of waste in different environments.

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If anyone would like to start a business, I would encourage them to get in touch with their local library, do as much research as possible, speak to people, face your fears and do it because you learn every single step of the way.

One of the key things I have learned is the importance of communication. Get help from people such as the SiLL Champions, who will help you set out your ideas in order to make it easy to focus on your objectives. Also, attend as many SiLL workshops as possible because you get to meet other people who are on the same journey as you. It was encouraging for me to be part of the SiLL programme."

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.

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23 August 2021

Meet Sally Paull, Owner and Managing Director of Positive Signs

We spoke to Sally Paull, about her business, Positive Signs, a Deaf-led service provider, supporting and raising awareness of the Deaf community.

Positive Signs is a one-stop-shop for services for Deaf and hearing customers, including the provision of British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreters and other Language Service Professionals (LSPs), BSL and deaf awareness training, employment and education support.

Sally Paull

A graduate of the 2013 Innovating for Growth: Start-ups programme, Sally has grown her business by expanding its offering and increasing the client base. Here, she reflects on her journey and plans for the next phase of growth, including how Covid has catapulted them into developing full online service provision.

'I started Positive Signs in 2004, following a successful and diverse career in social work, leading on the delivery of the first BSL NVQ and Interpreter Training for a national deaf charity, and as one of the first qualified Sign Language Interpreters in the UK. I wanted to combine my skills, broad professional knowledge and strong network, to create a unique offering centred around the provision of BSL training and interpreters. The seeds of Positive Signs were planted!

Since then, we have grown into an established provider of services to support the Deaf community in the workplace and higher education. Our expansion has enabled us to become a family run business and I really value their involvement and support.  Six incredible people make Positive Signs what it is today. 

We are driven by our passion for ensuring Deaf people achieve and succeed. Many people are not aware of fabulous schemes like Access to Work and Disabled Students Allowance, which support Deaf and disabled people to get into work or education, stay there and achieve. For Deaf people this could be providing BSL Interpreters for interviews, then regular on-site support so they can engage with colleagues and customers, take part in meetings, and attend events such as induction, training and conferences.  We work with clients to apply for these awards and then manage their ongoing support provision.

I am proud of the many things we achieve every day at Positive Signs. From the small things that make a big difference, such as seeing the results of matching the right interpreter to a Deaf person; to the big things which show the world that Deaf people don’t have limitations, only those put on them by others, such as securing 24 Deaf apprenticeships at blue chip organisations without any funding or partnerships, just sheer determination to support young Deaf people onto the employment ladder.

In 2013, I was fortunate to secure a place on Innovating for Growth: Start-ups. The programme and one-on-one support enabled me to develop a formal business plan, identify obstacles and opportunities to broaden and improve our business. It gave me the confidence to grow to where we are now.

We’ve built our reputation around quality, honesty and importantly, taking the time to really understand what clients want. We then carefully match our provision to meet that need. This makes for great customer satisfaction and has enabled us to develop our brand.

I’m delighted to have been accepted onto Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups, to coach myself and Positive Signs to the next level. In preparing the application, it’s been satisfying to stop and look back on the last seventeen years – what we’ve achieved, the amazing people we’ve met, how we’ve grown – and beneficial to help crystalise future plans. We don’t often take the time to reflect as we’re always striving for what’s next!  That’s one blessing of Covid, it’s given us the time to stop and reflect.

Covid has massively disrupted the lives of Deaf people in work and education: the tech requirements of working or learning from home; the impact of mask wearing on communication; the reduced availability of LSPs; the overnight switch to remote interpreting online; last minute logistical changes to whether lectures are onsite or online.

It’s a lot to deal with at the same time as trying to keep up-to-date with government guidance on Covid safety, which unfortunately, in England, has not been made available in BSL. BSL is not the same as English, it’s a language in its own right with its own grammar and structure, so it’s not as simple as saying, ‘read the subtitles’ or ‘look at the website’. Vital information such as this needs to be provided simultaneously in BSL. But it’s only due to the dedicated efforts of charities, who took it upon themselves to act, that some provision has been made after the event.'

Covid has also disrupted much of our service offering: with training courses cancelled; prohibitive costs of delivering Covid-safe training; less LSPs available to work due to shielding, home schooling, or unwillingness to travel; many LSPs can’t work online as video remote interpreters as it’s expensive to kit yourself out, or they simply don’t want to work this way. It’s been really tough. However, I take my hat off to our handful of regular LSPs who were determined to continue supporting Deaf clients on site throughout the pandemic, so that they could maintain employment, despite the fact that BSL Interpreters weren’t immediately granted Key Worker status.

In taking time to reflect, we are re-framing our experiences as a way to create opportunity. We have fast-tracked plans to take existing services online in new and innovative ways, for example our online interpreting service and BSL training. These will become part of our standard offering recognising the shift in people’s attitudes and purchasing patterns, as well as ensuring business continuity during any future crisis.

We are introducing new services, starting with an essential Employment Service to support Deaf people back into work as lockdown eases and later, a Translation Service to open up important information to Deaf BSL users. Plus, we wish to reach new audiences who wouldn’t ordinarily work with a Deaf-lead company, either because they are not aware of us or don’t realise they have the perfect potential to take on Deaf people with our support. 

Through expansion we aim to create more jobs for Deaf people who can find it harder to gain and remain in employment, making us a role model for our services.

Positive Signs

We are not short on ideas! We’ve recruited new, full-time staff during lockdown, and we are investing in major systems to increase automation, save time and to improve our ability to create and convert opportunities as a data driven entity.

It’s going to be very different for me. I have managed Positive Signs as a one-woman band for many years, doing everything from Access to Work applications, client management, coordinating bookings, delivering training, marketing and finance. I’ve worn a lot of hats and thrived on every minute! Transitioning from a hands-on manager to a leader who coaches others to deliver isn’t always easy, but I’m working on developing the skills to ‘let go’!

People often say that I’m ‘lucky’ to have my own business. But Positive Signs didn’t happen by luck, it happened by design and hard work. However, I am lucky that I have been well supported, both to set up Positive Signs and to keep it growing, including by my family and Innovation for Growth, which I am really grateful for. And I am lucky to work with amazing people doing things we love every day. I can’t ask for more than that and I’m excited to see how the future shapes up.'