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

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.

BIPC Quote Tiles London Aug 6

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.

SiLL logos

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.'

20 August 2021

The Story Cube: What you do matters

What does your business do?

It’s a simple enough question. And one you presumably answer on a regular basis. Customers need to know, current and potential employees want to understand, and potential partners or investors are keen to get under the skin of your venture. Indeed, how you answer this simple question can therefore secure sales, inspire staff and ensure the very future of your operation. No pressure then...

Yet despite this importance, “What do you do?” is a question that too often inspires an inadequate answer. And that’s usually because we fail to recognise the intentions of the person asking; we fail to think about what people want and need to know.

It’s best illustrated with an example. 

Let’s imagine a personal trainer, Jo. If she meets someone at a party, they might ask her “Jo, tell me, what do you do?” And after she predictably responds with ‘Oh, I’m a personal trainer’, there’s a space to fill. And a number of ways to fill it. 

Jo could say, “So what do I do? Well it’s lots of gym sessions obviously. I feel like I’m always sweating! But my clients are lovely and it’s a really fun job. And it’s basically impossible not to stay in shape, so I think I will have another vol-au-vent”. 

Or Jo could say, “So what do I do? Well I hope I help people feel better about themselves, normally when they’ve struggled to lose weight - which is where I was a few years ago. It’s mostly 1-2-1, but I do online classes too so I can be accessible for everyone whatever their situation which I think is important”. 

Which of those is more compelling? Which tells you more about Jo? Which gets you on the hook to find out more? Which version of Jo would you be likely to recommend and hire?

It’s the second one, obviously. But why does it work? Simply, because it recognises the core elements that make a good brand story. It understands a problem, presents a solution, contains a motivation and touches on elements of differentiation. It even shows a good understanding of the audience and why they would be interested in her services in the first place. It comes from empathy, and it understands the value that she adds to her clients. 

And when anyone asks what your business does, you need to do exactly the same. 

To make it easier for businesses to do that, we created Story Cube. It’s a simple framework that helps every business understand the story they need to tell by answering six simple questions: What problem do you solve? What solution do you provide? Why does your organisation exist? What sets it apart? How do you reach your customers? And, what obstacles could trip you up on the way? The combination of your answers are the basis for a compelling brand story you can use to sell to clients, inspire staff and encourage partners to work with you. 

The Story Cube

On the last Friday of every month we run a webinar that goes into more detail about Story Cube in order to help your business tell a compelling story and, ultimately, grow. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, what experience you have or what you want to achieve, the Story Cube framework can help you get to grips with what you need to communicate.

Click here to sign up.

 

Blog by Robbie Dale, creative director at The House London