Innovation and enterprise blog

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

7 posts from July 2013

25 July 2013

Innovating for Growth success story - The Hairforce

The Hairforce – Lice Assassins is one of the businesses supported by the Business & IP Centre, during both start-up and growth phase. Set up in 2006 by Dee Wright, the business provides a unique nit and head lice clearing service using technology that dehydrates the nits and head lice by controlled heated air.

I found out about the Hairforce when Dee applied to join our Innovating for Growth programme. I think the Hairforce service is unique and innovative, as it provides an effective solution to a known problem. As Dee states, the nit and head lice problem in the UK is significant with over 50% of all children catching it annually. 

Parents spend a lot of money without getting very far and are highly frustrated by this. They claim that nit and head lice products don’t work, delivering an over 80% failure rate. In contrast, the innovative technology – the LouseBuster™ - used by the Hairforce delivers a highly effective treatment quickly.

 The hairforce

The Hairforce technology

Dee has been using the resources of the Business & IP Centre since the early stages of setting up her business. Three years ago, she got a grant to examine the viability of franchising. She commissioned a franchising partner and successfully franchised in 2010.

Rasheed Ogunlaru is her mentor and recommended that she apply for Innovating for Growth, which provides high quality business and intellectual property advice and support services to help existing small businesses in London innovate and grow.

I4G ERDFAfter being accepted onto Innovating for Growth in April 2013, Dee had a number of one-to-one advisory sessions with our expert partners and received support on evalutating her routes to growth as well as advice on how to approach her different target markets and strengthen her value proposition and customer appeal. It was really interesting to follow Dee during the programme and observe her progress.  

The Hairforce growth business model is based on the franchising concept. At the moment there are six Hairforce Lounges and one Rapid Reponse Unit. However, the franchise model is not growing as fast as Dee wants, because she finds hard to convert enquiries about franchising to sales. Most of the potential franchisees that are enthusiastic about the business do not have the money to buy the franchise.

Our experts recommended that Dee should look for sources of finance to support her potential franchisees who are interested in the business but do not have the necessary financial resources. They also gave her advice to collaborate with people, who are more interested in the business concept rather than the service delivery, to help in sales.

As a member of the Innovating for Growth project team, I did research work for Dee and helped her identify the areas where her potential customers are located, providing her with contact lists of target markets in order to promote her services and products.

Following the advice she received during the programme, Dee is in the process of re-designing and re-structuring her website and promotional material, to be more clear and appealing to her different target markets by separating the service delivery message from the business opportunity message.

She is also in the process of meeting new business clients for collaboration, following the business contacts she got from market research at the Centre.

Best of luck to Dee as she continues on her journey!

Irini Efthimiadou on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

22 July 2013

The power of brand

As Marketing Manager for the Business & IP Centre, I’m often intrigued by marketing campaigns and the impact they can have on awareness and sales.

IMG_1308For example, the Coca-Cola brand is one that consistently impresses me.   Because the name Chloé wasn’t popular until relatively recently, I still get excited when I manage to find anything that has my name printed on. Consequently, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks searching the Coke bottles to find one with my name on it. Which finally happened to turn up in a South London Co-op last week!


I’ve also ended up buying ones with friends’ names when I’ve spotted them and must have single-handedly contributed to an increase in their profit with the amount I’ve bought over the past few weeks.

However, it has been pointed out to me that it can also have the opposite effect on anyone who hasn’t had their name chosen for a Coke bottle and create a feeling of resentment. To combat this, Coca-Cola has a Facebook app which can create a bottle with any name: they are bringing in social media and creating awareness both on and offline, now really important in any marketing campaign.

For me, it’s a brilliant campaign that has raised awareness of their brand in such a simple way. It’s been reported recently that their sales figures have stalled due to consumers being more health conscious but they have achieved market share gains in the global carbonated and still beverages market.

Their Buzz ranking (YouGov BrandIndex’s measure of positive and negative things said about the brand) has gone from -5 to 1.9 which is a statistically significant shift in perception for Coca-Cola.

Personally, I think that Coca-Cola have successfully managed to create the air of being a more luxurious cola product on sale, an impressive feat considering the competition. People tend to order a ‘Coke’ rather than a cola or Pepsi, and Wetherspoon pubs still ask ‘Is Pepsi OK’? In fact, it’s drilled into you to make sure that it is mentioned every time as I know after an ill-advised 3 week attempt at being a barmaid in a Wetherspoons pub.

Coca-Cola capitalise on opportunities throughout the year. I can’t speak for everyone else but I always know that Christmas is coming when I see the advert for Coca-Cola. They actually have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas at all yet the advert, which has used the same music consistently so is instantly recognisable, signals to me that it’s time to start my shopping!

Christmas Coca-Cola truck

Despite some of the negative press that Coca-Cola has attracted and the fact it’s really not that healthy, they are a brilliant example of how important marketing and branding can be to create a company that inspires loyalty among customers. They cleverly select who to partner with and which events to sponsor. To combat the accusation of being unhealthy, they sponsor lots of sporting events such as the Winter Olympics.

It’ll be interesting to see the end results of this campaign!

If you’d like to learn the tricks of the marketing trade, come along to our monthly Online marketing masterclass held at the Centre.

Chloé Titcomb on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

17 July 2013

The role of UK University Business Schools in driving innovation

I’m Sally Halper, Social Sciences Content Development Manager, and my role includes developing the British Library’s content about business and management theory. I’m interested in how management research can be used to make UK business more effective.

Last week I attended an event looking at how Universities can help drive innovation, which brought together Government and representatives from some of the leading UK Business Schools.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, is keen to see Universities providing more support for small businesses – he particularly wants to see Business Schools sharing their expertise with local businesses, and for more research projects to have a concrete impact on the success of SMEs in the UK.

To facilitate this, he commissioned a report into what UK Business Schools are currently doing: read the report here.

It includes lots of examples of good practice from around the UK and makes some practical recommendations - including that Business Schools need to specialise more on particular regions or industries, and that management academics need to communicate their findings in ways that business people can easily read and understand - something that we have had an interest in for a long time.

A conference to discuss the recommendations and what practical steps can be taken to implement them included an hour with David Willetts which emphasized the Government’s view that Business Schools must engage more with small businesses as drivers of growth. This could include everything from providing routes into other University departments, commercialising University-led innovations and co-creating research, to Universities acting as delivery partners in providing business advice.

He welcomed the Management Articles initiative which is run by the Chartered Management Institute in association with the British Library, as one way of getting research findings in front of managers free of charge, and in particular the way it enables managers to comment on and rate articles in terms of how practical they are. See the Management Articles website, or download the articles rated most highly by managers.

Overall, there was a lot of consensus between the academics and the Minister about the need for more join-up between Business Schools and small business, and lots of inspiring examples of success. But do people see Universities, and particularly Business Schools, as a source of business advice? Or is there still some way to go?

One to watch for our national network of Business & IP Centres! 

Sally Halper on behalf of Business & IP Centre

15 July 2013

The Apprentice 2013

With the final of BBC's The Apprentice 2013 fast approaching, I found myself having a look back at one of our most popular previous posts from Steve van Dulken which focused on 2011 winner, Tom Pellereau.

Intrigued to see whether this year’s candidates are as innovative as inventor Tom, I did some digging to see if any of them had registered any patents or trademarks.

Lots of searching uncovered that from this year’s candidates, only one had any form of intellectual property ever registered. Uzma Yakoob, who was the fourth to be fired fired, filed a trademark application in 2002 but has since let it lapse following the ten year renewal date in 2012.


You can see below from the image that Uzma trade marked, it is relevant to her current status as a beauty entrepreneur. It is filed under Class 44, ‘beauty care for human beings’.

  Uzma Yakoob trade mark

Uzma Yakoob's trade mark 

Intellectual property is crucial in order to protect your brand or idea and definitely not something to ignore if you want a successful business.  The Business & IP Centre has lots of information if you’re not sure what to do next.


It seems for now that Tom’s crown as The Apprentice Inventor is safe for this year but who knows what will happen next year. And of course, there is still the crown of The Apprentice 2013 up for grabs!


Here’s a reminder of Tom’s inventions from Steve’s blog post from 2011:


BBC's The Apprentice: Tom Pellereau, inventor

Series 7 of the BBC's The Apprentice starts on 10 May and will include an inventor, Tom Pellereau, as one of the candidates.

This show's mixture of business and, to be frank, entertainment has been very popular. Each week one is eliminated by Lord Sugar until the last one standing gets to work with him. Usually one or two of the weekly challenges involve inventing a product, so it is apt that an inventor is one of the candidates. As far as I am aware it is the first time that has happened.

I learnt from a newspaper article that one of the candidates claimed to have invented the first curved nail file. A little research showed that this was Tom Pellereau, 31, from London.

I have traced three published inventions by him, all by Thomas Pellereau.

In 2004 when living in Alresford, Hampshire he applied for his Curved manicure or pedicure device. The document claims that previous attempts at curved nail files damage the nail or only permit one side of the file to be used. The drawing does not at first seem to tell us much:

The drawing shows a side view, of course. As the amount of curvature varies, the user instinctively uses the most appropriate part of it for any part of the nail.  Pellereau adds that it is aesthetically pleasing and easy to hold. A granted British patent exists for it.

In 2006 he applied for a Container with flexible helical member. Here is the main drawing.


The patent description states "There is provided a container, suitable for use with a linear non- planar object, comprising a flexible helical member for partially or substantially surrounding the object, the helical member having at least one connection means at least [to] one of its ends." So that's clear. This means that it can be curled over a rounded object, and a keyring for example can be fastened to the helix. The description is interesting if, for me at least, hard to follow.

Then in 2007 he and Matthew Driver applied for A nursing bottle assembly and a reusable liner therefor. Here is the main drawing.

The "ribs" (2) are a container which can collapse in a predictable fashion along its long axis. It is enclosed within a rigid outer casing. The idea of a (disposable) collapsible inner container was not new (they prevent the babies from ingesting air), but the patent document points out problems with previous attempts, and claims to have solved them.

The Daily Mail has an article showing photos of the candidates with some comments by or on each of them. Pellereau normally wears spectacles, but says that "underneath these glasses is a core of steel". I wish them all the best of luck. 



08 July 2013

Congratulations to our FSB London Business award winners!

Congratulations to our two award-winning Innovating for Growth businesses who have recently been recognised for their business achievements in the Federation of Small Businesses London Business Awards 2013.  

We’re delighted to hear that Flying Fantastic have been named winners of the Best New Business 2013. 

Flying fantasticFlying Fantastic have a totally unique take on exercise and keeping fit with an aerial fitness centre offering aerial silks, aerial Pilates, aerial slings and aerial yoga. As a recent Pilates convert, I struggle enough with my feet on the ground so can’t imagine the difficulty of aerial Pilates!

Identified by our small-business support programme as a fast-growth business earlier this year, they’re destined to reach even headier heights!

Double congratulations to Ohyo  who won Enterpiring Business 2013 and founder, Guy Jeremiah who was runner up in the Real Life Entrepreneur category.

The innovative Ohyo water bottle can be carried in a pocket and reused up to 10,000 times! Defying the BBC Dragon’s predictions, Ohyo has gone from strength to strength and is now stocked in major retailer, Boots. And can also be spotted on most of the desks of the Business & IP Centre team too!

Ohyo collapsible water bottle

Since starting, Guy has used the Centre for a variety of reasons and more recently has been a member of Innovating for Growth, receiving £10,000 worth of bespoke advice and support to help his business get even bigger and better.

Congratulations to Flying Fantastic and Ohyo!

If you want to apply for £10,000 worth of bespoke advice and support for your business, have a look at our Innovating for Growth programme and see if you qualify. 

Innovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. 



Chloe Titcomb on behalf of Business & IP Centre

03 July 2013

Starting a food business

Although 'Cooking Up Success' has come to an end for 2013, we still have some great stories from food and drinks businesses who have a wealth of advice to offer.

Innovating for Growth business, Blueberry Hill, share their story of starting a growing a small business:

"Oh, where to start?!

Setting up Blueberry Hill has been one of the most rollercoaster rides I have ever experienced! 

Neither Ella or I came from a food background, so as we looked at setting up the business, we were starting totally from scratch.  Although this meant we definitely ended up going the long way round on occasions, we have learnt everything together and both have a deeper understanding of how all our business processes work.

Before launching into the partnership we decided to test our working relationship, as although we were friends from university, we knew this doesn't always mean you can work together!

While still working full time, we started slowly by selling some home-baked goods at local markets over weekends. Baking through the night on a Friday after a long week at work tested our stress levels but allowed us to see how we each dealt with customers and the finance side of things. 

After a few months of this, and some long nights writing a business plan we decided to take the plunge, and Blueberry Hill was born.

Photo 4
Blueberry Hill creations

Things change on a daily basis, the business plan gets amended and nothing ever goes quite to plan so it can sometimes feel like a bit of a whirlwind. We have learnt that you have to be flexible and open-minded, but also make sure you stick as much to your plans as possible or it is super easy to get distracted! 

We definitely fell into the trap of starting to work in the business too much and not on the business, and are only really now, one full-time year in, forcing ourselves to step back and look as objectively as possible at what we have achieved. 

Our crucial tips for going into a food business are;

  • Do all the H&S paper work from the start because as you grow it makes life a lot easier;
  • Don't be afraid to following your gut as this is usually right;
  • Make sure you remember to take some time to yourself!"

Rachel Reynolds, co-founder of Blueberry Hill on behalf of Business & IP Centre

Blueberry Hill have taken part in our Innovating for Growth programme which offers London-based small businesses the opportunity to get £10,000 worth of free bespoke advice and support.


02 July 2013

Business & IP Centre customers showcase products at Boxpark

Business & IP Centre users have had an opportunity to showcase some of their products at a University College of London (UCL) pop-up shop at Boxpark in Shoreditch. Boxpark advertises itself as the world’s first pop-up mall. UCL Launch Box opened on 29 May and showcased products from students and businesses linked to UCL.

                    UCL pop-up shop at Boxpark in Shoreditch

They have opened the shop to some of the businesses that have used the Centre. At the time of
opening these were: Cole of London, LeftHandRightEye and Ohyo (pictured below) and more should be going in soon. These products share space with other products as diverse as a device for reducing vibration on bicycle handlebars; jewellery and wedding dress protectors.

2The shop also has a ‘tree’ of iPads on which new apps can be tested. The location next to bars and catering outlets encourages plenty of drop-in traffic, especially at weekends.

UCL Launch Box is the first stage of an ‘innovation concept store’ initiative which is part of an EU (Interreg) funded project on Open Innovation of which UCL and the Centre are both partners and this is the reason why we are also involved. If this initiative develops as planned, the coming months will see a network of stores like in other countries including France and Belgium, as well as more permanent store in London and a temporary pop-up showcase at the British Library. This will provide opportunities for the businesses that we work with to showcase their products to an increasingly wider audience.

While planning of this network goes on, the Launch Box is a great opportunity to test out the concept and enables us, UCL and other project partners like Laval Mayenne Technopole a chance to showcase novel and innovative products.

It has been fascinating to see how quickly a pop-up shop can be set up and adapted and there has been plenty of lots of interest in the products on display.

Nigel Spencer on behalf of Business & IP Centre