Innovation and enterprise blog

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

10 posts from March 2014

28 March 2014

Review of How to generate PR for your Business by Jessica Huie

Jessica_HuieJessica is now running a monthly workshop in the Business & IP Centre explaining how to make the most of your PR opportunities on a tight budget.

She is an old friend of the British Library, having spoken at our Mothers of Invention III back in 2008.

Among her many activities Jessica has also co-presented the annual PRECIOUS Awards with Business & IP Centre partner Rasheed Ogunlaru. The awards celebrate the achievements of inspirational entrepreneurial women of colour who are running businesses in the UK.

Foluke, Rasheed and Jess

She introduced herself by going back to the beginning of her career when she worked for Max Clifford. Despite the current controversy surrounding him, she found it to be a positive experience.

Probably the biggest driver in her business career was the birth of her daughter as a single parent nearly 16 years ago, at the age of 17, which changed her life in so many positive ways.

She said all entrepreneurs need the ability to dream big and then work towards making that a reality.

The fact that she had no backround in business proved to be an advantage as it meant she didn’t have any self-limiting beliefs. And that was why she started Jessica Huie Public Relations JHPR  during a recession, and made a success of it.

Here are my notes from the workshop which I highly recommend.

  • All PR is communicating well with your target audience.
  • Build kudos and trust about your brand
  • Control your brand image
  • Ultimately drive sales.
  • You need to dedicate up to one fifth of your time to PR.

Collate your tools
-    Well written/ professionally written press release
-    High resolution images professionally or well shot images.
-    Founders biog because People buy into people
-    Targeted media contact list

Create a perfect press release
-    Headline should sum up the angle of your story in a succinct and memorable maner
-    First par should summarise the key points of your story, enaging the reader and encouraging them to read on.

Identify your human interest story
-    Be visible – or find a member of your team who is happy being visible
-    Be authentic
-    Communicate your brand and business values
-    People buy into people - not faceless brands
-    What was your inspiration?
-    What is your vision?
-    How are you improving, changing or contributing to people?

Understand brand YOU
-    Jessica is; a Mother – Mixed-race – Business woman – West Londoner
-    Each of these presents a media opportunity.

Define your brand values
-    Authenticity is key in PR (don’t do a Gerald Ratner)
-    Your audience will see through branding messages that don’t correlate to your business behaviours
-    Take centre stage and connect with your audience
-    Become your brand values

Reactive Press
-    Stay abreast of current affairs and their relevance to your business
-    Contribute to a current news debate
-    Familiarise yourself with your trade B2B publications

You can never get before you give – Russell Simmons @UncleRUSH
-    Free stuff creates a buzz, creates awareness, encourages people to try your products, creates positive brand association and a buying habit
-    In this era it is easy to create a product designed purely to be given away free. Think eBooks and audio tapes, Op-eds (articles) and advice – the ideas are endless

Become a thought leader
-    Own your expertise by creating content which relates to your business
-    Share through the many online platforms available without repeating content

Combine PR with social media & online marketing
-    If you are not a good writer use for around £10 per article
-    Have a Google Plus page
-    Remember content is king

Perfecting your pitch
-    Call in the first instance, then email
-    Prepare your email before you ring
-    Be mindful of deadlines
-    Adapt your pitch to the publication
-    Practice your pitch before rining
-    Don’t follow up more than once unless asked to
-    Have everything you need, ready (hi-res photos etc)
-    Be charming! View your pitch as a conversation

During the workshop Jessica encouraged, and recieved lots of questions from the audience. She also made sure there was plenty of time for us to develop and practice our perfect pitch to our  hypothetical journalist.

You can find more information and dates on this workshop at How to generate PR for your Business.

Neil Infield on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

21 March 2014

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Project Management - book review

Complete-Idiots-Guide-Project-ManagementThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Project Management is available in the Small Business Help section of the Business & IP Centre. It breaks down every aspect of project management in clear communications without being patronising to a reader.

From understanding the terminology associated with project management to recognising what is everyday work and what constitutes as project work, the book steadily guides a reader into ‘the big stuff’ – risk management, delegation, budgeting, implementing and maintaining processes and the importance of having a Plan B (and C and D) until Delivery. It also emphasises the importance of communication within a project team and just who might be on that team.

Its “Twelve Rules of Project Management” are points which will make anyone with some project management experience nod along to enthusiastically in agreement and great words to the wise for new Project Managers embarking on an adventure in organisational skills for the first time.

This is not only a book which can appeal to employees assigned project work but start-ups as well. Creating your own business is a huge project which founders, consciously or not, are managing from the moment they decide to take the leap into self-employment. The skills explored and developed through reading A Complete Idiot’s Guide to Project Management are invaluable for not only starting up but for growth and continuous improvement in the future.

As well as being incredibly informative and practical, the book also has a dash of humour to it which makes taking in all the information – either for the first time or as a refresher –  is made easier and more memorable. Words of wisdom and quotes from seasoned project managers and inspirational figures offer support and insight; example diagrams and tables can show you exactly how to create a layout for that all-important project documentation and detailed analysis on every aspect of project management will have a reader feeling more confident, more in control and ready to take on challenges.

Nadia Kuftinoff on behalf of Business & IP Centre
Follow Nadia on Twitter: @bl_nadiak

18 March 2014

Supporting women in business

  International womens day
With more women using the Business & IP Centre than men, International Women’s Day is always an important date for us.

On Friday 7 March, the British Library saw over 200 female entrepreneurs visit for one of the biggest days of the year. It was the annual Women Unlimited ‘Thrive’ conference.

Instead of trying to start from scratch on such projects, we seek out and collaborate with external organisations that specialise in the key areas we look to support. These organisations, and sometimes individuals, are our Partners and my role is to manage these valuable relationships, looking for new ways we can all grow new opportunities by working together. For many years now one of the most effective ways we have been able to engage and support women in business has been with Women Unlimited.

Sage_BL_Barclays-8569The focus of the day was all about sharing, inspiring and celebrating. Here you can see photos of the day’s many happy moments, including guest speaker Laura Tennison returning to the British Library stage on the event’s Facebook album, and in them you’ll see that everyone is buzzing.


For me, I think this is why we see so many women return to the Centre, for the buzz and community feel that a physical space can offer. Along with the British Library specialists, our Partners add a common thread for a community with familiar faces regularly to be found, and with willingness to listen and connect one another.

It’s not just events like this where there’s a buzz. Every day in our networking area, people are meeting to discuss their business ideas, make new contacts, swap skills or discuss the market research they’ve just done in the Reading Room or what they’ve learnt in one of our many workshops.

Drop by and see for yourself!

Statistics of April-Dec 2013 event attendees show: 57% women, 38% men, 5% did not say

Clare Harris on behalf of Business & IP Centre

Follow Clare on Twitter: @BL_ClareHarris
Follow Women Unlimited on Twitter: @Women_Unlimited

17 March 2014

10 Reasons Why Your Content Isn’t Getting Read

Managing Director of Grow, Alasdair Inglis, shares his top tips for making sure your online content gets read.

A recent study on internet trends published by KPCB estimated that by 2015, 8 zettabytes of content will be created and shared every day on the internet. To put that in perspective, 1 zettabyte= 8 trillion gigabytes. To put that another way, if you put that information onto floppy disks, the disks would cover every inch of the Earth’s surface 1,600 times over. 





[CREDIT: IronRodArt - Royce Bair ("Star Shooter")

So how can you make sure that what you have to say gets heard above the racket?

Here are 10 of the biggest mistakes small businesses make when creating their own content, and how you can avoid them.

1. You Don’t Write Unique, Useful Content

Too many small businesses completely misunderstand the point of their blog, and end up sticking a bunch of posts up that are little more than drawn out sales-pitches.

We live in a world that is saturated by advertisements, and as a result we’ve all become pretty immune to them.

Your blog should provide readers with something valuable. If your company manufactures/sells fishing rods, you’d better make sure that your content provides fishing enthusiasts with information that they appreciate and want to read about, ie: “The Top 6 Fishing Destinations In The World” or “Our Favourite Fishing Rods Released in 2013”.

However, as well as providing useful content for your target audience, it’s also important that the content you provide is unique.

Make sure that the content you produce gives readers something new, a different perspective or content they simply can’t find elsewhere.

2. You Don’t Know Your Audience

A recent survey showed that, contrary to popular opinion, middle-aged women share the most online content out of everyone.

However, by looking at the most popular social publishing sites you probably wouldn’t have guessed this due to the huge amount of youth-orientated content on popular sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy.

We’re not suggesting that you tailor your content to appeal to middle aged women in a bid to increase shares (unless your target audience really is middle-aged women), but do be sure to do a little research into who reads and shares your content.

By doing this, you’ll have a better idea of who you’re writing for, and what content they’ll appreciate the most.

3. You Don’t Embolden Important Points

Emboldening important points is an easy and effective way to make your content easily digestible.This means that your readers can quickly scan your article for the most important and relevant points. That said, don’t over-do it as too much bold is the same as no bold text at all.

Your readers are coming to your website to be informed,make sure that you get your point across as quickly and efficiently as possible.

4. You Don’t Have That Human Touch

Whilst it is important to make sure that your writing is concise, focused and to-the-point, it’s also important that your readers get a good sense of your personality too. People become attached to certain sites and writers due to the connection they feel with the writers, and this is an important part of getting your readers to share your content and keep coming back for more.

The way a story is told, and the character of the narrator, can be a great selling point for your content.

5. You Don’t Use Guest Bloggers

Using guest bloggers is a great, low-effort way to make sure that your content gets read.

Firstly, and most importantly, a guest blogger is going to be able to introduce your blog to their whole readership. This gives you the opportunity to win over some of their readers too, which in turn will result in a wider reach and more shares for your own content.

Your guest blogger is also going to widely share their guest-written content, which again will provide your site with a wider reach.

6. You Don’t Use Links

When writing good content that’s going to get shared and read, it’s essential that you include internet links, both outbound (going to other websites) and inbound (going to your own website).

When you link to other websites, it not only shows that you have thoroughly researched your subject and really know your stuff, but it should also point your readers in the direction of other resources and blogs that they’ll enjoy. You should also use inbound links to your other interesting and relevant content. This will make it easier for your readers to find more content that they’ll enjoy and keep them on your website.

7. You Don’t Use Numbered List Points

Websites, like Buzzfeed, that are constantly shared know that creating numbered blogs and headlines is a great way to get your content read and shared.

Creating a numbered list of points ensures that the blog remains focused and allows readers to know exactly what they’re in for.

It also shows readers who are looking for a solution that the content will be specifically geared towards their problem.

As well as this, the structure of a numbered list inherently lends itself towards being scan-friendly, which means that your content can be speed-read.

Perhaps most importantly, it immediately shows potential readers that there will be a range of solutions for their problem.

8. You Don’t Produce Content Regularly Enough

Google loves regularly updated sites which are brimming with new, up-to-date content. This means that by regularly posting on your blog, you can improve your search engine rankings.

As well as this, someone doesn’t become an authority in their field overnight. It takes tenacity to keep posting new and interesting articles, but this tenacity is rewarded with your brand becoming more and more reputable.

It’s also important to remember that your content has an expiry date!  It’s important to regularly post new content, to show readers that what you do is always up to date and therefore relevant.

9. You Don’t Use Different Media

Variety is the spice of life. You should try to introduce new elements to your content, such as video blogs, infographics and info-products.

Everyone learns in different ways, so by introducing more visual media to your content, you can attract a whole new audience who prefer visual information.

There are other advantages too, as some information lends itself towards video seminars or picture guides.

10. You Don’t Use Keyword Research

Make sure you know what the most searched terms are for what you’re writing about and make sure that they are in your headline.

If your target audience is searching for “Best ways to improve email marketing”, make sure that your blog post will show up on their search.

You can also use keyword research tools to find out what questions your audience are asking and what they’re searching for. This means that you can tailor your content to suit your readers and attract new readers too.

If you want to learn more about how to market your business more effectively, come along to Grow's monthly Online marketing masterclass in the Centre. You can also apply for a free Ask an Expert session with Alasdair.

 Alasdair Inglis on behalf of Business & IP Centre 

Follow Alasdair on Twitter

Have a look at



14 March 2014

Make PR a priority for your business!

Jessica HuieFounder of JH Public Relations and Colour blind cards, Jessica Huie shares her top tips to help you get media coverage for your business.

However brilliant your product or service, if nobody knows about it then your business will struggle to make sales, and a business without sales is a failure in motion.

Here are some tips on how to make sure your business is planted firmly in the awareness of your target audience.

Inject your human interest story into your branding

Nothing is more powerful than authenticity in PR. If you genuinely believe that your business adds value to your customer’s lives, then it’s important to communicate that personally.

By being visible rather than relying on your faceless brand to sell itself, you allow your customers the opportunity to understand the ethos behind your brand and your business values, and if you are marketing to the right audience then your values will resonate with them and make them more likely to buy.

Do this by asking yourself what the inspiration behind your business was, what is your vision? How are you improving, changing or inventing something which will benefit your audience?

Give your customers an insight into the entrepreneur behind the business through your PR materials and watch how effective this PR approach can be.

Be patient and consistent

PR is not a quick hit.  It requires a consistent and ongoing effort in order to be most effective.

A customer’s buying journey begins with awareness followed by familiarity before moving to consideration purchase and then loyalty. So the more that customers become aware of your brand the better – hence where the outdated all publicity is good publicity line comes from.

Equally, unlike advertising (which is more expensive,) PR is not guaranteed. It requires the creation of a news angle e.g. ‘Huie’s brand secure record sales targets in Selfridges,’ ‘Celebrities endorse Huie’s brand,’ in order to capture the imagination of the media and inspire them to write about you/your business.

Create a 12 month plan

If we consider the first part of the year, New Years Day, Valentines, Mother’s Day, these occasions may well have an impact on your customer’s buying patterns.

Creating a press release which is ‘pegged’ to these occasions will increase your chance of securing media interest, so plan ahead and be aware of media lead times so you don’t miss out on a PR opportunity.

Stay abreast of current affairs and their relevance to your business

If we look at the stories currently in the media, each of these news stories may represent a PR opportunity depending on your business or service.

By staying aware of current news you can include reactive PR into your strategy as well as proactive, producing press releases offering a contribution to a current news debate, a solution to a problem being discussed or an alternate opinion.

Truly understand your customer

A useful exercise is spending time thinking about your customer in depth. Where do they live, how old are they, where do they grocery shop, go on holiday, are they property owners? Once you can answer these questions you’ll begin to create a picture of your customer which will allow you to easily move on to the next point…

Seek out ideal potential partners for cross promotion

By understanding your customer you can identify other brands that share your target market. This synergy creates the perfect opportunity to collaborate with brands who may be bigger or more established than you and cross promote by marketing to their audience as well as your own and of course returning the favour.

List five brands that are not your competition, but share your target audience as your partnership targets.

Be giving

It was one of rap music’s richest entrepreneurs, Russell Simmons who said “you can never get before you give.” It’s a blueprint which can be hugely effective once you work out what you can actually afford to give away. Free stuff creates a buzz, awareness, encourages people to try your products, creates positive brand association and a buying habit.

In this era it’s easy to create a product designed purely to be given away free. Think e-books and audio tapes, the ideas are endless.

Be creative

Creativity for me, is the best part of PR. Unlike advertising, which has a very set agenda and sales pitch, PR is whatever you decide to make it.

Are you a fashion brand? Then create a piece for the royal baby, run a take-away food chain? Deliver to the homeless on Christmas day.

PR can do good whilst creating opportunities to secure media coverage in the process.

Think global

Your business reach is only as limited as your mindset. If you or your PR team are creating a press release, why limit your focus to the UK?

The vast majority of media is also online now and if your business is international then you’d be crazy not to raise awareness globally.  That said, focus on one territory at a time for maximum impact.

Ensure you have effective tools

Undeniably the most important tip. Your press release is your business shop window and will create a first impression.

Ensure it is professional, and includes all of the crucial information, and use the first paragraph to sum up your news angle succinctly.


If you want to learn more about how to make the most of PR opportunities on a tight budget, come along to Jessica’s workshop How to generate PR for your business held in the Centre.

Jessica Huie on behalf of Business & IP Centre


13 March 2014

How to use social media for your business

Everyone seems to be talking about how social media can raise the profile of your business.

TwitterDuring this year’s WebinFeb we invited our followers to tweet questions using #askbipc about how to use social media as a business tool.

Neil Infield, Manager of the Business & IP Centre Reference Team who runs the Centre’s Introduction to social media workshop used his expert knowledge to pass on some of his top tips in just 140 characters!

Here are some of the most popular questions and how to address the issues  

 @HelenMacCar: How often should an organisation be tweeting?

If you have something interesting to say you can tweet many times a day. If you are selling or repeating it is spam.

 @KimberContracts: What is the best way to optimise social media for business use?

I suggest using a tool to manage your channels. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are the best currently.

@ttdrinfopost: Which mobile marketing channel works best commercially - social tech like Twitter, AdSense or more OS specific e.g. iAd?

Twitter is currently the king of social media reach, but their advertising model is still unproven.

@AmieMuiLee: Is there a way to add a link on your twitter profile to enable people to subscribe to newsletters?

You can add links into your twitter profile

 ‏@ttdrinfopost: What are the main challenges, advantages & disadvantages of integrating social technology into a business model?

Wow! Where to start? How about my monthly workshop?

@cog_design: Is LinkedIn really a valuable business tool or just a place for others to trawl for data to sell me stuff?

LinkedIn is an amazing business tool for finding customers, partners and promoting your expertise. 

@AmieMuiLee: Is it a good idea to link your personal Facebook account to your personal twitter account?

I think it is good to link all your accounts where possible. To make you easier to find and contact. 

 ‏@AmieMuiLee: What are time best times to schedule tweets at?

You should experiment and see what works for you. A blogger here tweets at 4am.

 ‏@nomvuyo: How do I access cheap and easy designers for my social media accounts? Do I need an HTML course?

For most social media platforms you can use the standard templates they provide.

@CamberwellArts:How many blog articles should I write in a week to make it engaging?

That depends on your readers and your topic. A minimum of once a week, up to a maximum of one a day.

@nomvuyo: What social media sites should I concentrate on using over others?

It depends on where your customers are. E.G. LinkedIn for professionals and 30-50 age group.

 ‏@nomvuyo: What's the first step I should take to build my brand using social media?

You should create an account for each of the main social media and add your identity and biog.


If you missed out on the Q&A but still need some help in using social media to raise the profile of your business, come along to the next workshop or have a look at Neil's slides.


Noma Siwela on behalf of Business & IP Centre

11 March 2014

Legal Issues of Web 2.0 and Social Media by Stephen Kunciewicz

Legal Issues of WebHow do you ensure that your organisation’s valuable intellectual property is not being misused, copied or redistributed by others?

And what rights and remedies do you have if a third party has been illegally using your intellectual property?

And on the other side of the coin, what responsibilities does your organisation have with regard to employees’ use of social media – should an employee make a potentially libellous comment online about a competitor, using a work computer, what involvement might a company be deemed to have?

These are the questions posed by Stephen Kuncewicz at the beginning of Legal Issues of Web 2.0 and Social Media. Everyone knows that today’s businesses must be social-media-savvy. Blogs, the ubiquitous FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter even, these are not just for private individuals, they are for businesses to use as well, both for gathering and for disseminating information. But we are also all aware of their reputation as a legal and ethical minefield.  The law has been struggling to keep up with technological developments, and social media users are often quite unsure about where they stand.

Stephen Kunciewicz is a lawyer at Halliwells LLP, and probably about as well-qualified to write on the topic as anyone alive. He takes the reader through the subject in just over 200 jargon-free pages, illustrating each point with real-life (and in some cases famous) examples.

The book is divided into five sections:

  1. Placing social media in the legal context
  2. Social media and copyright
  3. Social media and brands
  4. Social media and privacy, confidentiality, defamation
  5. Social media and criminal law.

This book would seem to be a must-have for every start-up and SME in the land, but for one thing: the price. On Amazon, new copies are selling for around £300. However, we have two copies here at the British Library. One is held by our Document Supply Service, and the other is available in the Business & IP Centre, in the Small Business Help section.

Rupert Lee on behalf of Business & IP Centre


10 March 2014

Your online content must be more like terrible journalism

IMG_3858Managing Director of Grow, Alasdair Inglis, shares his top tips for online content.

It’s pretty hard to imagine a more insulting put down for a journalist than being called a “hack”. Hack journalists fill the remote pages of any newspaper with salacious, trashy stories written in an unimaginative, derivative way. 

However, as unappealing as that sounds, there is a thing or two hack journalists can teach you about writing great, easy-to-read content, such as:

1. Write in the "inverted pyramid style"

You should structure your paragraphs like a news story, with the most important information at the beginning, and the less essential information nearer the end.

If you read a short news story you will notice that is structured in an unintuitive way. Instead of following any sort of narrative the story is instead written with the most important aspects first, tapering off with the less important information at the end.

By structuring your posts like this, you give your readers access to what they want straight away.

2. Use short, sharp language

Another defining characteristic of a "hack" journalist is their use of to-the-point, concise language. These guys aren't Oscar Wilde - they write to get the job done in as few words as possible.

A 1997 study showed that 79% of people on the interner scan text instead of reading, and as people have got more used to reading online content, this number can only have gone up. 

Too many online writers write to make themselves sound clever; you need to write to make other people feel clever. Big fancy words are no good here. To write good web content, think caveman language.

Remember, your readers aren’t here to experience some top-notch literature. They’re here for a solution to a problem, and they want to take in that information as quickly and easily as possible.

3. Put big ideas into bite-sized chunks

Your readers don’t have time to sit, think and unravel your message. You need to communicate what you want to say in the most direct way possible.

Don’t meander around the point at hand, and don’t get too bogged down in the details of what you’re saying. Break down your message into something anyone can understand.

This is another trick hack journos have nailed down; they say what they need to say in the easiest way possible for you to read and understand.

4. If it's not essential, cut it

If an added detail doesn't add to the story in any significant way, cut it. Your readers will love you for it.

Remember, unless you're writing for a comedy website, or your blog is celebrated purely for your writing style, your readers are on your site to be informed. Don't make them dig through swathes of text to get to the good stuff.

5. Use clever, attention catching headlines

Headlines are probably the single most important aspect of your post. You could write mind-blowing, world changing content but if you don't write good headlines, no one's going to click through and read them. Therefore they need to be attractive and intriguing enough to make readers check out your blog.  

Here are some great tips to help create better headlines:

  • Go with numbers or numbered lists. There’s a reason why your Facebook feed is choking on articles like “11 sexist cats that look like Ryan Gosling”. Learn from sites like Buzzfeed and maybe one day your content can annoy the whole of the internet, too.
  • Use compelling, emotive adjectives. Whilst this isn’t your high school creative writing class, using more engaging words like: “amazing”, “beautiful”, “inspiring” etc will make your article sound much more interesting.
  • Make your headlines are intriguing, but not too vague. Upworthy do a great job of this, giving you just enough information to whet your appetite, whilst not giving away the payload.
  • Use keyword research. Make sure you know what the most searched terms are for what you’re writing about and make sure that they’re in your headline. If your target audience is searching for “How to write better headlines”, make sure that your blog post headline will show up on their search.

  Upworthy 3  Upworthy 2 

If you want to learn more about how to market your business more effectively, come along to Grow's monthly Online marketing masterclass in the Centre. You can also apply for a free Ask an Expert session with Alasdair.


Alasdair Inglis on behalf of Business & IP Centre  

Follow Alasdair on Twitter

Have a look at



05 March 2014

The A List: A guide to who's who in media, marketing and advertising 2014

The A List coverNew for 2014 in the Business & IP Centre, The A List directory, published annually by Haymarket Media, takes a sideways look at the world of advertising via short interviews with over 300 individuals in the UK advertising industry. The questions range from favourite campaigns and Twitter recommendations to preferred funeral songs, and interviewees are allocated categories including ‘party animal’, ‘intellectual’ and ‘powerful’.

Whilst the style is clearly light-hearted, it can prove a useful way to understand the ethos, atmosphere and focus of different agencies, as well as highlighting some current and future industry trends. Finally, it gives contact details (including Twitter handles) for many of the individuals featured; handy for those researching trends, job-hunting or looking to commission a campaign.  

For more information on advertising resources in the Business & IP Centre, see our Industry Guides.

Sally Jennings on behalf of Business & IP Centre

04 March 2014

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons: Tuesday 25 February

A highlight of our ‘Web in Feb’ Business & IP Centre series of events in February was an evening with Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons in partnership with Barclays. The speakers were Nick Robertson of ASOS, Kathryn Parsons of Decoded and Nick Jenkins of Moonpig.  Frances Brindle, Director of Audiences at the British Library, introduced the evening and informed us of the prediction that 25% of all retail sales will be online by 2016. Shopping via online and mobile channels is becoming the norm and, according to eMarketer, over 90% of internet users shopped online in 2013. Retail sales on ecommerce sites have reached £45.5 billion.

In the spirit of online, the audience of 255 in St Pancras and another 200 across 4 live screenings in Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield, and on computer screens across the world via webcast.

Internet Icons

First up was Nick Robertson, co-founder and CEO of ASOS.  Nick co-founded, a fashion and beauty retailer pioneering online fashion in the UK, and now increasingly the world, with sales approaching £1billion. Starting his talk with a glitzy video of the last six months of ASOS, Nick's story began with the ups and downs of building a fashion brand without a high street presence. He stressed the importance of being ‘laser focussed’ on what you do. But also staying flexible and being prepared to ‘to kiss a few frogs’.  His final tip was, don’t sell out too soon; if you have a great idea – stick with it online and it will grow.

Next up was Kathryn Parsons, founder of Decoded, who wants to teach 'Code in a Day' and is pioneering global code education. Recently nominated as one of the top five most innovative companies in the UK, Decoded launched Data in a Day in 2013, aiming to demystify big data for business, and Code Ed to empower classroom teachers. Kathryn told us she used the Business & IP Centre in London to plan her business three years ago. She is keen for ‘women to claim their digital vote!’  She amazed the audience by revealing Decoded had spent just £27 on marketing, instead using imagination and creativity to get their message across. 

To end, she spoke about the reality of women programmers who are doing business in the tech industry in the UK. She then showed us the list below of ‘5 Things I have learned about Programming’ from a seven year old girl.

Girl programmer of 7

 The last speaker, Nick Jenkins was a wonderfully entertaining whilst being surprisingly informative and wise. Nick claimed he would now be a boring lawyer now, if he hadn't failed all his A levels, which meant he studied Russian at University. This was followed by eight years in Russia trading sugar for Glencore.

He chose to use the internet as his primary basis for a business due to the low cost of starting up. To start all he needed was a website, a printer and two sets of plain card in stock. Initially he relied on word of mouth to spread the message about the service.

Nick kept an eye on their main competitor by ordering a card from them once a quarter and comparing the order number on the receipt to see how much it had increased. He used this technique to measure the successes of his rival’s television advertising campaign and saw that it made economic sense. This led to Moonpig gradually increasing their screen advertising until they were spending £800, 000 a year. Nick realised Moonpig were open to the same form of competitive intelligence, so introduced four random letters in the middle of their order numbers. In a classic case of the law of unintended consequences, this led to complaints caused by some of the rude words produced.


 Nick confessed that initially the price he set for their cards was set too low. But he very was reluctant to increase it until his finance director gave him two choices. One, leave the price as it is and definitely go bust. Two, increase the price and maybe go bust. After increasing the price by £1 they were pleasantly surprised to see that the sales did not go down, and they went into profit.
Eventually the business grew and became stable and as Nick mostly enjoys the growing phase, he decided it was time to move on and look for his next startup venture.

Nick stressed the importance of hiring staff that will be as excited about the startup as you are, they will be happy to weather the storm the early days bring.  His final pieces of advice were; be decisive, allow staff to make decisions, and the importance of luck in business success.

Seema Rampersad on behalf of Business & IP Centre