Innovation and enterprise blog

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

11 posts from July 2014

29 July 2014

Book review - The Directory of Grant Making Trusts

Directory-of-grant-making-trusts-2014-2015bThis is the 23rd edition of a book that is invaluable to fundraisers, charities, social entrepreneurs, community groups and anyone seeking funding for their project. The directory is annual and lists details of all the grant making bodies in the UK.

The organisations listed range from the small trusts set up for good causes to large funding organisations such as Children in Need.

Each entry outlines what is funded and not funded, ranges of grant available, sample grants within the last few years, names of trustees and the finances of the organisation. Guidance is also given on how to apply.

The directory in very comprehensive as it also includes organisations who say they don’t want to be contacted on spec. The compliers leave them as it is a good indication of which organisations not to contact.

There are indexes of areas of funding (e.g. educational, special needs, arts, housing, health, recreation etc.). Also types of support (e.g. building, salaries, vehicles, equipment, project finance) and organisations that cover certain geographical regions within the UK and overseas.

28 July 2014

Review - Luxury Briefing - the quarterly bulletin for the luxury industry

Luxury briefingLuxury Briefing is a quarterly bulletin for the luxury industry. It includes articles on trends in the industry, news of new luxury products and services, interviews and company profiles and the ‘TAG Luxury Stock Index’.

Although the Business & IP Centre has some market research from for example Verdict, on luxury goods, this makes an excellent edition in background reading for anyone researching this industry.

"Luxury Briefing is always a pleasure to read. It is well edited and filled only with interesting and relevant information and comment. Whilst primarily aimed at the luxury market, it is also relevant to the wider world outside." Sir Terence Conran

The website includes a sample issue and a complete index.


25 July 2014

Book review - The Name of The Beast by Neil Taylor

Book Cover of: The Name of the Beast (The perilous process of naming products, companies and brands) by Neil TaylorNaming your business, brand, product, company etc should be an easy and simple process but getting it right seldom is.

Neil Taylor, the author of The Name of The Beast, was a senior naming consultant at global brand consultancy Interbrand - the company behind such household names as Prozac, Expedia, Hobnobs and Viagra - and states that the name is the one part of the brand that you hope will never change as it is the primary means of identification for a brand.

Brands change logos, straplines, headquarters, people – some of them even dramatically change what they do (Nokia started off making forestry products and rubber boots). But often the name is the one common thread that runs throughout the entire history of a company or product. So getting the name right is imperative and most hope never to change the name.

That means that when brands do change name, it’s a big and often costly deal. Remember when Opal Fruits became Starburst? When Marathon became Snickers? Oil of Ulay became Olay? Jif became Cif? All names that are still around today.

But what about Consignia – the new name that The Post Office-Royal Mail opted for? There was such a public fuss about the name – “Doesn’t sound like the national institution that Royal Mail does”, “Sounds like a brand of anti-perspirant (Insignia)”, “Consignia means (appropriately) lost luggage in Spanish”, “Unfortunately they forgot that a more common use of “consign” is to consign to the rubbish bin” - that the name Consignia has now been consigned to history as a massive failure.

The Name of the Beast (The perilous process of naming products, companies and brands) looks at the practical aspects of naming. How do you come up with names in the first place – what sort of name should you go for, what makes a good name etc? How do you make sure it doesn’t mean something awful in another language? How do you make sure that you don’t steal someone else’s name by accident (and then get taken to court)? How do you convince cynical colleagues, customers and journalists that your name isn’t worthy of the usual frenzy of devilish derision?

Within this humorous and easily readable book are tales of big brands, naming disasters, a smattering of insider knowledge and how 21st century super-brands like Google and Starbucks have built their empires on names with strong stories behind them.

Ziaad Khan on behalf of Business & IP Centre

Enterprise Enfield: An Enterprising Libraries case study

When DVD Publishers, Clearvision went into liquidation at the height of the recession, Financial Controller, Tony Cohen made the exciting (and difficult) decision to set-up his own business. With sixteen years’ experience as Clearvision’s Financial Controller and having worked previously as an accountant in various companies and practices, the time had come for him to set-up his own accountancy practice.

Tony discovered Enterprise Enfield at a job fair at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London. After attending a Barclays Get Ready Business Seminar and a New Biz Workshop, Tony decided to enrol on the Enterprising Libraries New Biz Programme where he received the information, advice and guidance he needed to prepare his business plan.

As part of the programme, Tony received a comprehensive Planning and Starting Your Business Workbook– an easy to use, step-by-step guide to preparing a viable business plan – which he used to work through the various elements such as how to conduct market research into a business idea, how to develop a marketing plan, creating a vision and managing accounts. At the same time, he sought advice, and guidance from Programme Director, Kevan Dunne on business planning. 

Once his business plan was finalised, Tony was able to successfully approach his bank, for start-up funding to use as working capital, Tony says:

The free support I received through Enterprising Libraries New Biz Programme was instrumental in helping me prepare an effective business plan and raise £10,000 to kickstart start my business. Along with the workbook and advice, I also found the library online resources and ALISON courses very useful. Without this help I wouldn’t have known where to start – it has been a vital resource." 

Tony C Accounting Services is now up and running, Tony has received his Institute of Chartered Accountants Practising Certificate and has also launched his website. He aims to concentrate on offering a range of accountancy services to start- ups and established, small and medium-sized businesses – including community businesses and social enterprises.   His services include: bookkeeping, Tax and VAT advice, accounts, consultancy, systems development and a virtual Financial Director, a paperless service where everything is stored in the Cloud. 

“My advice for anyone thinking of starting a business is to go to Enterprise Enfield to make sure you get off to the right start.  As an accountant, I am obviously good at the financial side of things, but in starting my own business I needed to understand how to produce a business plan and market and promote my services.  I have learnt so much through the scheme and understand the importance of networking, knowing your market, doing market research and adding value to your services”

You can find more information about Enterprise Enfield on their website.

16 July 2014

Book review - Understanding your business finances by Johnny Martin

Understanding your business financesIt is something of a cliché to say that most new business fail due to cash-flow problems. But it is also a truism.

Johnny Martin has made it his mission to get business startups to understand how their business finances work, or to use his words, “take control of your cash and manage your business with confidence”.

In addition to his monthly workshops in the Business & IP Centre at The British Library he has now published a book. Understanding your business finances is part of the ‘Essential Business workbook’ series published by Cobweb, who also produce the essential Cobra database.

Johnny understands how most people starting a business are intimidated by the financial aspects and often hide their heads in the sand.

“Many people come unstuck when they start a business because they don’t know what the numbers are telling them. Some don’t even have any numbers to work with! Others manage to get through the early days create a really successful business, only to be ripped off by a so-called business partner who is ‘dealing with the money’. (And believe me that happens a lot.)”

Johnny has worked hard to ensure the language, writing style, fonts and page layout of the book are as clear and simple he can, to make this vital knowledge as accessible as possible.

The content is divided into twelve chapters with a worksheet in each one, to turn the theory into practice:

  1. Introducing the three key financial reports - Cash flow forecast - Profit and Loss report - Balance Sheet
  2. Understanding the business model
  3. Forecasting sales - researching your market and competitors - setting your process to make a profit
  4. Getting to breakeven - fixed and variable costs - calculating your breakeven point
  5. The profit and loss report (the P&L)
  6. Introducing VAT
  7. The difference between cash and profit
  8. No one goes bust with money in the bank - monitoring and understanding your cash flow
  9. Balance sheets and accounting principles - understanding the balance sheet
  10. An introduction to financing your business - what type of funding is suitable for your business - sources of business finance
  11. Day-to-day accounting in your business - who can help you with your accounting
  12. Putting all you’ve learned into practice

Johnny_Martin-300pixHHe has also include a ‘Jargon buster’ at the end covering topics from Accrual accounting to Working capital.

I will end this short review with another cliché, this time from the publishing world. ‘Everyone should read this book’. Except in this case it really is true. If everyone starting or running a small business were to read and understand this book, the number of business failures would be significantly reduced. Resulting in a stronger economy and happier entrepreneurs and their families.

“You CAN do this stuff. It’s sill okay to delegate finance to accountants or key members of staff, but don’t abdicate the responsibility completely. No one is going to look after your interests better than you.” Johnny Martin


Neil Infield on behalf of Business & IP Centre

15 July 2014

What’s new on... Keynote

One of the resources we provide here at the  Business & IP Centre is free access to a number of business and intellectual property databases; helping entrepreneurs and businesses to research trends, markets and companies, and to utilise and protect their IP.

If you’ve ever wondered what the market trends are in a particular industry, how to write a business plan, or where to search for trademark registrations, then you can use our databases to find out. The databases are regularly updated and in a monthly blog series, we take a look at what’s new.

This month, we’re looking at the Keynote database. Keynote is a renowned provider of market intelligence, supplying businesses, libraries and academia with market analysis reports for more than 30 years. The database contains more than 1,000 reports covering a variety of industry sectors from IT and computing to food and drink, and is a very useful market research tool for business start-ups and SMEs.


Combining secondary and exclusive primary research gathered from industry analysts and data from nationally recognised sources, Keynote reports are designed to help users examine markets, assess customer needs, forecast future market demand and trends, identify new growth opportunities or keep a close eye on competitors and industry leaders.

They usually have a UK focus, but many also contain a global perspective chapter. Reports often include PEST (Political, Economical, Social and Technological) or SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis.

Keynote is very easy to search and navigate, and readers can download up to 10% from up to 2 reports per day (limited to once a week from the same report, and no more than 30% of a report in total.)


There are a number of new reports available on Keynote this July, including benchmarking reports, which profile the main competitors in a specific industry, and market reports, assessments, and updates, which provide detailed analysis of issues and trends within markets.

Those disappointed with England’s recent World Cup fortunes may want to console themselves with a benchmarking report on Championship Football Clubs, whilst food or drink entrepreneurs can research the current state of the coffee shop or beer industries using the market reports and updates.


New on Keynote this July:

  • Chemical Distributors Benchmarking Report
  • Cash & Carry Benchmarking Report
  • Refrigeration Equipment Industry Benchmarking report
  • Championship Football Clubs Benchmarking Report
  • Rugby Clubs Benchmarking Report
  • Stationery Manufacturers Benchmarking Report
  • Defence Equipment Market Report
  • Trends in Leisure Activities Market Assessment
  • Jewellery & Watches Market Report
  • Coffee & Sandwich Shops Market Report
  • Breweries & the Beer Market Market Update

Sally Jennings on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

Photo Credit: Joel Olives via Compfight cc Photo Credit: marcp_dmoz via Compfight cc Photo Credit: Linh H. Nguyen via Compfight cc

11 July 2014

How to avoid business failure

The statistics for small business failure make for grim reading. It’s a fact that fewer than four in ten businesses survive past the first critical three years of trading to become sustainable. That’s a lot of time, money and ruined dreams that could so easily have been avoided.

I’ve worked with many businesses here at the Business & IP Centre from early stage to high growth and have found that there are some key things to do at the early stage that will significantly reduce the odds of failure and even grow to real success. In fact our research has shown that using our resources and networks will reduce the chance of business failure to less than one in ten.

Individual Female Tablet
Firstly, one should remember when starting that the most important asset in the business is you. So it’s vital that you’re realistic with yourself and have your feet firmly on the ground. No matter what type of business you start or invention you want to exploit, it goes without saying that just because it’s your idea, it doesn’t mean it’s a commercial idea and will make you money.

So you need to be vigilant and do everything you possibly can to minimise risk, but how?

There’s no shame in knowing what you don’t know.  As a business owner you will need to wear so many hats and have a wide skill set that it can feel daunting. But being an all-rounder doesn’t mean you have to be brilliant at everything either (not everybody with sales skills makes a good marketer) but you sure need to understand some basic principles and practice for a lot areas.

A keen desire to pick up as much information and advice along the way is crucial. Thankfully you aren’t alone. Many at the Business & IP Centre have benefitted from accessible, down to earth workshops that tell you the most important things you need to know, be it marketing or finance.

You can Get Cashflow Confident or grow your business online with our Marketing Masterclass Perfect for anyone exploring the possibility of a new business is our Start-up Saturday workshop  too.

Workshops are great opportunities to share experience and meet others too. You can start to create your own network of contacts to help you in all the areas you need to know. It may well become your lifeline.

Secondly one should find out as much as you can about the market you’re moving into. Proper research is your gateway to better opportunities. To have a serious business someone needs to buy your dazzling new product or life enhancing service and it sure helps to know whom. Market research does just this by identifying consumer profiles, average spend, size of the market place, threats, opportunities and forecasts. All this is information gold-dust at an early stage that will save you so much time and money in the long run, even if it’s as simple as helping to guide you on the right marketing strategy.

Published content by some of the larger researchers out there is beyond the budget for most early Individual Male Laptop stage businesses. The Business & IP Centre has taken this problem out of the equation by making freely available to its walk in users over £5 million worth of quality research on all major sectors and a good many small ones too.  What’s more our Information Specialists in the Centre will point you in the right direction and show you what you need to know.

And thirdly one should ensure your new venture will need to be as safe from risk as possible. Getting the right legal structure and necessary insurance in place at an early stage will save you huge bills and endless stress later. Understanding what you need to do doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds. A database in the Centre called COBRA (Complete Business Reference Advisor) tells you in plain English many of the legalities and insurance issues you’ll need to address among other topics.

One should always consider what Intellectual Property there may be in the business too. Our Intellectual Property workshops and advice help to break down and explain how you can address this important asset in any business.

Group 7So addressing these issues will ensure your first step is a sure one. Of course there’s much more to build on from here but these issues are absolutely fundamental to the viability of any venture.

Finally, I would suggest not throwing all your eggs in one basket. Don’t quit your job just yet especially if you haven’t even had a single sale! It’s good practice to test and refine your proposition with a few customers that helps to prove the concept.

Remember, there’s never a shortage of help and advice to guide you, so help yourself to reduce the odds of failure.


Jeremy O’Hare is a Relationship Manager for the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme, which provides £10,000 of fully-funded and tailored advice for businesses looking to grow programme.

ERDF Logo Portrait Colour Web



10 July 2014

Make a Date with Business


A few months ago dating business Lovestruck was headlined in the business news for winning Best International Business at the British Young Business Awards.  Lovestruck was not only a success in the UK but their Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder is quoted as saying “Many felt that the odds were far too stacked against us when creating a new premium online dating brand to challenge the entrenched, resource rich competition, so we are delighted that our growth abroad in particular Hong Kong and Singapore has been recognised”.

Soon after this award announcement I noticed Business & IP Centre customers looking for this topic in our collection and it seems our customers also have ambitions to create dating businesses.  I too began to investigate the subject on our resources and databases for news and market research that are available free in the centre helping me to understand the industry and landscape for dating and matchmaking businesses. 

The dating and matchmaking business is not a new business idea and old adverts in printed format and business models have been around as long as the classifieds in newspapers.  In this BBC article there are examples of dating sites going way back in history.  As recent as the late 1990’s , I saw in printed copies of Your Dog magazine held at the British Library that pet owners advertised details of their dogs – but with the owners personal details for a match made in dog harmony.  However, with the growth of the web, there have been many changes both on setting up dating businesses and on using the sites in the dating game. There is little or hardly any stigma left for using sites and services.  The current market is prolific and was valued at £170million in the UK by Swedish company Metaflake. This is a trend that is also replicated in other regions of the world as demonstrated by this world map.

Source: Wikipedia Online Dating Services

Dating service businesses are formed usually on their own genre, with a unique selling point (USP) based on clientele, such as Lovestruck, eHarmony,, My Single Friend and Christian Connections.  Newspapers and even radio stations aim for their own readership and audience with their sites such as Guardian Soulmates by the Guardian and ‘The Dating Lab’ by The Telegraph.  Some of these businesses are steering an industry on issues for the benefit of their customers and their own future standards.  There are two main bodies that are a good starting point for researching the industry and they are the Association of British Introduction Agencies (ABIA) (see also their directory) and Online Dating Agency (ODA).  Some of the concerns are authenticity and fake profiles, data privacy and security and consumer protection. The associations are set up to be used by premium brands to put together a code of conduct to protect the industry against poor practices and to uphold high standards of behaviour by the dating service providers in the UK. If you are thinking of setting this type of business, these two sites are useful for tips and best practices for consumers and providers.

In terms of the market research available into this sector, there is a useful Key Note Singles Market report in the Business & IP Centre – produced a couple (no  pun intended) of years ago but the analysis, facts and figures are still insightful for understanding customers behaviour.   For example, I discovered that 11.7% of the surveyed Singles Market confirmed that they had met their partners online. Regionally, those in the North (27.2%) were most likely to have met dates or partners online, while there were no respondents living in the East Midlands, South West or Wales. Personally, I find this is hard to believe!

When asked ‘What is the worst thing about being single?” they provided amusing answers which in highest ranking are “No one to talk to”,  “Having to Do the Household Chores all by Myself”, “Having to Go to Places on my own”, “Lack of Physical Contact” ,“People assuming you have a Partner”, or “Money Worries”. With answers like these, there are 32.2% of the single population actively dating. 

Another interesting fact is where people like to meet. When asked the question “Where have you met potential dates or partners?” the respondents gave the following answers in ranking order – Place of Education, Pubs and Bars, Club and Work with the least favourite places for meeting people are surprisingly Online, Dating Agencies and Speed Dating.  This doesn't actually distract from the fact that the dating business can be profitable and online with people still using these sites. Speed Dating may not be popular according to this survey but in this similar format, we hold regular events at the Centre called ‘Speed Mentoring’ sessions with experts to give you advice on the topic of day.   This works really well for networking and making contacts.

If you use the London Underground trains, you cannot avoid noticing the ‘Tube’ adverts aimed at this same single market in the city. You can see advertisements with various agencies vying for the competition to gain some market share with some eye-catching adverts appealing to commuters. The adverts also show the various brands on the market, the differences in their target audience and inner aspirations in a partner such as the Christian Connections advert tailored for Christian customers. 


Source: London Underground Advertising campaign by Christian Connections

Big Data generated by online business are also used to market businesses and to understand client preferences and behaviour. Data can be useful to push adverts, to create apps and for further innovations but they don’t seem to guarantee success in relationships as mentioned in this BBC article.

In a discussion with one of our Innovating for Growth delivery partners, Christopher Pett, who is a Product Development Consultant at Makerco, observed that "this is a great example of a service offer that is expressed from the customer's point of view, which people so often forget to do. In one advert, the guy was saying how he listened to his prospective partner's favourite album before their first date. That's such a simple way to demonstrate that users will establish meaningful relationships with each other before they meet and take time to get to know each other. It's a tacit offer that has an emotional impact on potential customers”. 

The customers are at the core of these businesses.  Their buy-in to your service or product will help you gain more of the market and in turn, run a successful business.  Don’t waste anytime – make a date to use the resources such as the Cobra reports on Dating Agencies or Speed Dating Organiser in the centre to research about your particular idea.  The British Library is also an ideal place to spend time socially such as looking at our exhibitions and as a meeting place with someone in our restaurant for a date!

Seema Rampersad on behalf of Business & IP Centre

Follow Seema on Twitter: @SeemaRampersad

08 July 2014

Book review - The New Business Road test by John Mullins

Book Cover of: The New Business Road Test, What entrepreneurs and executives should do before launching a lean start up, by John MullinsThe New Business Road test – What Entrepreneurs and Executives Should Do Before Launching a Lean Start–up by John Mullins.

The book states that every year two million entrepreneurs actively engage in starting a business in the United Kingdom. However, many do not get the business venture off the ground. For those that do, the majority will fail!

The book suggests that the reason why there are so many entrepreneurs perusing their dream business is one of opportunity: ‘but most opportunities are not what they appear to be as business failure statistics demonstrate...’

To balance this the book instructs the reader on how to road test your business idea first before launching and it provides the toolkits which explain how to do this, as well as supplying useful case studies. Also included is helpful a insight into the ‘live or die’ questions such as:

  • Is the Market and Industry attractive?
  • Does the opportunity, offer customer benefits as well as competitive economic sustainability?
  • Can you deliver the results you seek?

Chapters in the book cover what to do before launching a lean start-up, and focuses on how you can  to learn what you don’t know. It offers suggestions on:  do it yourself market research for your new business, and covers how you obtain information for evidence based forecasting.

This valuable book is aimed at anyone who would like to start a lean start-up business, helpfully the book also has an accompanying app which is available on iTunes and Android. The app itself makes it easy to assemble all the evidence needed to conduct a road test for your new lean business.

If you would like to learn more about Lean Startup and the techniques used, you may be interested to know that the Business & IP Centre run a variety of workshops throughout the year.

To book your place and to view a list of all the workshops and events for July and August and beyond, please see our website.

Sonya Pinnock on behalf of the Business & IP Centre team

07 July 2014

Confusion costs cash!

Jm webOur resident finance expert, Johnny Martin explains the most common finance mistakes that he has come across.

One of the hardest things when you are starting or running a business is getting to grips with the financial jargon and of course the numbers!  Too many business owners think that it’s OK to muddle by and that somehow it will be alright on the night.

As a result, many don’t start because they can’t raise cash, or they start and crash and burn because they run out of cash or they start and create a really successful business with the help of a (so-called) business partner who goes on to rip them off so they lose out on their cash! You wouldn’t believe the number of times at my workshop at the British Library, people say that’s what happened to me!

 So what causes this confusion and how can you make sure you understand your business finances and make sure you don’t waste cash? 

To start, let’s cover THE biggest cause of confusion and especially confusion between business owners and finance people – why is profit not the same as cash?!  Well if you were running a very simple fruit seller business, buying on the wholesale market, selling on a street corner, and chucking out unsold fruit at the end of the day – then the increase in cash in your pocket would be the same as profit. 

BUT as soon as you start selling on account, buying on account, having stock, buying equipment then cash and profit are different in the short term. 

This explains why you have two reports – the cash flow looking at cash and the profit & loss report which matches income and expense when they happen i.e. based on activity.  The profit and loss is there to help you assess profitability or viability – can you sell for more than your costs?

If you didn’t match income and expenses in the same period you would never know your true profits.  For example you hire a freelancer but they don’t invoice you at month end, you would still make a provision for these costs in your management costs. 

Otherwise you would understate freelance costs in the month when they happened and over state in the month the invoice came in or indeed when it was paid…This is known as accruals accounting – matching income and expenses based on activity.

To help overcome this kind of confusion I run a regular workshop at the Business & IP Centre called Get Cash Flow Confident.  If you come to the workshop you also get access to my online training video Talk Money and a 5 year forecasting template. 

Whatever stage you are at – please, please, please don’t ignore finance.  Successful businesses understand their numbers, know their numbers and act on them.  By all means delegate finance but don’t abdicate responsibility – it is just too important.