Innovation and enterprise blog

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

3 posts from August 2014

26 August 2014

Back to business with Rasheed Ogunlaru

September is around the corner and its back to business for you and your venture.  The autumn to Christmas stretch is often the most important, busy and lucrative quarter of the year with many businesses generating the largest part of their annual turnover.

RasheedSo with this in mind leading business coach Rasheed Ogunlaru, author of Soul Trader, shares his top tips on how to hit the ground running and to get the best out of the season ahead.

1)    Step back before you get stuck in

Resist the temptation to plough straight back into work. You’ve got to step back and see the big picture or you might get lost in the details, email and paperwork and get overwhelmed. Make sure you relaxed, refreshed, ready and can review precisely where you are and where you’re going.

2)    Get strategic

To move your business forward you need to know where you are going. If you don’t have a written plan and specific goals and a clear vision/mission – or if they are out of date – now is the time to write or revisit them. This is essential if you have a team, associates, partners or (potential) investors.

But it’s also important for you otherwise you’ll get lost or set off track. Keep it clear and concise: 1-2 pages with specific financial, marketing and operational goals may suffice.

3)    Fitness & reality check

Now we need to do a quick health check on you / your business.

Write down the answers to these questions as specifically as you can:

  • What’s working well?
  • What is not working or what are the problem areas?
  • Give your business a score from 1-10 (10 being the highest and ideal state of affairs) for the following: Finance; Marketing; Operations and management.

Give yourself credit for what’s working well. Don’t get disheartened by what’s not. Use this as baseline feedback on how you’re doing. 

4)    Clear steps

Based on your strategy and fitness health check, produce a short action plan with the steps you need to take and when. This is the road map and directions.

Keep this simple and specific. What precisely needs to be done by whom and when? For example: Update website services page by end September; Produce a database of key contacts 1-15 October; Write and promote 2015 price list by 1 December.

5)    Confidence and support

Confidence in yourself, what you’re doing and why is one of the biggest keys to success – but also crucially to starting, perceiving and keeping going.

Know why you’re running your business and keep this at heart every day.  Also seek out those who can help you. Build a network and build a strong bond with your customers, associates and team.

6)    Focus and flexibility

It’s very easy to get distracted and overwhelmed by emails, social media, the telephone – and your own mind. The ability to focus – and yet be alert to opportunity is what separates winners from ‘also rans’.

  • Tip 1: Start the day knowing precisely what success would look like by the end of it
  • Tip 2:  Complete a key task before you open your emails or social media. See the difference
  • Tip 3:  Stay alert to what’s going on with customers, your contacts and your industry and in wider society. This will help you spot new opportunities.

7)    Review and fine-tune

Having a plan is all very well but you, your customers and the world are changing all the time. Take 10 minutes to review achievements, challenges and priorities every week. Use this to fine-tune your plan and your actions. Celebrate each step of the way.

Remember there’s no failure only feedback. If you get stuck reach out to others who can help you.

Remember too that there’s heaps of advice, information, one-to-ones and workshops available to support you at the Business & IP Centre and beyond. Make use of it.

Rasheed runs a monthly workshop, Soul Trader: Your Life, Your Business at the Centre to help people advance their business goals. 

20 August 2014

Top tips from Blink Brow founder Vanita Parti

Vanitafor webBlink Brow Bar founder, Vanita Parti, is the pioneer of the walk-in brow bar and largely responsible for bringing the ancient Indian technique of threading into the 21st century. After resigning from her marketing position at a global airline, she single handedly launched the first ever UK walk-in brow bar in 2004. Fast forward 10 years and blink has over 22 walk in bars in the UK and another opening in SAKS New York this Autumn, as well as an award winning line up of beauty products and services. 

Here she shares some of her advice and top tips. You can hear more from Vanita at our next Inspiring Entrepreneurs event in partnership with Barclays, Movers and Shakers on 22 September.

Whilst struggling to find a decent place to go without an appointment to have my brows groomed, I first had that lightbulb moment 11 years ago and spotted the gap in the market for a quick walk-in, pain-free brow service. Coming from an Indian heritage, threading was the norm in my family and it was a skill that women have been practicing for centuries in the eastern world.

 Quick, precise, clean and holding the ability to create seamless results, I knew that the time-starved modern woman would love the results and flexibility that my concept would offer.

My mission was to offer a beauty essential for everyone; We set out to change the way people think about their eyebrows by offering a super quick, drop-in service with the same process used by the popular drop-in nail bar.

The idea developed from not being able to get an appointment for threading anywhere in London and as a working mum, not having the time for lengthy spa treatments either. I wanted quick but fabulous results, and if I did I knew that other women would be calling out for it too.

To kick-start Blink’s brow domination, we took on some of the most famous, established and conventional department stores in the UK and convinced them to take on this slightly outré beauty treatment of threading that has now become Blink’s trademark.

It wasn’t long before British Vogue was tipping Blink as the next big thing and today we can be found in leading stores including Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Topshop, John Lewis and SpaceNK. We’ve retained many loyal devotees who make regular visits to get their brows dealt with by super consummate technicians with a sharp eye for precision.

Blink is now known by stores as a high density and hugely successful brand with over 36 chairs across the UK and 150 all-female members of staff.

Vanita’s top tips:

  1. Persevere. Don’t give up. People will knock you down so you’ve got to believe in your concept 100%.
  2. Some people don’t have a vision, so unless proven already they won’t understand. Surround yourself with visionaries.
  3. Market research is good, but isn’t the be all and end all. There isn’t much point in asking whether your market would want the product your looking to launch- How would they know if it’s not on the market yet?
  4. Be unashamedly persistent!
  5. Have a clear plan financially. Set yourself targets of when you plan to reach certain financial goals. This will help motivate you and keep you on track.
  6. I still have to remind myself of this, but don’t get too emotionally attached to your business. Learn to let things go.
  7. A good idea will always be copied and competition will be right behind you. Protect your business as much as you can and never become complacent.

Book your ticket for Movers and Shakers now and you can put your business questions to Vanita!



08 August 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction - Intellectual Property in disguise

Transformers Age of Extinction Movie PosterSpoiler alert! Unfortunately it was difficult to examine the IP mentions below without revealing a little of the plot, so if you haven’t seen the film yet and plan to, look away now.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see the film Transformers: Age of Extinction. I was interested in the film as Ohyo, one of the Business & IP Centre’s Success Stories, has produced a limited edition of their bottle to tie in with its release. As well as being a very entertaining - almost three hours of robots, aliens, and robot-alien-dinosaurs, the IP geek in me also found much to enjoy in the many mentions of intellectual property within the film.

One of the main characters, Cade Yeager (played by Mark Wahlberg) is pretty much your standard action hero – rugged, wisecracking, good with a gun. But he’s also a struggling inventor, and as such is rather more au fait with the concepts of intellectual property than you’d expect from your average blockbuster protagonist. He jokes about IP, and worries about ownership of his creations.

Discussing an invention with his friend near the beginning of the film, their main debate is over intellectual property rights. And his reaction on using a huge alien gun is ‘Oh, man. I'm so gonna patent this sh*t.’ (It’s doubtful, of course, that he actually could, but then this isn’t really a film built on gritty realism.) And it’s not just Yeager: in another scene, during a battle between Bumblebee (an Autobot robot) and Stinger (an apparently new and improved Decepticon copy of his opponent), the former comments ruefully: ‘I hate these cheap knock-offs’. (Then he feeds his rival’s head to a two-headed robotic pterosaur, not an approach we’d normally recommend in regard to IP infringement). 

Perhaps the scriptwriters are simply demonstrating a healthy dose of self-awareness, as there is, of course, a huge amount of valuable intellectual property contained within a brand like Transformers, spanning as it does a multitude of media. From the film to the merchandise to the name itself, Transformers will be covered by a variety of IP protection, from trademarks and copyright to patents. Below is the 1985 patent (number 4,516,948) for the Optimus Prime toy, by designer Hiroyuki Obara.

1985 patent (number 4,516,948) for the Optimus Prime toy, by designer Hiroyuki Obara, figure 1

1985 patent (number 4,516,948) for the Optimus Prime toy, by designer Hiroyuki Obara, figure 7

1985 patent (number 4,516,948) for the Optimus Prime toy, by designer Hiroyuki Obara, figure 5

The film also offers some good advice for all would-be inventors out there, in a scene where Cade Yeager confronts a scientist whose creations have had dire repercussions for the world: ‘You're an inventor like me, so I know you have a conscience. Don't let your creation take control.’

Whilst, of course, most good inventions have positive outcomes, you can take control of – and learn to protect - your ideas by learning more about intellectual property here at the Business & IP Centre

Sally Jennings on behalf of the Business & IP Centre