Innovation and enterprise blog

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

8 posts from September 2014

26 September 2014

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Movers and Shakers

Monday night’s event in partnership with Barclays and screened in the Newcastle, Sheffield and Manchester Business & IP Centres, as well as Exeter and New York, aimed to inspire entrepreneurs to create new markets and take the UK by storm!

Barclays logoThe speakers talked about their journeys in creating some of the most exciting new products and services on the market today, and re-imagined existing markets in the world of digital, beauty and food.

Michael Acton-SmithFirst on stage was Michael Acton-Smith OBE, CEO and founder of Mind Candy, creators of childrens phenomenen Moshi Monsters.

Michael has been described by the Daily Telegraph as "a Rock Star version of Willy Wonka" and by the Independent as "a polite version of Bob Geldolf".

 He shared his roller-coaster ride over the last fifteen years and some of the lessons learnt. When he first started in business with his school-friend partner, he imagined his life would be something like Tom Hanks in the movie Big in which he gets to spend his days playing with toys. They decided the newly emerging World Wide Web would be the best place to sell gadgets and toys to adults. The online world was so new they had very little competition, but sadly for the same reason they also had very few customers in the beginning.

 Chess-setTo help raise money to fund the venture they sold their bodies to medical science (for a week anyway) and raised £400 each. A big early lesson learnt was being careful about the name of your business. They soon discovered that although was a nice catchy web address, was a well-established pornography website in the United States.

This led to some embarrassing conversations with friends and family. A name change to FireBox  soon followed and the business began in earnest with their first best-seller a shot-glass chess drinking game.

 PetRock1Michael was a fan of video games on his ZX Spectrum computer, and this inspired the creation of MindCandy. Their first game was based on Masquerade, the best-selling book and treasure hunt by Kit Williams. Sadly PerplexCity turned out to be a commercial disaster, with the lesson learnt, to do market research before you pursue a personal passion.

He explained how Moshi Monsters was inspired by the success of the simple idea that became the Pet Rock phenomenon. After a slow start during the first two years, growth became rapid, leading to the 80 million PopJamregistered users today.

The brand now has now expanded offline to include books, toys, music, trading cards, video games and even a big screen movie. Understanding the temporary nature of all internet services, Michael is now looking to his next project PopJam, designed for mobile devices.

 Michael’s tips for success included, think big - but start small. And look at the opportunities the disruptive power of the internet and new technologies create for business.




Vanita PartiNext up was Vanita Parti founder of Blink Brow Bar. Vanita pioneered walk-in eyebrow bars and is largely responsible for bringing the ancient technique of threading into the 21st century.

Her ‘lightbulb’ moment came in 2004 after many happy years working as a brand manager for British Airways. But the time demands of two small children and full-time work were not compatible. Starting her own business was the answer to having more time for her family, and she recognised a gap in the market having to travel across London to get her own eyebrows threaded.

The initial phase involved trying to find and speak to the right people in department stores. This proved very tricky and resulted in lots of negative responses. This is where tip no.1 comes into play - be unashamedly persistent. Fenwick’s of Bond Street was the only store prepared to try out her idea. And with just one chair, instead of the relaxing coffee lounge Vanita imagined. From this small beginning, thanks to word-of-mouth marketing and loyalty cards, the brand grew gradually into other department stores.

Protecting her trade mark and brand were some  of the issues that Vanita felt she needed help, with the onset of competition. But for Vanita maintaining the premium level of the brand was crucial, and this involved turning down quite a few offers along the way. Ten years on Blink Brow Bars are now in 25 locations, and are just about to launch in the USA. In the early days Vanita was upset when staff she had recruited and trained left to set up rival brow bars, but she realised that competition is a fact of business. The key is to keep on step ahead, and to always maintain the quality of the brand. Her brand promise is to take the pain out of beauty regimes and leave women looking and feeling fabulous.

Vanita’s top tips were:

  • Understand what a brand is
  • Have a vision and don’t give up on it
  • Don’t be distracted from your ‘main thing’
  • Be unashamedly persistent
  • Have a financial plan - you need to make money to protect your business
  • Keep it interesting - repackaging something existing be a successful strategy

 Sam BompasFinally we had the flamboyant Sam Bompas co-founder of Bompas & Parr, who specialise in flavour-based experience design, culinary research, architectural installations and contemporary food design.

From 2007, when Bompas & Parr was founded as a craft jellymonger, the studio has rapidly grown from just Sam Bompas and Harry Parr to its current complement of ten - a team of creative specialists, designers, architects, cooks, technicians and administrators who work across a wide range of projects.

Projects include a fruit salad inspired jelly boating lake in Kew Gardens, multi-sensory fireworks for London’s New Year’s Eve celebrations and a neon jelly chamber.

Sam strode onto the stage in his shiny shirt and colourful trousers and immediately asked for a volunteer. After a rather lengthy pause, a brave member of the audience came forward. His job was to time Sam’s talk. But instead of holding a stop-watch, he was asked to hold a small piece of Gallium, on the basis that it would take about 15 minutes to melt in his hand. There was the slight problem due to the poisonous nature of Gallium, so a rubber glove was added.

Sam started his talk by telling us he has never taken on investment, and doesn’t really aim to make money - just to have fun with new ideas.

He skipped through a set of intriguing slides, ranging from architectural jellies to a breast bouncy castle recently installed in the New York Museum of Sex for an erotic themed event.

Sam’s ‘lightbulb’ moment was eating an expensive jar of mushroom pate from his local Borough Market, and discovering it only contained about three percent mushrooms. He reasoned the same principle applied to Jelly, except on a more extreme level, and with water instead of butter. How could they not make lots of money?

Unfortunately the jelly stall project got off to a bad start as they couldn’t afford the moulds, discovered jelly making is actually really difficult, and Borough Market said no. But the jelly idea stuck and they combined Harry Parr’s architectural training to produce a jelly mould of St Pauls Cathederal.

Jelly St Pauls

They learned the tricky technique of jelly making the hard way, with regular outbreaks of the dreaded ‘jelly finger’, But sadly never mastered the ambitious ‘wobbly bridge’ jelly.  Another lesson was that it very difficult to make large sculptures made of jelly even with the best made moulds.

The next step was to hold an architectural jelly banquet, for which the tickets sold out in days. The only problem was the high expectations of their customers, which they met by making the banquet an experiential event.

As you can probably tell, Sam is always thinking about the next project. His most important tip was to do something you love, and that stories are crucial in business.

He wouldn’t leave the stage without a quick demonstration of his current obsession - gherkin light-bulbs. He plucked three from a jar and pushed them onto a rather dangerous looking contraption. On the count of three from the audience he plugged this device into the mains. At this point I was glad to be sitting at the back of the room. However, there was no explosion, and after a short delay the gherkins glowed brightly.

Later on during our Questions and Answers session, moderator Matthew Rock mentioned that Bompas and Parr’s financial records seemed quite healthy, and all this talk of Jelly and parties were on a profitable business.


Neil Infield and Seema Rampersad on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

24 September 2014

What’s new on… eMarketer

One of the resources we provide here at the British Library Business & IP Centre is free access to a Computer imagenumber 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.

Emarketer-logo-primaryThis month, we take a look at the eMarketer database, which provides international market research and trend analysis on internet, e-business, online marketing, media, mobile, and emerging technologies. eMarketer is particularly useful for those in a digital/technology focused industry or start-up, however, as most businesses now incorporate some element of ‘digital’ - from selling online, to social media - it also provides useful insights for entrepreneurs and employees across a number of sectors.

The reports bring together information from approximately 2,800 sources, including research firms, trade associations, consultancies, government agencies and universities. All research is globally focused and information is compiled into reports, charts, articles, interviews, webinars and newsletters. eMarketer is easy to search, with a versatile interface allowing both simple and/or complex search strategies. It’s particularly strong on data and statistics, with most reports including tables, charts and graphs.

Readers can download up to 10 reports per day.

eMarketer update their reports on a very regular basis, so there are lots of new ones each month. Some selected recent highlights are:

UK Holiday Shopping Preview: A Merry Season Forecast for Ecommerce

A look at UK ecommerce sales forecasts for the Christmas period, including statistics and trends. 

Healthcare Marketing to Baby Boomers: Helping the 'Forever Young' Age on Their Own Terms 

Examining the 'Baby Boomer' consumer demographic, with trends, issues and statistics. 

Digital Usage in the UK: Midyear 2014 Complete eMarketer Forecast

Comprehensive set of key metrics for the UK digital participation, including internet, mobile phones and social media users. 

UK Content Markeeting: Meeting the Challenge of Being Seen and Shared

Report looking at content marketing attitude and options, with a particular focus on the increasingly important role social media is playing in both its distribution and dissemination. 

Worldwide B2C Ecommerce: Q3 2014 Complete Forecast 

Ecommerce image

Comprehensive forecasts for business-to-customer ecommerce sales 



UK Cross-Channel Commerce: Keeping track of complex consumer journeys 


Report considering some of the current cross-channel behaviours UK shoppers and buyers display, their prevalence, and how retailers and marketers are trying - or failing - to keep up.

UK Social Networking Trends: Mobile is Becoming the New Normal 

Examining the size and composition of the social network user base in the UK, how these users are accessing the various platforms and what this means for marketers looking to reach them. 

22 September 2014

Book review - Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz

LeanAnalytics-coverAs a start-up, you may ask yourself why data analysis is important your business. According to Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz, authors of Lean Analytics, taking a long, hard look at some statistics is for “anyone trying to make his or her organisation more effective”.

A useful resource for anyone using the Lean Startup approach, the book offers insight into the fundamentals of why you need data to succeed, and what data that should be to help you get your product to market in an efficient and cost effective manner.

The book starts with the basics, builds up a scenario and then demonstrates a real-life example using case studies, for example, explaining the differences between quantitative and qualitative data, suggesting you need both statistics and user feedback to get a real sense of what’s working and what’s not, then how this was applied to an actual business.

Lean Analytics helps you to grasp not just what a metric is, but what a valuable metric is, and what this can do for your business. You may have a product for a group, but what niche are you attracting? How do you utilise that information? This book will help you make more informed decisions will could potentially save you time and money – and steer you towards a breakthrough moment. For example, did you know photo-sharing site Flickr started life as a chat? Remember, the Lean Startup listens to what its customers want!

From looking at how much a customer spends on an e-commerce platform to website design to software as a service, Lean Analytics helps you to develop the right questions to ask and what to do with those answers without getting lost in jargon or losing sight on what data actually represents – actual people – your customers.

Nadia Kuftinoff on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

11 September 2014

Healthcare Industry Market Research in the Business & IP Centre

With all of the great market research databases available in the Business & IP Centre there is a danger that the reports we have in printed format might get overlooked. This would be a mistake because there are some really useful publications to be found on the shelves.

If you are researching the healthcare industry, you may be interested to learn that we have quite a few reports from two of the major healthcare industry analysts, Laing Buisson and Espicom.

Laing Buisson is the UK’s foremost provider of market intelligence on the private healthcare sector.  They also cover the community care and childcare sectors.

Laing Buisson logo

Among the reports you can find in the Centre is Laing’s Healthcare Market Review, which is widely regarded in the industry as the definitive analysis of the independent healthcare sector in the UK.  This is an invaluable reference for decision makers in both the private and public sectors.  We currently have the 2013/2014 edition in the Business & IP Centre at shelf reference (B)MKT 362.102541 Business.

Other recently published reports in the collection include: Children’s Nurseries 2013 – (B)MKT 338.47362712094105 Business; Health Cover UK Market Report 2013 – (B)MKT 338.473683820094105 Business; and Domiciliary Care 2013 – (B)MKT 338.47362140808460941 Business.

You can find full details of all the Laing Buisson reports we hold by entering the search terms (B)MKT Laing into our online catalogue.

Another highly respected analyst in the healthcare industry is Espicom.  Like Laing Buisson, Espicom is a UK-based publisher.  Their reports cover a wide range of healthcare related subjects such as the developments in the treatment of cancer, cardiovascular drugs, drug delivery methods, pharmaceutical generics, medical imaging, orthopaedics, cardiovascular devices, in vitro diagnostics and diabetes.  They also publish country specific reports.

Espicom logo

We have over 150 Espicom reports in the Business & IP Centre.  Recently published titles include: Physician-based Point-of-care Diagnostics: Products, Players and Outlook to 2017 - (B)MKT 338.47616075 Business; Advances in Molecular Imaging 2013: a Market Coming of Age - (B)MKT 338.47681761 Business; and the regional volumes of the Medical Device Intelligence Report 2013 - (B)MKT 338.4761020943 Business.

You can find a full list of all of the Espicom reports held in the Business & IP Centre on our catalogue. Enter the search terms (B)MKT Espicom.

Michael Pattinson on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

10 September 2014

New database in the Business & IP Centre: Local Data Online

Adding to the extensive list of databases that we currently have, we have also now introduced a new database at the Business & IP Centre: Local Data Online (LDO).

LDO complements our existing market research and company databases by providing insights into the ever-changing UK retail and leisure landscape, allowing users to instantly understand the health and make-up of high streets, retail parks and shopping centres. Field researchers from the company spend over 2,000 hours a week in the field collecting and aggregating information for the database.

The database’s functionality allows you to search and extract information in a number of helpful ways. You can examine the retail make-up of a particular location – for instance a city, town or region – with the results displayed on a map. Retail units are then broken down by industry classification, so users would be able to pinpoint, for instance, the number of coffee shops in a certain area - and see what percentage of the whole this number represents.

They can also download location summaries, and lists of companies along with addresses and contact details.  Key statistics include the number of vacant units, opening and closure rates, and the mix of independent and chain businesses.

Local Data Company blog image 1

A second method of searching is by industry classification. Type in your industry sector – for instance ‘cafés & fast food’ - and your region, and the database will show you the top 20 companies in this industry/area, the growth or decline rates by units or net change, and distribution between high street, shopping centres, retail parks, and other.  

Finally, you can choose to look at the ‘retailer overview’, which gives location coverage details for specific companies, and percentage change over the last year. This feature allows you to compare up to 5 companies, so you could examine the retail presence across the country for Costa Coffee versus Starbucks, for example.

  Local Data Company blog image 2

Local Data Online is useful for a number of reasons – to examine geographical trends, research local opportunities or competition, assess the suitability of a particular location for your business, or to create marketing lists. For instance, an entrepreneur opening a new coffee shop may wish to examine the make-up of an area to see if there are already lots of similar businesses already operating, or look at the mix of independents and chains to see how their business would fit in.

They could also look at the number of vacant units and openings and closures to examine the general retail health of the area. Suppliers of coffee beans, on the other hand, may wish to use the map functions to create a list of coffee shops in their locality that they could then market their product to. Or, if they want to research a particular B2B customer, the retailer profile would illustrate the company’s coverage across the country and the growth/decline rates of their outlets.

To access Local Data Online you need to visit the Business & IP Centre reading room. Find out more

Sally Jennings on behalf of Business & IP Centre 

09 September 2014

Using Netmums to find local business listings

Netmums-logo-1339067868Recently I found myself talking to a reader who was intending to set up a small business in Orpington. One of the questions she asked me was: How can I do some basic market research? Well, there are plenty of sources that can give an overview of how the market in her particular business is doing in the UK as a whole, but she was chiefly interested in her local area.

One obvious question she needed to research was: What similar businesses are already operating in my area? Looking in the Yellow Pages  would be helpful, but I found another source that slightly surprised me, but nonetheless I can highly recommend: Netmums. (Not to be confused with Mumsnet, which is similar, but different.)

Founded in 2000, Netmums is the UK's fastest-growing online parenting organisation with over 1.7 million members and 8 million unique users each month. It is a family of local sites that cover the UK, each site offering information to mothers on everything from where to find playgroups and how to eat healthily to where to meet other mothers.  

Among many other things, Netmums gives local listings of small businesses that they could find useful  – and that means a very broad range of businesses, indeed.

Under four broad headings:  
1.    Household Help
2.    Other Local Services
3.    Women and Holistic
4.    Business Help

It has some three dozen categories, ranging all the way from Garden Services to Website Design and PC Repairs, by way of Hair, Nails, Beauty and Tanning, Food Banks, Driving Instructors, and much more.

What I particularly like is how it lists businesses not only in the town I ask for (when I typed in Orpington, it suggested Bromley to me, so I went with that), but also ranged further afield into neighbouring towns, within I estimated about 20 minutes’ driving time. This is just the sort of information that a hopeful start-up will need: if I want to start up in business as, say, a kitchen-fitter in Harpenden, I will want to know what other kitchen- fitters are already operating in nearby towns such as Luton or Welwyn Garden City – and Netmums will give me a list.

However, it may be fair to say that Netmums is not the clearest of websites to navigate.


Here are quick instructions on how to get to the local business listings:

  • Starting at the home page, click on Choose Location (at the top of the page), which leads you to a page with an interactive map and a Search box – you can use either.
  • If you type the name of your town in the Search-box, it gives you the regions that this name maps onto.
  • Click on one, and you will be given the options Join (wherever) or Log In as a guest.
  • Once you have chosen one of these, you get to your region’s local page. Now click on Local Services – a rather inconspicuous link near the top of the page, towards the right-hand side.

I don’t know how many hard-pressed parents find this slightly hidden corner of the Netmums site, but for a would-be start-up it is well worth exploring.

Rupert Lee on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

08 September 2014

Your Brand and Your Promise

Just say two words to me and you’ll have my immediate attention – “Krispy Kreme”. The emotional impact that a deep fried, sugar glazed, circle of dough has on me is a mystery even to myself. But an effect it has. It may be the associated sugar rush but I can still receive my sugar fix from other foods. So what it is it about those “Krispy Kreme’s” that gets my pulse up?

It all comes down to one thing, the brand.


“Krispy Kreme” along with countless other well-known brands carries a certain power, an allure. They have an emotional effect. Just pronouncing those words has me salivating but the psychological association is even more powerful because I associate a Krispy Kreme doughnut with treats. And we all like to treat ourselves, sometimes on a pretty regular basis.

This is part of the power of brand because it builds loyalty and my committing to spend money because of how it makes me feel.

That’s why every business needs to do serious work on their brand. And I mean serious. Get your brand right and you win customers and more important, keep them. It’s a truly fascinating area, so what I want to do is to introduce the concept and encourage you to pursue it further.

And the reason why I’m so in love with ‘brand’ is because I’ve seen how it has transformed small businesses and not just the house hold names. On our Innovating for Growth programme we have a dedicated workshop and one-to-one advice on brand and this has made a real impact on many of the business’s growth.

The question then, is how?

If I were to sum up brand in a sound bite it would be this: your brand is your promise to your customers. It makes sense really. If I buy a luxury garment from a luxury clothing label, I expect the best material and the finest design. So if the zip breaks or the button falls off, the brand is tarnished and its power is lost. Why? It didn’t live up to its promise.

That’s why your brand has to stand for something to begin with. It has to communicate something that resonates with me, a potential consumer. If your brand is on my wavelength, then I will tune in and listen and, who knows, even buy from it.

The most common mistake early stage businesses make is that they think their brand is just their name and the iconography that goes with it. But it isn’t, it’s a whole lot more. The name and design is just a visual representation of your promise. The more true you are to your promise, the stronger an asset the visual identity can become.

Given this, you should also invest in trade marking your brand at an early stage. There are some things to be aware of and the Business & IP Centre can help you search for existing trade marks and point you to other areas of Intellectual Property support.

What promise then are you making to your customers? Your competitors are making promises and may well be taking business that should be yours. Or perhaps you’re making a promise that is so unique to a certain group that it’ll impact them right away. In doing this you need to appeal to the right senses and emotions to get your message heard through the noise.

Doughnuts of course are easily appealing, something like Information Technology isn’t. But with good branding it can be.

Let’s assume you’re an IT business providing a service to SMEs. Which promise sounds better, “We provide IT Solutions for your business” or “Our IT service saves you stress and time”? The latter surely because the problem is stated more clearly and an emotional button has been pushed. This is where developing and positioning your brand gets really interesting.

I would recommend studying the brands of your immediate competitors and also those who are larger than you. That helps you to position yourself in relation to them. Is your message clearer or more appealing to a particular segment? Look at different industries too as there may well be some interesting lessons to pick up from them.

Good brands have a personality and tone of voice. What’s the character behind your Innocent brand and can

you do something a little different with your brand personality to make it distinctive? The oft mentioned Innocent Smoothies gets it. That’s why their brand’s personality is so appealing.

This ‘personality’ (and there are many types you can explore) should then impact all your external and internal communication too. If your brand is true then it has to be true inside the business as well as out.

Dedicating focus on these things alone should get you results, not least an uptake in interest for your product and service. You can be as creative as you like with your brand but of course never so creative that you lose the very people you want to speak to!

FascinateThere is a lot of great writing around brand and plenty of helpful comment. On my recommended reading list is Sally Hogshead’s Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation. She identifies seven universal human triggers that fascinate; lust, mystique, alarm, prestige, power, vice and trust. Adding a couple of these ingredients alone will build real strength into your brand.

Now back to the doughnuts. If I were to analyse my fascination with Krispy Kreme, I would have to be honest that there are a number of primal instincts at play, a little bit of vice, a good dose of lust and a lot of trust because I know the experience of eating the doughnut will always be consistent.

It begs the question, what feeling, affection and loyalty does your business attract? If that’s a challenging question then maybe it’s the right question to ask because the answer will always lie in your brand.


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.

ERDF Logo Portrait Colour Web

02 September 2014

Trade marks during the Great War

This year we commemorate a turning point in world history with 100 years of the outbreak of the First World War, also known as the Great War. As with all parts of life, the war had a great impact on business and innovation.

In an attempt to find out how the war influenced the development of trade marks as means of branding and marketing, I searched the IPO trade mark database for marks registered in the UK during the First World War.  I found a couple of interesting examples of registered images, influenced by the war.

AllianceThe UK trade mark with the registration number UK00000122293, registered in April 1915, pictures two soldiers with British and French navy uniforms shaking hands and the word ALLIANCE in the middle. It was a trade mark for cotton sewing thread, owned by Albert Sewing Threads Limited.

The trade mark had direct relevance to the product and its use for the war. As is the case for most marks registered during that period, it is now dead because its registration had not been renewed.

However, a few marks registered during the Great War are still live. I particularly like one of the marks owned by Harrods, which was registered in July 1917 and is due for renewal on July 2021.

This trade mark with registration number UK00000378803 shows the image of a female figure that looks like the winged Roman Goddess Victoria or the equivalent Greek Goddess Nike, a symbol of victory. The figure sits on top of the Globe, holding a cornucopia or horn of plenty, a symbol of abundance and nourishment, with the phrase “Harrods Serve the World”.


Harrods Registered Trade Mark UK00000378803 on a product

The trade mark is registered for various goods, including foodstuff and substances related to food, beverages, tobacco etc., and directly relates to the products by picturing the cornucopia. But it is also interesting to see its relevance to the World and Victory that indirectly relates to victory in war.

However, if you check the other registered marks owned by Harrods you will notice a very similar trade mark registered 14 years earlier. Its relevance to the war might have been a coincidence or possibly a premonition.

In contrast to the worldwide abundance promised by the Harrods trade mark – possibly only to the winners – the negative economic consequences of the First World War were extensive for those defeated.

As part of the reparations Germany was forced to make after the end of the war, they agreed to release claims over certain intellectual property — such as the trade mark over the term aspirin for the painkiller acetylsalicylic acid.  The trade mark lost its registered status in the United Kingdom, France, Russia and the United States, where it became a generic name. However, it remains a registered trade mark of Bayer in Germany and in over 80 other countries.

It’s interesting to see just how much the First World War impacted on all aspects of life, not only in the short-term but also the long-term consequences on technology, innovation and business.

If you'd like to find out more about how trade marks might apply to your business, come along to one of our workshops or have a look at the guide on our website.

Irini Efthimiadou on behalf of the Business & IP Centre