Innovation and enterprise blog

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

7 posts from March 2015

27 March 2015

Self-service photography comes to the Business & IP Centre

Self-service photography was introduced to the British Library at the beginning of January this year, and since Monday 16 March it has been extended into the Business & IP Centre here in St Pancras.

You are now able to use your own smartphones, tablets and compact cameras to make copies of collection items in the Centre. This arrangement only covers printed items and does not include taking photos of any of the databases on our computer screens.

Before taking photographs you should watch these videos on photography and collection handling and read our guidelines on self-service photography.


You should be fully aware of Copyright and Privacy Laws:

• If an item is still in copyright you can only copy a certain amount. We recommend you only copy a book chapter, an article, or no more than 5% of an in copyright work for your own private study or non-commercial research purposes.

• You may copy more if you have permission from the copyright holder, but you will need to bring in proof.

• You may also copy more than 5% if copyright has expired.

• The Data Protection Act of 1998 and other privacy laws may apply to the use of any information obtained from our collections.

• You are responsible for any copies made which infringe copyright, data protection, privacy, or other laws.

This is a substantial change to existing practice in the Business & IP Centre, so please bear with us as we get to grips with the practicalities of the new arrangements. Please also show consideration for your fellow visitors by making sure your device is switched to silent mode before you start snapping away!

If you have any queries about the new service or, or comments about how it is being rolled out you can tweet @BL_Ref_Services or speak to staff in the Centre.

20 March 2015

Five tips for understanding intellectual property

Every business has intellectual property (IP) of some sort. However, when working out how to manage and protect it, it can be hard to know where to start! Below are some of our tips for businesses who want to begin understanding and managing their IP.

1.       Understand the different types of intellectual property

There are many different types of intellectual property protection, covering areas from art to inventions. The main ones are copyright, trademarks, patents, and designs, but know-how and trade secrets are also forms of IP commonly found within businesses. Your business may have more than one of these types, so understanding how they work, how they’re protected and the differences between the different types is essential.

2.       IP audit

Conduct a basic IP audit of your business. What IP do you have, is it protected, and how long does that protection last? Do you licence any of your IP to other people? Is there any associated costs/income? Putting this information together in one document will help you to plan your IP strategy, and keep track of your assets.

3.       Check your agreements and licences

IP use is often governed by contracts and licences. If you are commissioning work, is IP covered in your agreements with the contractor? If you licence other people’s IP, do you keep records of the licences? Employment contracts often also include an IP clause, and you may have non-disclosure agreements to cover trade secrets. An overview of your paperwork will help ensure that you haven’t missed anything.

4.       Embed IP within your business strategy

IP doesn’t exist in isolation from the rest of your business. Whilst IP can be a business asset, applying for protection often has associated costs, so it’s good practice to assess your IP strategy as part of your overall business plan, rather than separately.

5.       Seek help!

There are plenty of resources for businesses looking to find out more about intellectual property. Here at the Business & IP Centre we run a number of workshops and webinars covering IP topics. Our next webinar ‘Intellectual Property for Business’, funded by the Intellectual Property Office, is coming up on the 27 March 2015, and will give you a good understanding of the basics.

The Intellectual Property Office also has a number of tools to help businesses, including the ‘IP Health Check’ and ‘IP Equip’.  

For legal advice, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and Institute of Trademark Attorneys are good places to start. We strongly advise you to ask a patent or trade mark attorney before proceeding with using or applying for rights.

Sally Jennings on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

12 March 2015

A business boost for libraries

Eric Pickles meets entrepreneur Guy Jeremiah at the British Library Business & IP Centre

The Department for Communities and Local Government and Arts Council England announced that they will dedicate £400,000 funding to support the British Library’s ambition to transform UK city libraries into hubs for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The British Library will also make a contribution of £253k in cash and non-cash resources.

The funding will provide a boost to enterprise in Exeter and Northamptonshire, enabling Exeter Central Library and Northamptonshire Libraries to pilot a Business & IP Centre service to support local entrepreneurs.

It will also enable the British Library to consolidate the network of Business & IP Centres already operational in six cities across the UK, and reinforce the important work the Centres do to engage local communities and disadvantaged groups in innovation and entrepreneurship.

The success of the British Library’s own Business & IP Centre service is evidence that libraries have an important role to play in helping businesses to innovate and grow: the London Centre has helped to create 2,775 businesses and an additional 3,345 jobs in new and existing businesses from 2005-2012. Overall, these businesses increased their turnover by £153 million, which in turn made a contribution of £47.1 million in GVA to London’s economy[1].

Libraries also have a strong record of attracting communities from a wide range of backgrounds; an estimated 41% of Enterprising Libraries participants are women, 38% are from BAME groups and 10% are currently unemployed.   

In the six Business & IP Centres already open around the UK (in Newcastle, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield), local entrepreneurs can receive face-to-face advice and training on how to start, protect or grow their business, and can access market research databases and other information out of reach for most SMEs.

Eric Pickles meets entrepreneur Marsha Brown at the British Library Business & IP Centre

Entrepreneur and recent success story of the Business & IP Centre network, Marsha Brown, used existing Northamptonshire business services (Library Plus Enterprise Hub and Northampton Enterprise Partnership) to set up her dress-making and design business ‘Solo Flair’ in 2012. As a result of the support she received, Marsha successfully expanded her customer base and now employs 3 part-time staff, while working around her family.  She now supports other new business start-ups and gives talks to local schools about starting a career and following your dreams. 

The British Library’s vision is that there will be a UK-wide network of Centres in libraries by the end of the decade, supporting local economic growth and innovation and providing free business support across the country.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said

Public libraries are of huge value to local communities. As familiar and trusted public places, and access points to vast amounts of free information, libraries also have powerful potential as engines of innovation and growth.

As outlined in the Living Knowledge vision published earlier this year, our ambition is to open 20 Business & IP Centres in public libraries across the UK by 2020.

It is hugely exciting to welcome the library teams in Exeter and Northamptonshire into the Business & IP Centre network, and I extend our thanks to both the Department of Communities and Local Government and Arts Council England for enabling us to take another key step towards our goal.”

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

The formal business environment can be an intimidating place, but it needn’t be. Enterprising Libraries give people from all backgrounds the opportunity to go and get free expert advice from their library, and receive the support they need to make the most of their great ideas.

“Local communities are untapped business resources – filled with capable and bright individuals who just need a helping hand. By extending the Enterprising Libraries funding today, we can help grow Britain’s ever expanding pool of entrepreneurial talent and ensuring that local economic growth is supported across the country.”

Brian Ashley, Director, Libraries, Arts Council England, said:

 “Libraries are an important part of all our lives, bringing communities together and also providing a vital hub for knowledge and information exchange. The success of the Business & IP Centres illustrates their important role in providing business support to those communities and we are pleased to be able to continue to support this work. This additional funding will build on the success of the Enterprising Libraries programme, sustaining the impact of this project to support more entrepreneurs across England.

1. Source: Adroit Economics, based on Seven Up Census, April 2012  

08 March 2015

Supporting female entrepreneurs

Happy International Women’s Day to all! Here in the Business & IP Centre we have been successful in supporting female entrepreneurs and greatly increasing their chances of success.  Just last week we hosted ‘Celebrating Women in Business Conference’ organised and run by Enterprising Women. Enterprising Women are the largest national organisation solely focused on female enterprise. The conference brought together influential speakers in the run up to International Women’s Day including the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities’ and the Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham CH DL.

Inspired by successful women

We also run a series of major events called Inspiring Entrepreneurs, which feature a panel of role model entrepreneurs sharing their personal stories of setting up and running a business and giving their top tips to aspiring entrepreneurs.  The panels always include influential women including the late Dame Anita Roddick, Martha Lane Fox co-founder of, Kanya King founder of MOBO Awards, Julie Deane founder of the Cambridge Satchel and Cath Kidston to name but a few.

Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of

Of course International Women’s Day is a special celebration of achievement, but in the Centre we support women entrepreneurs all throughout the year - from that first spark of inspiration to starting up a business and growing it. Many women attend our regular programme of workshops, clinics and networking events surrounded by other entrepreneurs and small business owners. We have helped Dana Elemera founder of Arganic, Gemma Pearce founder of Loopwheels and Jessica Rose founder of the London Jewellery School among many more


Business & IP Centre by numbers 

  • Since we opened in 2006, we have welcomed over 400,000 people through the doors, including repeat visits
  • Delivered practical advice and training to over 50,000 people last year, 60% of those were women
  • The latest statistics from the Small Business Survey published by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills showed that only 1 in 5 businesses are owned by women
  • However, we helped to create 2,775 businesses over the period 2006-2012, of which 40% were owned by women, 29% by ethnic minority groups and 10% by disabled people

We are currently conducting another impact study so we expect the percentage of women to be even higher.


Across the country

We are now replicating the Business & IP Centre model across the country and have set up a network of six Centres in major city libraries, many of which are truly iconic buildings – they are accessible to all and some even have crèche facilities. Our latest stats show that our library partners have also been successful in attracting women, with exactly half of people attending workshops and one-to-one clinics being female and 30% being from ethnic minority groups.

Mandy Haberman, the inventor and founder of the non-spill AnyWayUp cup - cup, is just one of many successful female entrepreneurs who have used the Library to research and protect their idea, as well as learn the essential skills to set up and run a business.  She called the Centre a ‘safe house’ for inventors and entrepreneurs like herself. We’re open to all and we’ve got a great track record in supporting female entrepreneurs - do come and use our services. 

04 March 2015

Hiring – The Hardest Choice

When is it a good time to employ someone for your new and growing business? This can be one of the most agonising decisions to make as a business owner and it can feel a risk that outweighs the reward.

In the last three years we’ve supported over 200 businesses on our Innovating for Growth programme at the British Library, and as a Relationship Manager I’ve had the privilege of seeing first-hand how this key decision can be the very thing that allows the business to grow to the next stage.

Why Employ?

There are only 24 hours in a day and we need a few of those hours to sleep, not least other commitments like family, friendships and dare I say some time to enjoy life outside the business! I’ve met a good number of super-heroes that some how juggle the lot, but the reality is that with so many spinning plates, one of them will eventually drop. Just hope that one of those plates doesn’t break the business itself!

So if you want the business to grow beyond being an artisan/owner, it’ll be you that needs to recruit.

Strategy advisor for Innovating for Growth, Uday Thakkar believes that what holds people back from employing people is a perception of too much risk.

“Is employing someone a cost or an investment? Your language often guides your perception of risk. An employee frees you to do more. An employee can do things better in areas where you are uncomfortable or unskilled. They assist the business to grow and increase profits. They should be regarded as an investment.”

Uday Thakkar

Who to Employ?

Writing a good job description is of course vital. It’s the means by which you attract the right candidates and it serves as defining what the job is all about by clearly outlining the required qualifications, experience and abilities you expect from the jobholder. This acts as a safeguard if you find a recruit doesn’t fulfill expectations too.

But it’s not always possible to get recruitment right first time because it’s not just finding a good employee; it’s finding one that fits the values and behaviours of the company itself. Not finding that match can take away time and energy rather than add it. By having a clear expectation of the role means you can measure performance and take action appropriately if needed.

Terry Morgan, Director of Debaere, a business who has been on Innovating for Growth, acknowledges this and says recruiting can be time consuming, especially if applicants aren’t necessarily committed. He has some hard earned advice.

“When we go through this process we try to provide as much information as we can on the style of business we are, the type of work expected and the general conditions of employment.”

But there is an up-side.  “When we do get a new starter it does work out for the better. It is good to add new blood to the mix of employees and sometimes they bring new skills or ideas that help the business grow. Patience is definitely required in recruiting and I would suggest using an agency for senior staff as they tend to do all the vetting for you.”



Richard Marshall, owner of Pall Mall Barbers, has grown his business from 1 employee in 2005 to 25 employees in ten years, expanding to three locations in central London with a fourth opening up soon in Liverpool Street. Richard knows all about the difficulties and benefits too and has some sage advice around selecting the right people.

Crucial for him are employees with the right attitude. “Choosing the right person pays dividends and will multiply the time you have.” 

How to Employ?

Richard has found that having a robust selection process really helps. He advertises, receives CVs, will find out more about the applicant by phone and then interviews them face to face. By then he’s satisfied he’s got a good match for the business. Richard offers more advice around managing recruitment, “wherever possible outsource. I’ve outsourced my HR functions to a company and receive proper advice on issues if any come up”. This gives Richard the time to build and expand the business which of course helps to safeguard the very jobs he’s created.


Front Traf Store (1)
Pall Mall Barbers

Getting it right with the right advice

I mentioned the risk of no return at the outset. Of course taking someone on is not without its risks but seeking out the right advice at the right time will save you hassle and money in the long run.

Uday again has a view on this;

“Most employees are taken on with at least a three month probation period. If someone isn’t performing or is good at disguising major shortcomings, despite CV reviews and interviews, we all reckon that within a few days we can make a pretty good judgment as to whether the person will fit in or not. So the maximum risk to you is 3 months – that is £9,000 even if you are reticent about showing them the door earlier. If you are brave (and you have to be to be a business owner) then you should be dealing with poor performers immediately. The cost is then likely to be a month or less – say £3,000. On the other hand a good employee will rapidly cover their “cost” and generate profits.”

There is, of course, help along the way. As a business owner you needn’t take the plunge in isolation. Stay connected with other businesses your size, talk to other business owners who have done what you’re doing. Where needed seek out legal help or HR advice.

The recent Business is Great campaign also provides some helpful guidance around what you need to know.

The Business & IP Centre already has a solid track record of supporting employment for our business users. Based on a 2012 survey we’ve helped created an additional 3,345 jobs, while on the Innovating for Growth programme each business on average has created at least one job and helped to secure their own sustainability. This allows for even more employment medium to long term. A good place to start in the Centre is to check out the COBRA business advice database.   It has some useful checklists for first time-employers.

And with a growing network of Business & IP Centres across the country that’s even more reason to check out what help you can receive at your local Centre. And if you’re an established London based business the Innovating for Growth programme could just be the thing for you to take to the next stage of growth. 

Micro-businesses’ massive contribution

There’s also something a lot bigger at play here and it has everything to do with the health of our economy. A whopping 96% of businesses in the UK are micro businesses that employ up to 9 people, with small businesses in total making 48% of private sector employment (source: BIS Business Population Estimates 2014). 

But we shouldn’t forget that statistics are real people, with hopes and dreams. Employment provides people with a future, an identity, self-esteem and opportunities to progress in life for them and those around them. And working for an SME can be a great opportunity to pick up a broad range of skills and insight if the employee is motivated to learn and be resourceful.

Recruit, yes or no? If you’re running out of hours in the day, am spending too much time on tasks that take you away from what you really want to do then it’s a question that can’t be ignored. With the right advice and timing, employing someone could well be break that brings new talent, time and opportunities.

Jeremy O’Hare is a Relationship Manager for the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme. Since joining the British Library in 2005 he has worked with countless businesses, facilitating advice and research as well as providing workshops and information advice for start-ups and established businesses.

ERDF Logo Portrait Colour Web

Innovating for Growth is run by the British Library and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund 


Take part in our survey and help shape our future!

As a valued user of the British Library Business & IP Centre and its services, we would like to hear from you about the difference we have made to you and your business – by taking part in our survey.

Your participation is crucial in helping to secure future funding and ensuring that we continue to meet your needs.

We would be extremely grateful if you would spend 5-7 minutes to complete this questionnaire, which aims to evaluate the Enterprising Libraries programme, jointly supported by the British Library, Arts Council England and Department for Communities & Local Government.  The Enterprising Libraries Programme includes the Business & IP Centre national network and ten satellite library projects.

The findings will be analysed by Adroit Economics (an independent market research company) and used to demonstrate our economic and social impact and generate funding for future projects and services. Your responses and contact information will be treated in the strictest confidence and will not be shared in any form with anyone else without your permission.

As an incentive, your name will be entered into a prize draw and you could be one of 5 people to win an iPad Air 2.

Click here to complete the survey by 14 April 2015.

If you have any questions about the survey please contact Christina Murphy [email protected] 




02 March 2015

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains

Last Monday’s Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains event at the British Library brought together founders of the Cambridge Satchel Company; Julie Deane, Ella’s Kitchen; Paul Lindley and Naked Wines; Eamon Fitzgerald to share their experiences of fast growth, including the challenges and rewards.

All three businesses went from zero to multimillion pound turnovers in a relatively short period of time, aided by digital technology.

  • Ella’s Kitchen, is the biggest baby food business in the UK, turning over circa £100m last year and sold in over 30 countries
  • The Cambridge Satchel Company, which started in 2008, has a £13m turnover
  • Naked Wines, which started the same year, has 250,000 prepaying customers, 120 wine makers on the books and a £67m annual turnover
Pictured from left to right: Richard Phelps, Executive for Entrepreneurs at Barclays, Paul Lindley, Julie Deane and Eamon Fitzgerald
Richard Phelps, Executive for Entrepreneurs at Barclays, Paul Lindley, Julie Deane and Eamon Fitzgerald

Julie Deane noted passion was important for a business' success. She was very geeky at school and no-one who knew her would have thought she would end up at the helm of a company which featured at London Fashion Week. “It shows that you can change direction if you have a passion for something."

Deane's motivation for starting a business was to get her children into a good private school, a goal she achieved with only £600. Her mum had always told her it was bad to borrow, so she never has. “Borrowing money makes you scared so you cannot be as free to do something fantastic.” The limited budget meant she had to be creative and learn new skills. She built her own website through a free tutorial and saw exporting as “a different label on the parcel.” She used her children to model the bags and paid them with a Mars bar each. They also starred in her Google advert.

The Cambridge Satchel Company, product examples.
The Cambridge Satchel Company

Deane contacted fashion bloggers who were attending New York Fashion Week to generate word of mouth and since then the bags have been seen on the shoulders of Taylor Swift and Alex Chung, and featured on hit TV shows Girls and The Good Wife.

Deane now employs 120 people, producing over 900 bags a day in a factory based in Leicester, selling to Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales.

Eamon Fitzgerald spoke about the business model for Naked Wines being built upon customers grouped as ‘Angels’ investing £20 a month in the company, in return they enjoy insider prices of 25% - 50% off retail wines prices. The longest serving customers are involved in the consultation of new ideas, with opportunities to taste new wines.

Fitzgerald recalled how Naked Wines’ ‘Angels’ raised £2,500 in one afternoon to help an independent wine producer whose stock had been vandalised. He said campaigns like these motivated staff and customers and set aside his brand from competitors.

Eamon Fitzgerald, conducting a talk at the Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains event hosted by the Business & IP Centre at the British Library
Eamon Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald had the following tips for business success:

  1. Have a product that is better than your competitors
  2. Cut out overheads for customers and build a fan base based on strong values such as supporting small wine growers
  3. Invest in talent rather than sales
  4. Treat your best customers well

Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, finished the panel recalling how he was inspired by his daughter Ella when he used games to make food fun and entice her to eat. He was working at Nickelodeon at the time, which meant he had a good knowledge of what children like and how they relate to brands. 

Lindley noticed most baby food was aimed at parents, Ella’s Kitchen is different. It is healthy organic food, but the packaging and combination of foods makes it appealing to children. The bright pouches the company uses were unique at the time, “it was important to me to engage all their senses and to think like a child.” He wanted to be “different and create the next generation of toddler and baby food. The other brands had not changed and were very functional. We created a brand that was emotional because when you have a baby you are at your most emotional.”

Ella’s Kitchens' product examples.
Ella’s Kitchen

Customer values were at the heart of his brand and Lindley’s mission was to improve children’s health by giving them a good relationship with food. Lindley is now focusing on a new start-up, Paddy’s Bathroom. It’s a range of fun organic bathroom products named after his son and the social message is much more upfront. For each drop of water children uses to wash themselves a village in Rwanda gets a drop of clean water.

Lindley’s five steps to success echoed Fitzgerald’s and Dean’s advice earlier in the evening;

  1. Strong brand values
  2. Putting the customer first
  3. Building an “awesome team”
  4. Going on instinct
  5. Promoting social responsibility

All three speakers stressed how important it was to reward their employees, for instance, by offering them shares in the business or giving them stock. Lindley said it was vital to recruit based on mind-set rather than skillset and all said their first recruits were the most important, promoting the “need to invest in recruiting the right people.” Equally important in the success of each of their businesses was story-telling. Lindley said “A story is so important to a business and telling that story is so important to the success of the business.”

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains was broadcast live via webinar and screening events in the Leeds Business & IP Centre and the Manchester Business & IP Centre. Also, featured introductions by local speakers Eric Hawthorn from Radio Design Ltd and Chris Bird from Bird Consultancy.

You can now rewatch, Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains on our YouTube Channel BIPCTV. On this channel you can further find out about some of our success stories, and also watch some of our celebrity speakers during our Inspiring Entrepreneur events.



The British Library’ Business & IP Centre offers workshops and resources for anyone looking to start a business. The Centre’s Innovating for Growth programme provides free customised help to small businesses based in London, helping them to grow and flourish.

Hanna Fayaz on behalf of the Business & IP Centre