Innovation and enterprise blog

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

07 July 2015

How to turn you design business into an iconic brand

Last night we were joined at the British Library by Sophie Conran, founder of design company, Sophie Conran; Safia Minney, founder and CEO of Fairtrade fashion label, People Tree; Antony Joseph, co-founder of homeware brand, Joseph Joseph and Tanya Sarne, founder of fashion label Ghost. As part of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs series the speakers shared the secrets of their success for turning their design businesses into big brands. 


Making It by Design panel Credit Luca Sage
Photo credit: Luca Sage



Here's their advice for building a successful business from scratch, and tips for how to stand out in the market. 

Sophie Conran


Sophie Conran credit Luca Sage
Photo credit: Luca Sage


The daughter of veteran designer Terence Conran and sister to Jaspar, Sophie grew up in an entrepreneurial environment. Here are her tips for starting and growing your business:


  • Be Prepared and always do your homework. Preparation is key.
  • Do a thorough business plan – constantly analyse and set yourself goals.
  • Be positive and be accountable. Be happy to blame yourself when something goes wrong.Be adaptive – things will never go exactly as you hope they will.
  • Operate good business relations. Enjoy the people you work with and find common ground. It is so important to get along with people.
  • Make sure your contract with collaborators gives you total control over your designs.
  • When taking on your first member of staff as a designer, hire someone for one day a week at first to see how it works out.
  • Visit the Business & IP Centre at the British Library for assistance.


Safia Minney


Safia Minney Credit Luca Sage
Photo credit: Luca Sage


Safia, founder of People Tree and pioneer in Fair Trade and sustainable fashion, started her business to support marginalised artisans in very rural areas and help to alleviate poverty. She gave her top 5 tips for aspiring business owners:


  • Get experience in the field that you want to start your business in
  • Surround yourself by people who you can trust and are better than you in their different specialisms
  • Learn to plan and do your numbers well
  • Build strong relationships with suppliers and key stakeholders
  • Trust your intuition      

Antony Joseph


Antony Joseph credit Luca Sage
Photo credit: Luca Sage


Like Sophie Conran, Antony was born into an entrepreneurial family. Together with his twin brother they launched Joseph Joseph kitchenware business. They didn’t go into business because they loved cooking, but rather because they loved solving consumer problems. Since they started they have launched over 300 chopping boards into the market along with a wide variety of other kitchen appliances and are now venturing into the waste management market. Here are Antony’s tips for being successful:


  • Be careful which distributors you choose: find the right one and you can start to have rapid growth.
  • Remain focused: remember who your customer is and what you can sell to them.
  • IP protection is expensive. Ensure you can trust your distributors and protect your designs in your key markets.
  • If you have your products made in China, don't put all your products through one factory. Let several compete for your business
  • Avoid competing with yourself by covering different price points and categories.



Tanya Sarne


Tanya Sarne credit Luca Sage
Photo credid: Luca Sage



Fashion icon Tanya Sarne started in fashion sportswear and then noticed a gap in the market for middle range quality fashion and launched ‘Ghost’. The label quickly expanded and became one of Britain’s best loved brands. She has now delegated her business operations globally and so can focus on her designs for new label ‘Sarne’. Here’s what she learned along the way:

  • Be positive and fun with what you do
  • Make mistakes but recover quickly
  • Proper entrepreneurs need a challenge in their life
  • If you are looking to hire someone, try someone out for a year and see how it works out
  • Trust your instincts
  • Be nice to your staff, suppliers and customers
  • Get experience in the business, identify your market and USP, work hard and take risks
  • Know you’re going to have to work harder than ever before
  • If you have a positive and inspiring atmosphere around you it spreads out


The panel also answered some of your burning questions - watch the video for some highlights:




Come along to our next Inspiring Entrepreneurs event which will celebrate the contributions of Black British entrepreneurs and creative talent in the UK with a panel including: MOBO CEO and Founder Kanya King MBE; June Sarpong MBE, TV presenter and Founder of Lipgloss Productions; Yinka Ilori, Designer and Levi Roots, Reggae Reggae entrepreneur and MOBO nominated musician. Book now



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