Innovation and enterprise blog

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

8 posts from July 2015

31 July 2015

Social Media for Small Businesses: Finding Your Feet

Social media is very powerful in this digital age – in a single minute, around 3.3 million pieces of new content are uploaded to Facebook, 347,000 tweets are posted on Twitter, and 38,000 people upload pictures to their Instagram feed. Each social media platform has its own individual character and way of engaging with audiences and unlocking this is the key to a successful social strategy.  However, it can be a bit daunting for beginners, so here are a few tips to help you find your feet.

Social Media_2

Decide on the right social platforms for you

Begin with a maximum of three social channels to increase your chances of successful engagement with your audience, and be sure that they suit your business objectives. For example, LinkedIn is largely a corporate channel, so it might not be a priority if you’re trying to reach the end-consumer, and Instagram is more likely to be used by the under 35s.

Don’t bombard your audience

Customers do not want to feel spammed, so be mindful that it’s not necessary to post multiple times a day if you have nothing interesting to say. Relevant, engaging content is what you should be aiming for and it’s easy to achieve this if you simply put yourself in the mind-set of your customer.

Visuals are key

Images are processed 6,000 times faster than text by the human brain, so your followers will be more engaged with your content if an image is part of the post. According to Twitter, an image will make your tweet five times more shareable, so a bank of relevant imagery is helpful for a successful social media strategy.

Keep an eye on your channels

On average, customers expect a response to their queries or comments within an hour, and research suggests that a solution should be reached within six hours to maintain customer satisfaction. For SMEs this is so important, as word of mouth is a key part of growing your customer base. It’s essential to keep your customers engaged until a solution is reached. Facebook in particular is helping this support process with its recently launched ‘Saved Replies’ feature, which allows admins to quickly respond to customer enquiries with pre-written responses, such as directing them to the Help Desk – a quick way to maintain customer satisfaction if you’re pressed for time.

Don’t be too ambitious too soon

Immediate results are unlikely for a smaller business engaging in social media, but if you are smart in your approach then tangible benefits will be realised before too long. The ultimate goal should be engagement with your audience, so measuring inbound as well as outbound social media activity is important. Winning advocacy of your products or services is of course your ultimate goal.


John Morris is COO of UK2 Group a global group of web hosting brands providing web hosting and internet services to savvy surfers, small businesses and blue chip giants alike. They are also a corporate partner of the Business & IP Centre. For more help with social media for your small business attend an introductory workshop in the Centre. 

29 July 2015

Top tips on online accounting for small business

Books are migrating to e-readers, music is being streamed and accounting is now happening in the cloud. This is the quiet revolution that accountants whisper but dare not speak aloud. Accounting software is dead; it’s online and upwards to the clouds. Online accounting has arrived.

Cloud computing

It may sound a touch over the top but it’s true. As a business, how you manage your books pretty much manages everything else. Your accounting is an important engine in your business. A well-oiled efficient system will reap rewards; a slow burner with too many miles will underperform and slow you down.

This is where online accounting in the cloud is so significant. Consigned to software history is the accounting package sold ‘out of a box’ installed onto your desktop, run on a local drive and perhaps backed up onto a different drive. It was fun while it lasted but now SMEs have multiple choices when it comes to doing their books.

And here lies the problem. Business owners are generally uncertain about how to choose an online accounting package that works for them. But help is at hand, outlined below are some helpful tips to help you decide on how to choose the best package.

Why choose online accounting?

It’s easy to say the future is online but what are the actual advantages?

  • Firstly, you can access it anytime, anywhere and aren’t bound to the PC in your office and you don’t need to keep installing updates
  • Being on the cloud means information can be easier to share as well
  • It can save considerable time and keeps your records up to date

The question then is which online accounting package to choose? There are numerous packages you can subscribe to out there. Xero and Quickbooks are making inroads but there are lots of others too. There are well over thirty providers of online accounting, so choosing the right one for you can feel overwhelming. The best thing to do is to narrow your focus by asking yourself a few of the following questions:

  • How long has the software been around? In other words, is it market tested?
  • Is the software UK compatible? Can it deal with VAT? You will need a system that works effectively for VAT returns.
  • Can it work with multi-currencies (if you need to trade overseas)?
  • Can it integrate with other software easily (known as API) such as CRM or invoicing programmes?
  • Will it securely connect into your bank account? This can be very helpful when it comes to bank reconciliation and looking at a live picture of the financial state of your business.
  • What is the level of customer support? Are you able to call or use chat while online?

Having confidence in the provider you choose is important as they will be presenting all the data and running all the reports for you. Reports are your window into what’s happening with the numbers in your business, so it’s vital you can see what’s going on clearly. It’s best to see if your accounting software can run any of these types of reports clearly and effectively:

  • Profit and Loss reports
  • Balance Sheets (divided monthly)
  • Company snapshots
  • Debtors and Creditors
  • Product and Inventory reports (if needed)
  • Employee and payroll

Test, test, test

Most of the major online accounting platforms will give you a free trial. Riz Wasti from 2E Accountants and participant on the Innovating for Growth programme recommends you test the software first to see how it works for you. He suggests doing the following:

“Most online software offer 30 days trial period. That’s your opportunity to test the software before relying on it. Use your real transactions, bank payments & receipts, sales invoices, bills and expenses, etc. Softwares will also have a Demo Company setup with data already entered. That’s your opportunity to play with the software”.

Migration to your online platform

Once you’ve selected the best online accounting package for you, do allow for time and some cost to migrate across from an existing platform. As ever, the devil is in the detail (and the numbers). Riz advises that:

Migrating data from an existing system can be complicated. It’s best to do it in stages, for example starting with sales invoices and bills in batches of months and reconcile bank statements for each month entered. The payment allocation process can be time consuming. Bank data can be uploaded in one go separately to sales and bills, but then bank payments need to match or be allocated.”

All the more reason to do all the research you can on finding the right online accounting package for you. The effort is sure to be well worthwhile in the medium to long term for your business.

If, like most business owners, you sometimes feel confused about your finances in the business, the Business & IP Centre has help available: from how-to guides on running your business, to workshops including “Get Cashflow Confident” with our ‘numbers coach’, Johnny Martin.  


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. 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. 

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28 July 2015

How to Get Press Coverage for Your Small Business

Jessica Huie MBE, an entrepreneur with 15 years media experience, founder of JH Public Relations and Color blind cards and partner to the Business & IP Centre, gives her advice on how start-ups and SMEs can generate PR for their business without spending a fortune.

Jessica Huie Public Relations


However brilliant or progressive your product or service, if nobody knows about it then your business will struggle to make sales, and a business without sales is doomed to fail. This is where PR can have a massive impact. Not so much a luxury as imperative for any business owner who wants to make their idea get off the ground, PR helps businesses to connect with their target audience, to mould a brand, establish differentiation from competitors, attract buyers and investors and can position business owners as experts in their field. If you truly mean business with your start-up venture, then you need to think seriously about public relations.

PR, which is in part marketing through third-party endorsement, is an extremely successful way to generate business and it complements the other, more ‘obvious’ forms of marketing. Today’s consumer is savvy. They see through blatant (and expensive) advertising campaigns. PR subtly increases awareness of a company and its products and services by positioning them in the public’s consciousness, not by waving it in front of their faces.

Believe in your brand

In order for your start-up business to get valuable press coverage, you first need to make sure you are confident about your brand and its ethos. The public is never going to fully comprehend your business if you, yourself, are not clear as to what your business brand is, its values and what it has to give. Your brand needs to be a clear and definite concept. Therefore, when introducing your brand, whether in a press release or when pitching to a journalist, lead with any vital information and impressive assets, this positions your business instantly.

Be authentic

Once you are confident in your business values, it is crucial to communicate that personally – nothing is more powerful than authenticity in PR and if you are sincere and passionate about your brand, both the media and the public will be receptive to this. Humans are social creatures; they buy into people not products. Having a visible figurehead rather than relying on nameless branding helps customers to understand the ethos and culture behind your business. Ask yourself what the motivation behind your company was, and your business vision for the future. Give your customers an understanding of the entrepreneur behind the brand and make sure your personal and business principles align; audiences can see through branding messages that do not correspond to behaviour. PR, through mediums such as case studies, media coverage, advice columns and blogs, is your tool for demonstrating your commitment to your brand values.





Position yourself as a thought leader

So, how do you behave like a figurehead? A simple way is through positioning yourself as thought leader and by marketing your expertise. You, as an individual, can share your valuable perspective, insight and experience. This is not just advantageous in terms of commercial success, but also in terms of investment. By building a strong visible profile, you make you and your brand unique, differentiating your business from other commercially viable investment opportunities. Profit and turnover speak for themselves, but business commitment and vision do not. A business with a strong figurehead and management team who represent the fundamental business values are powerful assets and are most effectively communicated through a PR campaign.



Thought leader


Absorb the media

To secure media coverage, it is also of upmost importance that you immerse yourself in the media. This means both being aware of the media sectors your business fits into and staying on top of current affairs and their relevance to your business.Every story reported in the media represents a PR opportunity depending on your business. Staying abreast of current news means you can be reactive, relevant and forward thinking in your PR strategy, creating press releases that participate in debates or that offer opposing opinions or solutions to contemporary problems.

Plan your PR strategy

Yet, at the same time, PR should be a calculated strategy, taking into account any important dates that may impact customers’ activity. Create a 12-month plan including dates such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Halloween and think about how your brand and commercial activities can ‘latch on’ to these events, increasing your chances of securing media interest. The importance of forward planning cannot be overstated – be aware of media lead times so you don’t let a PR opportunity pass you by.

Look for possible partnerships

Collaborating with like-minded brands, which share your business values and target market, is another way reach a broader audience and create interesting PR angles. The first step in brand partnerships is to truly understand your customer. Spend some time researching your customer in depth: where do they live, how old are they, what are their hobbies, their occupations and incomes? Once you have a clear image, you can then seek out ideal partners for cross-promotion. Partnerships are crucial when it comes to business growth and, for small businesses, this involves collaborating with larger or more established brands for common benefit. The story of the Big Friendly Giant is a popular one and does not fail to attract media attention.





Perfect your press release

Yet indisputably the most successful tool at your disposal to get press coverage and media interest in your business is a well-written press release, one that grabs attention and leaves a lasting impression. Ensure it is professional, includes all the essential (but relevant) information and use the first paragraph to sum up your news angle and tell the journalist why it’s worth the page space. Statistics that support your angle, any awards or accolades your business has won, celebrity fans or endorsers should all be in those first few lines. Demonstrate your confidence in your brand and your story and substantiate the fact that you are great!

If you are committed to raising your personal or business profile, then you should commit to PR. However, it is an investment and in most cases there is no instant, tangible return on your investment. Persevere and view it as part of your strategic business journey. You have to foster this relationship as you would any other; getting your business in the media of your target audience is just the start. A customer’s buying journey begins with awareness, followed by familiarity, then to purchase consideration and finally loyalty. If you are consistent in your PR efforts, awareness of your start-up business will increase with each new media platform that endorses you. Your business will become visible, it will enter your customer’s mind and, most importantly, it will stay there.


Jessica Huie, MBE is the Founder of JH Public Relations and runs regular workshops in the British Library’s Business & IP Centre.

24 July 2015

Spotlight on … Packshot and Stills

Barrie Gordon is the founder of Packshot and Stills, a photographic company focusing on commercial product and fashion photography, he has grown his business with the help of the Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth programme. We asked him to share his experiences for getting his business off the ground. 

Packshot and Stills
Packshot and Stills


Where did the idea for your business come from?

I’ve been a photographer for more years than I care to remember, most of those as a freelance, working for various companies. At the time I started the business it just seemed like a natural progression for me to move from a “one man band” to a scalable enterprise.   

The timing was also right in the sense that the industry had changed with the onset of digital media.  Shooting digitally, especially for e-commerce, has opened up new opportunities whereby brands could hire a company to do their photography rather than one sole photographer.  I realised it’s a huge market and I thought, given my experience, I could set up a successful business.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

I’ve always been a bit of entrepreneur - from selling penny sweets at school to starting my own photography retail website - to varying degrees of success. I always liked the idea of starting a business and successfully running it. Over the years I’ve learnt lots from the various companies I’ve worked with, even if it is just things I would do differently. 


Packshot and Stills 5
Packshot and Stills


What planning did you do before starting up?

I’ve grown the business organically so there has been very little financial risk associated with the business itself. I was already making a decent income as a freelance photographer and was able to gradually make the transition from sole trader to running a team of photographers and retouchers.

However, there were a few important questions that needed answering before I considered starting the business.

Can I make enough money from this to sustain a profitable business?

I knew the industry very well and I’d been working in it for quite a few years. If they weren’t already online, all businesses were gradually making the move to online trading and therefore needed high quality, attractive images. I identified that the market was huge. Don’t get me wrong, I realised I was competing with well-established competitors but still felt we could establish a market share that was certainly big enough for us to survive, thrive and grow.

Will clients like my product enough to buy it?

Again, having the knowledge and experience of working for big clients on a freelance basis, I already felt that I could deliver a level of quality that was better than or equal to my competitors and at a price that would be appealing to potential clients.

How much can I charge for the images and how much will it cost us to produce it?

Quite a bit of market research went in to answering these questions. I obviously felt the need to be competitive whilst keeping the margins at a level that, in essence, would make it all worthwhile. In fact, over the last couple of years, we’ve continued to revise our pricing to increase sales and maximise income.

What competition was I up against?

It was vital for me to explore what my competitors where doing. Being aware of what you’re up against with regards to the competition and analysing what we could do differently (and better) was extremely important to starting my business and establishing our unique selling point

With these questions answered positively, I was happy that I had a fighting chance to get the business off the ground and to survive.


Packshot and Stills 4
Packshot and Stills


What challenges or obstacles have you had to overcome?

I‘ve been quite fortunate; because of the steady growth of the business the whole operation has been scaled in a very manageable way and we’ve been lucky enough that we haven’t really encountered any major obstacles. Over time, we continually assess and adapt our working practices to prevent any major problems arising. 

However, that said, as with probably most start-up business, my company has been heavily reliant on me (the owner), and perhaps a little too reliant. It’s been tough at times, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do. Subsequently, I’ve had to become an expert in various skills that initially I didn’t have an understanding of, from web design and marketing (offline and online) to IT and HR. I’m eager to learn new things, so apart from having to manage my time it really hasn’t been a major problem. I see it as part of setting up the business and I enjoy the challenges it brings. Also, when the time comes to bring in hired help, it’s such an advantage to have that understanding as you’ll be speaking to them like a true expert!

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

I’m under no illusion that I’m in a highly competitive marketplace, but the one key differentiator (apart from the quality obviously!) is our flexibility and speed at which we deal with clients requests. We are expanding, but no matter how big we become, our ethos will always be to treat every client with the attention and attentiveness they deserve and expect.

It’s very important for our growth that we are always fine-tuning our internal processes to achieve maximum efficiency from a client’s perspective, and to deliver a smooth project from their brief to completion.


Packshot and Stills 3
Packshot and Stills


How do you promote your business?

Initially when starting the business one of my main objectives was to let potential clients know we’re around and “open for business”.  As a company that provides a service with no physical store, the best means to get in front of potential clients is via online marketing.

I’ve worked to very tight budgets so have personally been very hands-on with regards to optimising the business online. This has in turn brought in quite a lot of work that “kick-started” the business. In all honesty, it would have been a real struggle to get the exposure that I initially had without the internet. We continue to reach potential clients with our online strategy and try to be as active as time will allow on social media platforms.

When we first started up, we also went to trade fairs to offer our services which brought some success.   

I am very aware that we need to start to do more offline activity, there’s definitely room for improvement on that side and that’s something I’ll be addressing within the next couple of months.


Packshot and Stills 2
Packshot and Stills



Which entrepreneurs inspire you?

I was lucky enough during my freelance days to work at ASOS.  During that time it grew rapidly from a relatively small company to the company it is today. Having been part of that company at that time (no matter how small a part) was truly inspirational.

If you could have given yourself one piece of advice when you started what would that be?  

I would give myself a reality check! If only things were as easy as I thought it would be. I’m not sure I could have done many things differently but at least I would’ve been prepared for what lay ahead!


We are now taking applications for the next Innovating for Growth programme find out how you can apply today.


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22 July 2015

5 essential summer tips for entrepreneurs

As we head into the height of the summer Rasheed Ogunlaru, leading life & business coach, author of Soul Trader and Business & IP Centre partner, shares his 5 tips on how to relax, re-charge and return to your business re-energised.

1)    Time for you

Being your own boss with a busy business there can be a huge temptation to plough on through summer without a break. But it’s essential that you take time out. Whether you go on vacation or on stay-cation it’s important that you relax, recharge and regroup. This is one of the few opportunities in the year you may get to catch your breath – so seize the moment. What do you need? Maybe some time by the beach or time to catch up on rest and sleep? Check in with yourself and put time in for yourself in your diary.

2)    Time for things you love to do

Getting a business up and running has a way of putting everything else on the back-burner. Hobbies, interests and pass-times can often become an old memory. Summer time is the perfect time to re-acquaint yourself with them. Be it that you love to paint, go for long walks, play sport, make things, bake things – whatever it is get stuck back in. Very often hobbies and pastime have huge mental, physical, emotional and spiritual benefits. They are part of what makes our lives healthier, happier and more balanced. This may be just the tonic that you need to wind down, de-stress and get excited and re-energised again. Far from being a distraction from business these types of activies will actually boost your energy and productivity levels when you return to business.

3)    Time for loved ones too

There is that powerful saying that; when all is said and done in your life few people will report that “I wish I’d spent more time in the office".  Likewise one of the biggest regrets people say is that they didn’t spend enough time with loved ones.  Now is the time to catch up with friends, family and partners. Let them know that you’re glad that they are there and let them know you care, especially if your business has eaten into the time you’d normally spend with them. Schedule time to catch up, be spontaneous and above all spend quality time reconnecting.

4)    Time for things you ought / need to do

The chances are that there are a number of things that you may have put off or forgot through pursing your venture. What really needs doing and what will improve your home, personal and business life? Write a very short and focused list. Sleep, exercise and healthy eating often fall into this list. Appointments with doctors, dentists, opticians and health practitioners are others. But it may well also be that clearing out your front room, garden or office and computer will also help calm your mind, feel organised and enjoy your free time. 

5)    Time for a quick review / preview

The summer slowdown can also be a great opportunity to gently reflect on where you’re at and where you’re going. First of all give yourself credit for all that you’ve already achieved along your business journey? Now ask yourself / write down:

  • What’s going well and how can you build on it?
  • What are the challenges and problem areas – and who / what can help you?
  • What are the 2-3 priorities that would give you / your business a boost

Gently reflect on the answers and they’ll give you a great starting point for when you return after your summer break.

Whatever you do have a wonderful, relaxing and enjoyable summer. Taking time out can actually be one of the most powerful ways of bringing energy, purpose, balance and perspective back into your business.


Rasheed Ogunlaru
Rasheed Ogunlaru

Rasheed Ogunlaru on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

Build your business through relationships by joining Rasheed for “Networking for Success” his monthly event for new and established business owners at the Business & IP Centre.


20 July 2015

Top 5 Intellectual Property Mistakes Made by Small Businesses

Intellectual Property (IP) law can be a minefield, particularly for start-ups and SMEs that either don’t have the necessary experience or resources. As a partner to the Business & IP Centre and at our firm of patent and trademark attorneys, London IP, we work with small businesses to sort out IP problems that could have been avoided if the right steps had been taken at the right time. So, to help you avoid any problems with IP we have put together a list of our top five IP mistakes (and how to avoid them).

1. Being scared of IP and ignoring it

 There is a myth that IP is an expensive business, and no doubt it can be. However, really you can spend as much as you want to. The UK official fees for registered designs are £60, for trademarks fees start at £170 and for patents £230. Indeed, the official fees to obtain a registered design that covers the whole of the EU are only EUR350!

If you use a patent or trademark attorney to help you then you will need to pay their fees as well, but compared to the cost of many other business expenses such as rents and business rates IP isn’t all that expensive. For example, the cost to get a UK patent granted could be anywhere in the region of £1500 to £4000 spread over five years or so. For a potential twenty year monopoly, and a halving of corporation tax (through the patent box tax scheme), that may be a very worthwhile investment.

Also, it’s worth knowing that IP law is actually quite generous in that it gives you free IP rights that you don’t have to do anything to obtain other than create something that is worthy of being deemed to be protected. The most well-known of these rights is copyright, but there are others.

For example, any designs you create may be automatically protected for three years by EU unregistered design right, and for up to 15 years by UK unregistered design right.

That said, unregistered design rights are not as strong as registered rights as unregistered rights (other than the ‘passing off’ right for unregistered trademarks) are only infringed by copying, whereas registered rights provide an exclusive right meaning that they can be infringed even if the original work has not been copied.

Thus, it must be recommended that you register your IP rights if possible.

2. Being fooled by scam invoices

The publishing of applicant and inventor names and addresses is essential to the transparency of the IP system as the public needs to know who owns a particular IP right.

Unfortunately, all this information can also be used by criminals, so if you do choose to register any IP rights then it is almost certain that you will receive one or more very official-looking letters from rogue companies that try to scam applicants for patents, trademarks and registered designs.

These scams can simply be an invoice that appears to be from a ‘patent office’ or a ‘register’. The amounts of money requested vary, but are sometimes quite significant.

The UK Government seems to be generally powerless to stop most these scams as they are often run from overseas


3. Not registering IP at the right time

There is nothing more disheartening than a client describing what sounds to be a marvellous invention with a view to protecting it with a patent and the client commenting ‘it’s selling really well’.

To obtain valid patent protection in most of the world a patent application must be filed before any non-confidential disclosure of an invention.

So before you file a patent application for your invention you can’t sell it, put on a crowd-funding website, use it in public, etc., etc.

You can of course talk to third parties in confidence without jeopardizing your chances of obtaining valid patent protection. You may wish to use confidentiality agreements with third parties just so it is clear that everyone understood that the discussions were confidential.

As an aside it is worth noting that all correspondence with patent attorneys is inherently confidential both under common law and their code of professional conduct, so using confidentiality agreements with patent attorneys is quite unnecessary.

It’s not just patents though; many countries of the world require registered design applications to be filed before any non-confidential disclosure of a design in order to grant valid protection.

Furthermore the trademark system in many ways operates on a first-to-file basis so trademark applications should be filed as early as possible to safeguard future use of the mark and to minimize the chances of expensive and protracted disputes with owners of later-filed conflicting trademarks.

Many trademark disputes would never have occurred if a relevant trademark had been registered when use of the mark started.

In summary, IP should be considered at the very outset of any new venture to try to make sure that patent, trademark and design applications are filed at the appropriate time.

4. Ignoring infringement issues

It should be appreciated that IP is double-edged sword and along with protecting your own IP rights you need to careful not to infringe existing IP.

As mentioned above, registered IP rights provide the owner with the exclusive right to use the IP in the territories covered. This means that you may believe that what you are doing is original but you could be infringing an existing right.

This is the case even if what you are doing is in fact original as registered IP rights can be broader in scope than the thing that they were created to protect.

For example trademark registrations give the owner the right to stop use of identical and similar marks, and registered designs protect against designs with the same ‘overall impression’.

Often we see clients obsess about protecting ‘their’ idea with a patent, and ignoring the fact that someone else might have thought of it before (perish the thought!).

So before spending money on branding, prototyping and tooling, try to make sure that whatever it is that you are developing isn’t going to infringe.

If it does infringe and you can’t obtain a license, then unless the IP can somehow be worked around you may need to completely reconsider your project.

5. Not understanding IP ownership issues with commissioned works

If you pay someone to build you a house then you own the house once the work is complete.

IP doesn’t work like that unless the ‘builder’ is legally an employee, so problems regularly arise with commissioned works, where the person doing the work is paid money for a project, but is not an employee.

For example, if you commission someone to design a logo or a product, or to write something for your website then (unless there is an agreement in place to the contrary) the person that does the work will own all of the IP rights when the work is done.

Because this is so counterintuitive a lot of disputes about the ownership of intellectual property arise. Indeed, if the law on this were to be changed a lot of IP lawyers would be out of a job!

It is therefore very important to have a clear agreement at the outset of any commissioning process about who will own all the IP once the work is completed and to ensure that, if desired, any IP rights created are legally transferred to the commissioning party.


David Warrilow, Patent & Trademark Attorney London IP, on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

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


01 July 2015

Book Review: ‘The Luxury Strategy’ and ‘Kapferer on Luxury’

Kapferer on Luxury How luxury brands can grow yet remain rare, Author: Jean-Noël Kapferer

Several of the businesses who visit the Business & IP Centre are starting and growing luxury brands, in particular those in the fashion industry, but also those in other industries, such as food and drink. These small businesses are presented with a similar issue – how to keep up with the demands of running a luxury business without risking the luxury brand position. Like any business owner, luxury business owners want their brands to expand but because luxury brands are high quality, rare and premium priced this can present many obstacles.

Despite the economic recession in recent years, the luxury goods market remains buoyant and continues to grow. The luxury brand industry does not just refer to products like watches and jewellery, handbags, drinks (think Champagne!), but services too, such as travel, concierge, restaurants and lifestyle management, to name a few.

The Luxury Strategy

As a result of working with businesses in this sector, the Business & IP Centre has recently acquired the book Kapferer on Luxury: How Luxury Brands Can Grow Yet Remain Rare (Kogan Page, 2015). Jean-Noël Kapferer is a thought leader on luxury brands strategy development and marketing and is also the co-author of an earlier book, The Luxury Strategy: Break the Rules of Marketing to Build Luxury Brands (Kogan Page, 2009).

The Luxury Strategy Break the rules of marketing to build  luxury brands, Author: Jean-Noël Kapferer

In his earlier book Kapferer aims to do two things – firstly to define what a luxury brand is and secondly to provide a comprehensive guide to managing your luxury brand. Kapferer suggests that luxury brands are different in nature to other non-luxury brands and therefore require a more specialised strategy for management and marketing. So what is a luxury brand? Kapferer describes it as: “a different and global way of understanding a customer and of managing a business”.

He points out that “as it is with many concepts, so it is with luxury: everyone understands it, but nobody can agree on exactly what it means, or its contours, its frontiers or its members”.

 Kapferer moves to outline how you can develop a strategy for growing luxury brands:

  1. Understand the luxury fundamentals:  Kapferer says that “Luxury is a culture, which means you have to understand it to be able to practice it with flair and spontaneity”. He also outlines the difference between premium brands and luxury brands: knowing the difference is key to your strategy, “Premium is not luxury”.
  1. How to manage luxury brands: Consider market size, brand equity, brand stretching, pricing, distribution, communication and finances.
  1. Consider your strategic perspectives: Kapferer outlines different luxury business models, how to enter the luxury market and then leave it; how to learn from the luxury industry, and how to make your luxury strategy sustainable.

The book gives various examples in each section, such as an example of brand stretching for Mont Blanc, or the business model example of the Louis Vuitton brand. 

Mont Blanc Louis VuittonImage by Kili under a Creative Commons license                 Image by GS417~commonswiki under a Creative Commons license

Kapferer on Luxury

The more recent book, Kapferer on Luxury, addresses the number one challenge of all major luxury brands today: how can these brands pursue their growth yet remain luxurious? How can you achieve growth and preserve rarity? This book consists of a collection of articles, published in various journals such as the European Business Review or Journal of Brand Strategy, specifically addressing the growth challenges for luxury, including:

  • Sustaining the luxury dream: challenges and insights.
  • Abundant rarity: the key to luxury growth.
  • The artification of luxury: from artisans to artists.
  • Specific issues and challenges: luxury after the crisis; the importance of non-delocalisation; internet and luxury, consumers’ psychology of luxury prices; sustainable luxury.
  • The business side of luxury brands growth: the distinct business models of luxury brands.

Kapferer provides insight into luxury brands that exude exclusivity and prestige and examines economic trends as well as industry investors and great marketers. Not all businesses have reached the Mont Blanc or Louis Vuitton status and often need help to get there. Kapferer’s books are a must read for any luxury brand owner looking to overcome hurdles to achieve growth. His books are not only informative reads, but are also thought provoking, insightful and packed with real life examples. You don’t need to be a luxury brand owner to reap the benefits from Kapferer’s books, they give a unique view into an industry that seduces and fascinates us; a worthy read for any researcher or business owner. 

Both books can now be found in the Business & IP Centre reading room.


Irini Efthimiadou on behalf of the Business & IP Centre