Innovation and enterprise blog

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

4 posts from January 2016

27 January 2016

Top 5 tips for pitching with confidence

Elaine Powell, a professional speaker, public speaking coach, storyteller, author.

Pitching, like presenting, is an art form. It allows you to stand out from the crowd and get the right people excited about your business. In order for any business to thrive and grow, it is essential that you are able to deliver a pitch about who you are and what problem you solve.

Whether you are networking, seeking potential investors, customers or business partners, excelling at pitching will enhance any business. I’ll be at the British Library Business & IP Centre this February showing you how to perfect your business pitch but, ahead of that, here are five tips that I hope will help you get started:

1. Do your research

Know about your market in great detail.  Who are your competitors? What is your unique selling point? Who are you pitching to? What are their problems? What are they looking for? Know the answers to these questions and address them during your pitch to show that you have done your homework.  Most importantly, consider what the benefits are to those listening. What is in it for them?

2. Keep it simple

Like presenting, a simple structure enables you to deliver without notes and to come across as natural. It also enables the listeners to follow your pitch with ease.  

3. Show your passion

Don’t hold back. Show us how passionate you are about what you are doing.  People really do love enthusiasm.  It’s infectious.  Obviously your content needs to hit the right spot as well but ‘people buy into people’, so be alive with your passion and speak from the heart.

4. What problem do you solve?

Be really clear on what problem you solve. What makes you the right person to solve it? What makes you unique and why can nobody else do it the way you do it? When you make a contribution to the world, the world contributes back, so be really clear about how you will make a difference.

5. Practice, practice, practice

Lastly, practice your pitch and get feedback.  This is essential.  You want to know if it is easy to listen to and if you addressed the most relevant points.  Did you manage to deliver the pitch in an engaging and confident manner?  Will they be convinced that you have the solution to the problem and that you are the right person to deliver whatever it is you are offering? 

Elaine Powell is a professional speaker, public speaking coach, storyteller, author and has trained 15,000 people and run over 500 workshops in the art of effective communication.  CEO of SWC Training and Consultancy, a business that equips startups, business owners and entrepreneurs with the confidence and skills necessary to become masterful in presentation skills, business pitching, storytelling and effective communication. 


25 January 2016

Speed mentoring tips

Speed mentoring events can provide an excellent opportunity for you to ask seasoned experts your burning questions.

One of the event mentors in a one on one discussion with one of our event attendees
Sam Lane Photography

‘How does it work?’ I hear you ask. Well, it’s simple really. Similar to speed dating you find yourself a seat at a table and move to another table when the bell rings. Unlike speed dating, however, you will be at a table with an experienced mentor, rather than a potential suitor, as well as other small business owners like you and you probably won’t go home with a hot date!

Here’s the thing – your time at each table with each mentor is short and like speed dating, you need to ask the right questions in order to find serendipitous success. If done well, you can get some solid advice from those who have been there and done it. You can also make new connections that will be invaluable for your business’s future.

Here are our top tips for making the most out of your speed mentoring experience:

1. Research the mentors in advance

Speed mentoring events will usually have a theme or topic such as: getting your business online, how to run a food business, making and designing, publishing online, exporting, inventions advice, marketing, intellectual property, etc.  You will probably have signed up based on the theme that most suits your needs. But take a deeper look at who the mentors are. They are usually listed on the events page online.

Some of the mentors you may be familiar with, others not so much. Do a quick Google search on each of the mentors and make a note on their background, past experience and area of expertise. Maybe one of the mentors has worked with similar businesses to yours. Maybe another has had to overcome a problem like the one you are having. Knowing each mentor’s strengths will allow you to plan your time at the session. However, the great thing about speed mentoring is that you will get to talk to all of the mentors at the event.

One of the event mentors in discussion with some of our event attendees about a beauty product and other queries
Sam Lane Photography

2. Prepare questions

Once you have researched the mentors, you should then make a shortlist of questions for each of them. As the time at each table is limited, and you will have other people also asking questions, make sure your questions are specific, concise and relevant to that particular mentor. Cut to the chase – this is your opportunity to ask a burning question so no need to beat around the bush.

One of the event mentors in a group discussion
Sam Lane Photography

3. Get a plan of action together

Now you know who the mentors are, you know which ones you need to desperately talk to and you know what you are going to ask them. If there two or three of the mentors who you want to talk to more than others, plan to sit with them at the start of the session when both of you have the most energy. You may be tired by the end, so ask your most important questions to the most relevant people at the start. This also allows you to go back to that person at the end of the event if you forgot to ask them something or need further clarification.

One of the event mentors in a one on one discussion with one of our event attendees
Sam Lane Photography

4. Bring your business cards

Not only will you get the chance to meet some influential business mentors but you will also have the opportunity to network with like-minded peers. We know that running your own business can often be a lonely pursuit, so don’t miss the chance to make some new connections with people on the same path as you.

One of the event mentors having a constructive discussion with the attendee about the product of asthmatic pumps and other queries
Sam Lane Photography

5. Show and tell

We encourage attendees to bring examples of their products or designs, assuming they are not too big! Showing off your work to mentors enables them to see what you are working on. Giving someone a sample or prototype to hold in their own hands, can allow the mentor to make a true emotional connection with a physical example of your business. It will also be good experience for pitching your product to investors. If your business is online, bring a tablet or laptop so you can take the mentors through your online platform.

One of the event mentors group discussion with some of our event attendees
Sam Lane Photography

This might sound like a lot of work, but speed mentoring events are inspirational and a lot of fun. You can meet guiding lights in your industry and become motivated to take your business to the next level.

Sign up for future workshops and events now, to receive advice from experienced mentors on boosting your business online.


Diane Kelly on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

22 January 2016

Storytelling for businesses and business for storytellers

We are excited to be welcoming Melissa Addey as our first official Writer in Residence at the Business & IP Centre. What does a Writer in Residence do we hear you ask? Good question! Apart from the obvious connection between literature and the British Library, this residency focuses on the twin themes of storytelling for businesses and business for storytellers. Melissa will be helping small businesses using creative writing and narrative techniques as a business strategy and will work with us to raise awareness about the links between business, creativity and storytelling to make your business stand out from the crowd. Meanwhile writers will be encouraged to think about their work in a business-like way, from developing business plans to creating their own merchandise. You can also expect to find regular articles from Melissa on this blog – so watch this space!

The lovely people at the Leverhulme Trust are supporting and funding this venture, which we hope will allow both writers and business owners to learn new creative skills to enhance your business and also avail yourselves of some creative opportunities to use our inspirational collection items.

So, without further ado we would like to introduce our writer extraordinaire, Melissa Addey…

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Hi Melissa, we are excited to work with you at the Business & IP Centre. Can you tell our users a bit about your background?

I grew up on an organic farm in Italy and was home educated. I’ve spent the last fifteen years in business. Along the way I’ve worked for Sainsbury’s head office looking after the organic range of products, as well as developing new products and packaging; for Roehampton University developing student entrepreneurs; did a Masters focused on creativity; and worked as a business consultant on a government scheme for over six years offering mentoring, advice, training and grants to small businesses, mostly in the food sector.

What led you to start writing?

While working, I started writing on the side, both historical fiction and non-fiction. My first historical novel, The Fragrant Concubine, was mostly written while my toddler son napped and it got longlisted for the 2015 Mslexia Novel Competition. My first non-fiction book, 100 Things to do while Breastfeeding, was written while (you guessed it) breastfeeding my baby daughter. At the beginning of 2015, with small children to look after and childcare costing what it does, I decided to focus on my writing rather than going back to work.

What are you working on at the minute?

I’m currently working on a novella prequel called The Consorts and am about to publish a book called The Happy Commuter, which aims to improve people’s commute by suggesting ideas to pass the time. Plus, of course, the two books for this residency: one called Merchandise for Authors and one focused on storytelling for entrepreneurs.

What do you plan to do during your residency?

I plan to mainly focus on exploring and developing two streams of thought. I call it ‘Storytelling, Inc.’ and it can be summarized as storytelling for businesses and business for storytellers.  I think that the British Library’s Business & IP Centre is unique in that it has connections to creative writing through the main Library and to business but until now it’s not had the chance to draw these two threads together in a meaningful and fruitful way. My own background is the same – business and writing and so through this residency together we hope to give both writers and businesses the opportunity to draw on new skills and perspectives.

How can entrepreneurs and writers get involved and benefit from your residency?

There will be free workshops for both writers and businesses. There will be  two displays to showcase related business ideas – these will be held n the Centre and anyone can attend. There will also be two books published by the end of the year (what was I thinking?!). I will be in the Business & IP Centre twice a week most weeks, usually on a Monday and Friday (do come and say hi!). If you’d like to get in touch and propose ways to work together that fit the residency’s aims (such as taking one or more of our workshops out to a wider audience) please do get in touch at [email protected]. You can read about progress on this blog every month and get shorter updates more frequently on my own Facebook page. I’ve only just started this residency and there’s already so much to do, learn and share - I’m excited to meet you and help you on your journey!

The first of Melissa’s workshops will be taking place this March. Sign up for 'Merchandise for writers' and 'Books means business' to meet Melissa and learn how to use books and writing to advance your business ideas.




13 January 2016

Etsy Resolution: Top tips to sell online in 2016

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January’s here, the season of fresh starts! Time to get cracking with all those things that you didn’t quite find time to do in 2015.

We’re taking resolutions seriously here at (the online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods) by helping designer-makers around the UK turn their creative dreams into reality.

Are you a budding entrepreneur? Or do you simply make things for fun? Start selling online with Etsy Resolution, our free community-led bootcamp programme, offering support and skills from top-selling Etsy mentors and business gurus at The Design Trust.

Opening a new Etsy shop from scratch might seem a little intimidating. Where to start, I hear you ask? Never fear! You can get started with these simple, but effective, tips...

1. Take beautiful photos

Great product photography tells your online customer so much more than simply what it is you’re selling. It communicates the size, use and intended audience for your product too. A good photograph should clearly show a well-lit product, in focus and without distracting backgrounds. Your aim is to inspire customers to think, ‘I must have that!’

Anyone can take beautiful photos from home. Check out the Etsy Seller Handbook for more advice and resources.

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2. Describe your items

When customers search online, search engines will return your item if there is a match between the words used in your description and those in the search. On Etsy, you can use these important terms (called ‘keywords’) in your titles and tags.

Start generating your keywords by writing down all words that could describe your item. An outside eye is valuable here. Ask a friend what words they would use to describe your product. What would they type into a search engine if they were looking to find a similar item?

3. Promote your work

Shouting about your new venture is crucial. Start with your personal social media channels and, as your business grows, develop separate channels to speak directly to your fans. Pick the platform you are most comfortable with using and focus on that to start with.

Creating a calendar of content for each month can really help. Show off things such as your making process and work space. Remember that people are really interested in what inspires you.

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4. Join the #EtsyResolution Challenge!

If these tips inspire you, come and join Etsy Resolution! The bite-sized lessons will get your Etsy shop off the ground by the end of February. There’s also a supportive Facebook community where you can get all your questions answered by other designer-makers on the same journey.

The online bootcamp will be mentored and led by three makers who successfully sell what they make on (Alice Tams,  Chris Berry and Becky Kennedy) and supported by the super knowledgeable Patricia van den Akker from The Design Trust.

Mentors Etsy

Get cracking!

The Etsy Resolution online bootcamp starts Monday 25 January. Find out more and join at (sign up before 25 January). We can’t wait to see what you make of 2016.


Sarah Hewett, Etsy International Community Programmes team, London.