Innovation and enterprise blog

08 February 2016

Growing up: business success stories

The UK’s Employment Minister, Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, visited the Business & IP Centre this week to meet some of the businesses we work with as part of Innovating for Growth, our free European-funded service, offering support to small businesses.

Innovating for Growth specialises in mentoring businesses as they grow their successful start-up to the next stage – a notoriously tricky point in the development of any business.

We took this opportunity to share some of the inspiring stories of these businesses who moved from start-up to growth stage with our help.

Wedding dress designer Sabina Ali

Wedding dress designer Sabina Ali shared her start-up story with the Minister: she began designing dresses for friends with ‘no idea how to turn my hobby into a business’, but a chance encounter with Anita Roddick at one of the Business & IP Centre’s early events inspired her to use the Centre’s resources and expertise which she describes as the ‘best thing she ever did’. Thanks to the support received on the growth programme, Sabina has doubled her turnover and expanded to 10 international stockists.

Sabina (right) shows the Minister (left) photos of some of her beautiful dresses
Sabina (right) shows the Minister (left) photos of some of her beautiful dresses. Photo credit: Tony Grant

Jon Smith, CEO of Pobble

The Minister also met Jon Smith, CEO of Pobble, an innovative website which enables teachers to share and celebrate their pupil’s creative writing online. The site, which contains 50,000 pieces of creative writing written by children, is now visited by 1,000 teachers every day and is even used by literary luminaries such as Michael Morpurgo and Anthony Horowitz for inspiration. Since taking part in Innovating for Growth, Pobble has grown considerably and now has a team of 20 staff.

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This lyrical piece of writing by 6 year old Fred posted on Pobble was shared over 4,000 times

Arit Eminue, DiVA Apprenticeships

The final entrepreneur to meet the Minister was Arit Eminue, founder of DiVA Apprenticeships, an initiative which has helped hundreds of young people to start their careers with leading London employers in the creative and digital sectors.

Arit showed this inspiring video about the young people she works with, and discussed the ‘great importance about bridging that gap between schools and employment’.


The Minister linked Arit’s work to some of the activity in her own constituency of Witham in Essex, where schools are being encouraged to link up with local businesses to offer apprenticeships, and the Prime Minister’s plans to create 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020.

The Minister (left) meets Arit Eminue, CEO of DiVA (right). Photo credit: Tony Grant

Following the visit the Minister said:

“Starting up a business can both exciting and rewarding. Having access to the right level of support is crucial, and sometimes means the difference between make or break.

“I’ve been honoured to meet these inspirational businessmen and women benefitting from the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme who, like the almost 77,000 people that have benefited from the Government’s very own New Enterprise Allowance, have turned their creative ideas into successful businesses ventures.”

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




Innovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund



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