Innovation and enterprise blog

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

5 posts from April 2016

27 April 2016

The Sacred Bundle: a magical way to express your core business values

A figure of a Cihuateotl, the spirit of an Aztec woman who died in childbirth.

What is a Sacred Bundle?

Based on Native American and South American native tribal customs, a Sacred Bundle was made up of items that reflect the history, values, magical moments, important people and sacred objects of a tribe. It was not opened without a ritual and new objects were added only rarely and with great ceremony. In the West you can see a similar idea in the memory boxes we keep for our children, in scrapbooks, in treasured (but often externally without value) possessions handed down from generation to generation.

Why would a business need a Sacred Bundle?

Storytelling in a business context is now a well-known phenomenon and has been proven to allow a business to connect better with an audience, engage their customers and share their values internally and with new staff. But where are businesses supposed to get their stories from? Working to create your own business Sacred Bundle will identify the 'magic moments' that have made your business come alive and what makes it unique. In so doing, you can create storytelling that is true to your origins and values, making it more effective and engaging for your customers. A few organisations who currently make use of the Sacred Bundle in a business context: Southwest Airlines, BBMG (a brand innovation studio), The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Aveda, Sears and the United Jewish Appeal.

What does a Sacred Bundle look like?

Everyone’s bundle will be different. The items do not have to be ‘pretty’ or make sense to anyone else. They might be the actual item (an item of clothing from your first fashion collection) or symbolic (a photo of your first mentor). Items will accumulate over time, naturally, so an ‘older’ organisation would probably have more items than a brand-new business.

How do make my own?

  • Take the time to consider your business’ history and try to pick out key moments, people, items or values that have shaped it along the way.
  • Create a real-life Sacred Bundle made up of items that represent what you have chosen.
  • Use the Sacred Bundle to help you communicate more authentically, share values with new people in your business and even reshape your business vision or create new product ranges.

Over the course of about six weeks I am engaged in intensive sessions with eight companies, who were invited to create a Sacred Bundle. The sessions so far have been fascinating and the entrepreneurs with whom I have worked have been insightful about their businesses, willing to answer personal questions and give thoughtful responses. I have had people both cry and laugh during the time I’ve spent with them and I have greatly valued their honesty.

At the end of this time there will be a workshop, which is open to the public for booking. In it we will attempt to replicate the process on a wider scale, allowing our attendees to create their own Sacred Bundles and think of how best to use them for greater business success. If you think this session could be right for you and you are willing to see your business in a new light then I hope to see you there.


Melissa Addey, Writer in Residence, Business & IP Centre

19 April 2016

5 ways to double your online sales with minimum investment

Commercial Photography by Bevan Cockerill-122
Photo credit: Bevan Cockerill

A few years ago, the European Commission described SMEs as “the lifeblood of Europe’s economy”, and with over 5 million SMEs in the UK their role here is ever growing. Generally the rise of the internet has made commerce both at home and abroad quicker and cheaper than ever before, but there remains a sizeable digital skills gap in the UK.

Whatever your industry, your company’s future success depends on your ability to make the most of the digital opportunity. As British businesses, you already have a relative head start in this connected world, but within the next decade the rest of the world is likely to be up to speed and, if we stop innovating now, others will overtake us.

To help small businesses keep pace, Google has recently launched a free digital learning platform called The Digital Garage which can help SMEs keep up-to-date with the knowledge they need to make the web work for them. Soon Google will deliver a webinar with the British Library Business & IP Centre to help learn how to reach new customers online. Tips include the best ways to use some cost-effective tools to maximise your sales potential; below are a few ways to meet and compete with this explosion of digital demand.

1. Setting up shop

Any successful e-commerce operation is based on navigability for your customer – just like a brick-and-mortar shop. Consider the last time you walked into a furniture shop: you probably didn’t walk in and just see a map of where to find the armchairs, but rather saw a nice sofa by the door you could sink into. You can do the same thing online, starting by promoting certain products right on your homepage or on search. Consider product merchandising: displaying very specific, featured products up front can help shift old inventory or feature best-selling items you want more customers to see.

2. Data-driven KYC

You may be a business leader, but remember you’re a consumer too. The last time you shopped online you were probably shown ‘recommended products’ after viewing certain items. As potential customers browse your site, you’re receiving data about their interests, and there are ways to increase sales potential by using this data to make predictions. Consider the furniture shop again – if you know your customer is looking for an oak desk, you can cross-sell by promoting related products, like matching bookcases, which they may not have even considered. Many shopping cart providers, such as Magento or Shopify, offer these product recommendation engines.

Commercial Photography by Bevan Cockerill-100
Photo credit: Bevan Cockerill

3. Optimise your customer experience to drive sales

In e-commerce, as with all aspects of your business, a process of continuous improvement is critical. You may learn through Google Analytics data that customers visit your site on mobile but rarely purchase – is this a clue that they cannot move smoothly through the payment process on mobile? One option is implementing ‘responsive design’ into your site, which adapts content to different screen size, or if you want to guarantee a more consistent shopping experience, create a dedicated mobile website. A recent whitepaper from Google called featuring ‘25 Principles of Mobile Site Design’ should help you drive conversions.

4. Utilising customer accounts

Investigate customer accounts to streamline their path-to-purchase. Once an online purchase is completed, by allowing customers to securely store shipping addresses, billing information and payment preferences in an account, you’re removing barriers for them and increasing your sales potential.

You can get more advanced too: use your customers’ past purchases, recent searches and recently viewed products to recommend specific items that might interest them. To use the furniture example again, if they have just bought a dining room table, you might recommend a set of chairs to match the design and wood finish.

5. Retargeting for e-commerce

Data around customer behaviour can be very useful information to your business by allowing you to create very specific advertisements aimed at people who have shown interest in certain products. This type of advertising is called retargeting. Let’s say, for example, that a customer looks at a kitchen table on your site but halfway through the checkout process they leave the website. Using retargeted ads you could automatically target that customer with an ad for that table at a 10% discount to remind them of the incomplete purchase or incentivise the purchase.

As with any advertising campaign, it’s important to measure and optimise the performance of your product retargeting campaigns over time. This means tracking conversion rates, testing new types of ads, tweaking your parameters, and using analytics to manage these campaigns.

Want to learn how more about how to be successful online? Register now for our upcoming webinar where Google will tell you what you need to know to reach more customers online. It’s free and you can take part from anywhere in the world.


TheDigitalGarage_Logo_Web (3)


13 April 2016

Writer in Residence update: tips from the first workshops

Melissa Addey Headshot

Spring is springing and the first two workshops of my residency have flowered: after two months of more solitary work (researching, writing, developing ideas and planning workshop structures) I was suddenly in the company of two great groups!

Books Mean Business

This was the first workshop which was booked out really quickly and I’ve already had requests to repeat it. The idea behind this workshop was that many businesses can benefit from creating their own books: whether to engage more fully with their customers, to establish themselves as experts in a particular field or to pursue new avenues. We had two great speakers with us on the day - Tessa Stuart and Jacq Burns.

Tessa Stuart wrote a book for food entrepreneurs and immediately found herself much in demand as a speaker. Her second book built on the success of the first, when she got approached by Unilever to do consultation work. Jacq Burns’s book was about how to write a bestseller and her tips on this subject were eagerly noted by the attendees, not least the importance of a winning title. We considered traditional publishing but had to acknowledge that for the entrepreneurially-minded and with digital and print-on-demand publishing now so accessible, traditional publishing could be a long journey without a guaranteed end result.

Here are some tips if you’re thinking about a book for your own business:

  • Develop ideas for a book through brainstorming so you get lots of ideas and can choose the best
  • Make sure you really have something to say so that you will produce quality content
  • Always use a professional designer for your cover and ensure your interior formatting also looks smart
  • Choose a good title that is both clear and enticing
  • The content from this workshop will be available within The Storytelling Entrepreneur, a book out later this year, so keep a look out for it!

Merchandise for Writers

The second workshop introduced our writer attendees to an entrepreneurial way of thinking: I suggested that even writers not yet at the heady heights of JK Rowling could consider how creating their own merchandise might bring in additional income, increase their visibility as an author and draw their readers further into their worlds, whether in fiction or non-fiction.

We looked at how to develop products on your own or in collaboration/through affiliation, how to ensure your merchandise both supported and enhanced your brand and enjoyed ourselves enormously with some examples of dreadful merchandise and the great ideas our teams came up with when presented with imaginary books for which to dream up some products.

Again, we were lucky to have two brilliant author speakers with us – Jonathan Green who talked about how his successful Kickstarter campaign rewards easily became merchandise ideas, with a colouring book even outselling the original book and Shaun Levin, whose Writing Maps (illustrated writing prompts) began from his own writing style and are now available in more than twenty formats, on sale in many outlets and earning him bespoke commissions both at home and internationally.

Here are some tips if you’re thinking of developing your own author merchandise:

  • Brainstorm a lot of ideas so you can pick the best
  • Prototype so you can check for quality and overall effect
  • Consider affiliate product collaborations or time-limited collaborations with a small business so that you can dip your toe in the water
  • Remember that merchandise exists to draw the reader further into your world
  • Think beyond products – what about experience days?
  • Look at Zazzle, Spoonflower and Vistaprint to begin with and consider looking at Etsy to find collaborators
  • There will be a book, Merchandise for Authors out on this topic later in the year so keep a look out on this blog for news of its publication

What’s next?

These workshops are a fascinating way to bring to life the ideas I have been developing during this residency so far, as well as sharing tips with people whom I hope will use them to develop their own wonderful books and products. I look forward to the next two workshops we have planned: Creating Your Sacred Bundle on the 6th June (a magical way to communicate your business’ true values) and When Copyright Expires – Inspiration from the Archives on the 20th June. More on both of those coming soon keep an eye on the Business & IP Centre website and Twitter: I hope to see you there.


Melissa Addey, Writer in Residence at the British Library, Business & IP Centre

11 April 2016

Present with confidence: 5 traits of a great presenter

Business & IP Centre hosted event, with attendees learning new skills at the British Library

Knowing how to present well should be something that all business owners, coaches, consultants, entrepreneurs and speakers learn how to do well. At some point in your business career, you will be asked to speak to share your knowledge, expertise and story.

When you present at the front of the room, you become the go to person in your industry and clients come to you, respect comes to you and money flows your way. So it’s best to learn how to do it well.

Here is a list of five traits that I believe would help anyone become a great presenter/speaker.

1. Know your audience

The first thing is that great presenters have spent time getting to know their audience, so that they can produce the best speech possible, that will leave them feeling touched, moved and inspired.

Some of the things you need to know:

  • How many people will attend?
  • The audience’s age and demographics
  • Do they have expertise in the subject matter you are to speak on?
  • Are they there voluntarily or it is compulsory?
  • What are their expectations are at the end of your talk
  • Are you the first speaker or the last speaker?
  • What other speakers have spoken previously and what did they like and dislike about them?

All of these questions and more will help to shape your speech so that it has the desired impact.

2. Be authentic

Being authentic just means being yourself, flaws and all. People respond much better when you are being natural and they are very in tune when you aren’t being yourself. It is the conscious and unconscious senses we have that picks up on it. The audience is actually a reflection of yourself. If you are nervous, they will feel those nerves and become anxious for you. If you are relaxed and calm, they will be too. If you are excited, fun and exhilarated, yep you guessed it, so will they be. If you mess up, trust me the majority of the audience will be willing you to get back on track. If you can laugh at yourself, you give the audience permission to laugh at you as well. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

The point of being authentic is to be real. If you are nervous, then just let them know that. If you are anxious, share it with them. They will relate to it, as they too have all been anxious at one time or another. Being authentic creates a magical bond. Trust yourself to be just that and watch the magic happen.

3. Make them laugh or cry

Two of the greatest ways to create a bond is either through using humour or the heart. A great speaker knows how to have fun on stage and therefore the audience can have fun also. As you create a great atmosphere, the audience will be swept along with you. “Smile and the world smiles with you”, that saying is true. Connect with your audience and take them on an emotional journey of sadness, joy, conflict, jubilation and victory.

4. Become a great storyteller

All audiences whether academic, creative or technical enjoy hearing stories. This is why we read fiction books, watch soap operas or go to the movies. Stories have been passed on from generation to generation, family to family. We remember them for years to come. So weave stories throughout your presentation or use one main story that has many lessons along the journey and your audience will remember you for years to come.

5. Connect and create an experience

Great presenters know how to connect with an audience. They make you feel as if they are speaking directly to you. It is delivered in the form of a great conversation you would have with someone. They give you eye contact, so that you feel as if you are the only person in the room. They create that unquestionable energy in the room and an unforgettable experience. They understand that one of the most powerful words to use in any presentation is YOU. You the audience, you the listener, you the extension of them.

Make sure your presentation is packed full of rhetorical questions, stories and analogies that have the audience can relate to themselves and their lives. Because that is why they are there - to hear something that will make a difference to them.

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 start ups, business owners and entrepreneurs with the confidence and skills necessary to become masterful in presentation skills, business pitching, storytelling and effective communication.


04 April 2016

Spotlight on … Tangle Teezer

Inventor Shaun Pulfrey‘s life changed when he launched a revolutionary hair product, Tangle Teezer, in 2007. Nine years later innovation is still at the heart of everything Tangle Teezer do. We asked Shaun about his entrepreneurial journey and he told us how working with the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme helped him along the way.

Shaun_tt 0609 (2b)

Where did the idea for the Tangle Teezer come from and how did it get off the ground?

I was working as a colourist at Vidal Sassoon when I realised tangled hair was a huge problem in salons. I had mastered my own technique to detangle hair using a brush and a comb together, tapping at the tangles to loosen them. My idea was to put this technique into a tool so that anyone could detangle as well as I could. I spent hours in the British Library researching plastics and injection moulding to find a material that would work best, it needed to be flexible but still return to its original position. I worked with a designer to finally come up with The Original detangling brush, when I got my first sample back even I was shocked at how well it worked. Once I had my finished product, I lined up a stand at The Clothes Show Live and also took my product on Dragons’ Den. These both came within a couple of weeks of each other. After Dragons’ Den, even though I didn’t get backing, my website crashed instantly with sales. I knew I had a product that worked and I knew the viewers understood it. The next week at The Clothes Show Live a buyer for Boots tried The Original and that’s when the ball really started rolling.

The brand has gone from strength to strength – how do you tell the story of the brand/business?

I have learnt so much from building Tangle Teezer; the first being that I always try and take a negative and turn it into a positive. I worked with my rejection on Dragons’ Den and turned it around to work in my favour. After the show, I started to build worldwide awareness for my brand by listing on global websites and it was from this I gained enquiries from distributors all around the globe wanting to distribute my product. This was really encouraging as many brands have to source their own distributors. My first enquiries came from Belgium and the Netherlands. It was from then, my brand started to snowball. I’m now working with a strong team of 45 and I couldn’t do any of it without them. Although I had created the product, I knew I wasn’t an expert in all aspects of the business so I hired people who were. We’re now selling in over 65+ countries worldwide, have sold 27m brushes since launch and sell 20 brushes a minute. Even I still find those stats hard to believe.

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What has been your biggest achievement so far?

For the brand, I think it would have to be winning two Queen’s awards, one for innovation and one for international trade. This was a really proud moment for me and I even got to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

What challenges have you faced along the way?

I experienced many challenges while building Tangle Teezer and that’s the way I saw them, as challenges not setbacks. With Tangle Teezer, we began shipping overseas really quickly with word spreading like wildfire about the product and although this was incredible the first major problem we faced was meeting the demand. In the first stages it was really difficult to keep up, although now we’re able to reach demand for all of our overseas markets.

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You grew the business with the help of our Innovating for Growth programme. What specifically did the programme help you achieve?

More than anything the programme gave me the rare opportunity to take a temporary step back from the business and to review what we had done well, and why – and also where there was scope for improvement. Having experts give us advice on the programme enabled us to reflect upon our current processes and knowledge gaps. This has given us a real sense of renewed momentum and perhaps even greater confidence that we are prepared for the challenges ahead.

What one piece of advice would you give to any business owners struggling to take their business to the next level?

Speaking on behalf of Tangle Teezer I have to say think about your investments. These may not be things that give instant return but down the line become invaluable. I invested a huge amount of money in intellectual property to protect my product at the very beginning and a lot of the brand’s success is owed to this.


If you too would like to be as big as Tangle Teezer but need some support along the way, sign up for our free three-month Innovating for Growth programme.




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