Innovation and enterprise blog

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

5 posts from October 2016

31 October 2016

Cereal Killer Cafe: how a killer business idea became a hit

Alan and Gary Keery owners of Cereal Killer Café, launched in Shoreditch

In London, the start-up scene provides us with an array of pop-up and niche shops and eateries that cater for all our wants. One that has recently captured many people's imaginations is the Cereal Killer Café, launched in Shoreditch by twin brothers Alan and Gary Keery. The cafe sells over 100 types of cereal, 30 different varieties of milk and over 20 toppings served in a nostalgic diner setting which transports you back to the 1980’s and 90’s.

In the two years since first opening their doors, they have seen the best and worst of being in the start-up spotlight; both by receiving fantastic press exposure but also by being at the receiving end of organised protests for how they represent unwanted ‘gentrification’ of some neighbourhoods. The notoriety which naturally followed has evidently driven the owner brothers on to secure even more success and answering their critics in the very best way.

We caught up with Alan and Gary at their past talk on November 18 2016 as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2016

What were you doing before you started Cereal Killers?

Gary was working as regional sales manager for E-Lites electronic cigarettes, while Alan was working for Superdry as a senior store manager.

What steps did you take to get it started?

After coming up with the idea, we researched how to start a business - we found the East London Small Business Centre online who provided a four-day course on the basics of starting a business and also supplied us with a business mentor to help with our business plan.

Your business has grown at a rapid pace, what have been some of the challenges you’ve found during that rise?

Initially, a big challenge was being able to meet the demand - we were selling about five times more than we had anticipated in our business plan so we were frantically trying to get cereal shipped in from the United States to keep up with how fast we were growing.

We have also had our fair share of hate - but being thick-skinned, this motivated us to keep going.

What advice would you give to an up and coming business?

You need to be passionate about what you do - if you aren’t, how can you expect anyone else to be? And research, research, research! We spent months and months deciding on every little detail of our business and these decisions were based on the research we had done - getting out on the streets of Shoreditch with a clipboard, getting info from the public.

What’s your favourite cereal?

We both LOVE anything peanut butter!

Gary: 'Don't overlook the classics like crunchy nut cornflakes.'

Alan: 'The new crunchy nut granola. I've eaten entire bags in one sitting.'


  The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Logo

26 October 2016

Writer in Residence update: Books mean business


Is that the time? Really? I can’t believe how fast these ten months have gone by. When I started as Writer in Residence at the British Library Business & IP Centre in January this year, with a long list of activities I wanted to undertake, it seemed there was plenty of time. Now, with just a few weeks to go… not so much. Will it all be done in time? Yes, but only just! Still, I think the residence can be declared a success. By the end of it I will have worked with over two hundred people through workshops and one-to-ones. Their thoughts, questions and feedback on my initial ideas and research (several days’ worth in the Reading Rooms!) led me to write two books and create two mini-exhibitions.

Get involved

If you’ve not yet interacted with me during this residency, I’d love to get you along. Here’s how you can still get involved:

Book yourself a place on the Books Mean Business workshop on 17 November. It was our best-received workshop and completely sold out when we first ran it, so it seemed only fair to offer it one more time for anyone who missed out the first time. Think a book isn’t relevant to your industry or business? Come along and think again!

Pop into the Business & IP Centre any time throughout November to see our Sacred Bundle exhibition. This is a concept drawn from the native peoples of North and South America and allows you to identify the core values of your business and how to use them to communicate more effectively with your customers, investors and other stakeholders. It’s a process I developed during the residency and you can see examples from the nine companies, who I worked with, displayed around the networking area. There’ll be a slideshow explaining the ideas and a leaflet that takes your through how to create your own Bundle.

Not in London?

Not to worry. Keep an eye out if a library near you includes a Business & IP Centre, as we’re hoping to send a little pop-up exhibition on tour, which will show you how to make the most of classic out-of-copyright literary texts, turning them into commercial products. There are also some exciting big names of literature about to go out of copyright in the next few years.

Look out for the two books I wrote during this period: they’ll be available on Amazon and other online retailers as both eBooks and paperbacks by 1 November. The Storytelling Entrepreneur is a guide for entrepreneurs in how they can use storytelling in their business, from pitching for investment to making sales and includes the Sacred Bundle process. Merchandise for Authors is a book for writers who want to create their own merchandise and explains how to research, plan and develop products that will both engage your readers and bring in income.

I was thrilled when I first heard I would be Writer in Residence at the British Library Business & IP Centre. Ten months on I’m no less thrilled and very proud of the work that’s been accomplished during this time. I’ve drawn on the ideas, time and stories of authors, entrepreneurs and British Library staff and I’m very grateful to them all for an inspiring (and very busy!) residency. It’s been a pleasure and an honour.


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

24 October 2016

10 Essential Reasons to Get Networking

Rash desk crop2

Every major opportunity that has happened to me in my life has come through networking. In the world we live in, effective networking can fast track your career or business - or your failure to do it well, or at all, can leave you struggling on the sidelines. I’ve gained friends, contacts, business, profits and profile through it.  As a coach, motivational speaker and author, it is essential for my business. It is something that is so dear to my heart that I now teach people how to flourish through it at my monthly Networking for Success event here at the British Library Business & IP Centre.  


Here are 10 reasons why you should get networking and how you can benefit:

  1. Connections – gain great contacts across all fields that can benefit both you and your customers
  2. Relationships – build new friendships, partnerships and possibilities
  3. Elevation – gain business, clients, sales, contracts, visibility and other business opportunities
  4. Inspiration – events often have great speakers who can motivate and inspire you
  5. Community – meet others to share and for support – to stop you getting stuck
  6. Introductions – meet and network with people you might never otherwise have an opportunity to interact with
  7. Direction – it can often help guide, direct progress in life, career and business – especially during times of change
  8. Information – many events provide essential advice, and many attendees have relevant experience of advice which they can share with you
  9. Education – many events can boost your knowledge and skills
  10. Celebration – events can help you unwind, have fun and celebrate.

There are many myths around networking and sometimes people pick up bad habits giving it a bit of a bad reputation. But networking – relationship building for mutual benefit – makes our personal, working and business world go around. Great networking happens when you’re strategic, authentic and where you allow chance and serendipity to kick in. 

It’s shrewd to network in a range of places: conferences, seminars, exhibitions, socially or in the workplace. Even casually catching up with friends and family is networking. There is a skill and an art to it – but the key to it is being yourself, never being selfish and always looking for mutual benefit. 


Join Rasheed at Networking for Success and learn how to network strategically, skillfully, naturally and free of nerves. It will help you to explore how and where to network and how to leverage, build and use your existing network so that everyone wins. Book now for the November event here.

By Rasheed Ogunlaru, Coach – Speaker – Author 

British Library Business & IP Centre Partner

20 October 2016

Tracking down old toy railway patents in the Business & IP Centre

No.1 British Toy Trains Book Cover, By Michael D. Foster
I seem to recall a famous BBC radio show called Any Questions. Perhaps the title for this blog post should have been Any Answers. Because, each and every time I have called on the services of The Patent Office Library - now called The British Library Business & IP Centre, they have promptly found the information I need.

I first came into contact with the Patent Office at their Station Square House offices in  Orpington way back in 1988. I had come across a piece of printed ‘0’ gauge model railway track, clearly printed – “G.W. and Co. Ltd., Prov. Patent 5902/23.

I was transferred to their Search and Advisory Service in High Holborn. They were able to locate the actual Patent number – 217,959 which unlocked, at last, the difficult history of this particular company.

1920's manufactured toy train

Fast forward 28 years and I came across a toy train with a patent number and date clearly printed on the cab side. I had known of this particular engine as it was featured in the May 1924 issue of Games and Toys, the monthly Trade magazine of the British Toy industry. However, an actual model had never previously been seen. I thought it would be fascinating to find a copy of the original patent.

What a journey, what a virtual tour of Britain! I started in London but was transferred to the UKIPO in Newport. I gave them what I thought was the patent number – 233183, but this number did not match the toy engine. Sadly, some rust had obliterated one number, so could we try 233163 I asked? Again we had no luck. It was suggested I contact the British Library in Boston Spa. Again no luck, but they suggested I contact the Business & IP Centre in London.

Within two hours of my email request, I was astonished to receive an email from Information Specialist Gail Mitchell who had not only found the patent (it turned out to be 233103) but had emailed me a copy. Fantastic service! Quite superb!

Tinplate Dockside Crane Toy

"Your service is like the Rosetta Stone – it is the key to unlocking the history of the industry"

Of course, it did not stop there. Inventors, manufacturers are rightly proud of their products and patents. This patent number is worn with pride and frequently used to feature in their advertisements, box artwork or even printed or stamped onto the actual model itself.

Such a product was a tinplate Dockside Crane which we were photographing. Turning it over, we saw this patent number stamped -142747 underneath. We believed it to be taken out by the manufacturer – British Metal and Toy Manufacturers Ltd. We were surprised to read it was actually taken out by a Mr George Hazelton of Portadown, Ireland.  This was in May 1920 before partition, so he must have authorised BMTM to manufacture it for him. For us, your archives, your service is like the Rosetta Stone – it is the key to unlocking the history of the industry.

Only last month, I came across a picture in an old book advertising a 3D jigsaw of a toy ship which had the patent number printed on the box label. Once again, your Information Specialist, Gail Mitchell was able to track down and give us not only the patent but the company name, date, address and the name of the patentee. It is magic to be able to anchor our research and history in this way.

For researchers such as I, to have such enthusiastic, helpful people assisting us to unlock the ingenuity of our forefathers is really quite wonderful.

Michael D. Foster

Patent specification for improvements in or relating to mechanical toys

  Patent complete specification showing train parts relating to wheels.

No.2 British Toy Trains Book Cover, By Michael D. Foster


03 October 2016

Get out of your own way - why you need confidence to raise your profile


Most people know and accept the link between confidence and accomplishment, and we also know that a lack of confidence can be a destructive force in our own career development, even if we have the talent and capability to achieve our objectives.

Confident people get ahead. A study of more than 500 students, academics and workers, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found those who seemed more confident achieved a higher social status than their peers. Within a working team, higher-status individuals tended to be more admired, listened to, and had much more influence over group decisions.

The thing about confidence is that it is not a constant - it’s a mode which is affected by numerous variables, some within our control but most outside of it. Everything from our health (physical and financial) to our education and relationship status can have a bearing on our confidence levels, and it is women who suffer most with a lack – the impact of which is reflected in the dire figures around numbers of women in senior government, on boards, recipients of VC funding, the list goes on.

Even if we have achieved a level of success and fulfilment within our career, taking it to the next level by becoming visible and using the media as a tool through which to build a personal brand requires confidence. So how can we prepare to battle that niggling self-doubt?


1. Mental repositioning

Becoming confident starts inside our own heads and it’s a matter of getting out of our own way by adjusting or losing some of the habits which have become our norm. Trust your capabilities and expect success. Accept that you can handle whatever shows up, and if you get knocked down you’ll simply spring up and keep going. Draw on your past experiences of coping through challenge to support this belief. Once you believe you can handle whatever is to come, the fear of whatever ‘it’ is will dissipate. Stop saying “I think” before making a contribution. State your opinions with assurity and don’t dilute them with uncertainty. Others are much more likely to buy into your ideas if you commit to them.


 2. Articulation repositioning

 Always do your research and be prepared. Knowledge inspires confidence so come equipped. Listen to your voice. Does it go up at the end of a statement? If so this suggests uncertainty. Be aware of your tone, and once you have spoken become comfortable with silence. Don’t feel the need to fill perceived awkward moments. You have spoken, now let your team or co-workers digest your contribution. Commit to it!


3. Perception repositioning

Once your thinking about your capability and ability to manage changes, your articulation will follow and the beauty is that how you are perceived will change very quickly, as other entrepreneurs, staff and your network see a new more assured individual destined for success and capable of navigating the challenges of growth. They’ll be much more willing to travel with you on the journey, trusting that you are equipped for the ride – and most importantly recognising that you trust in yourself to arrive at your destination.


Jessica Huie, MBE is Founder of JH Public Relations and runs monthly workshops on How to Raise your profile through media coverage for small business owners and sole traders. The next workshop is 24 October at the British Library Business & IP Centre