Innovation and enterprise blog

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

5 posts from September 2017

27 September 2017

The top questions asked on Start-Up Day 2017

As well as 18 different events available in London, last week The British Library’s Business & IP Centre’s Start-up Day, 2017 took place across the entire network of libraries across the country, including in Leeds, Manchester, and Liverpool. Plus, events held in The Knowledge Centre in London were part of a live webcast, so you could tune in from anywhere in the world to listen.

As you might expect, our speakers had a lot of advice to share with the eager audiences. Notebooks were being scribbled in left, right, and centre and, of course, people had plenty of questions.

In case you have a question or two of your own, we found the most popular and relevant ones from the Twitter feed and Q&A portions and put them here for you (with the answers too).

Do I really need a business plan?

We’ve all heard the old saying ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ and it’s definitely a good idea to have a business plan in terms of goals and finance. The Business & IP Centre is bursting with resources that aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners alike can access for free to help plan and grow a business, including downloadable tools that help you to work out exactly where the gaps in your plan might be.

However, Julie Deane, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company reminded budding entrepreneurs to “not be constrained by a business plan. By all means, have one – but be flexible.” After starting her business with only £600, Julie came up against plenty of setbacks that weren’t part of the plan she had, but nevertheless, she kept going and changed course to reach her ultimate goals.

Pic 2

How do I know my idea for a business will work?

Nigel Spencer is Research & Business Development Manager at The British Library. He gave a condensed version of his regular workshop ‘what next for my business idea?’ and this covered the basics of making sure your idea for a business is a viable one. He recommended imagining your business as a success, then working to test three assumptions;

  1. People need what I am offering and it is different
  2. People are happy to pay for my service/product
  3. I’m successfully delivering my service/product

Once you have these, you can begin to test them using some of the resources from the Business & IP Centre such as published studies, statistics and analysis. Nigel also stresses the importance of customer development, actually getting out there and talking to potential customers about your business. He recommends a book entitled The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank to help guide you through this process. Market research will help you to make insight-driven decisions and find out if your business is something your customers actually want.

Pic 3

How do I go about financing my business?

So, you have an idea for a business or it’s time to grow your existing one, but you’re finding the finance part tricky? Don’t worry, a lot of people had questions about this important part of getting started and help is at hand. From our workshops ‘how to attract the right investors’ and ‘get cash flow confident’ you will learn vital financial knowledge to help you navigate this area and make sure you stay on track. A popular option is a government-backed start-up loan of up to £25,000 from Virgin StartUp. Along with the financial backing, applicants will also receive lots of advice and will benefit from a designated advisor to help with your business plan and the application process too.

Pic 4


How do I stay motivated when it all feels too much?

The world of business is an ever-changing one and Tim Campbell MBE led a rousing event called ‘staying alive: how to get motivated when growing your start-up’ to discuss the issues of finding motivation when the rules of the game feel like they’re shifting all the time. He feels that now more than ever the world needs entrepreneurs and encourages people to turn a passion into a business if they can.

Although it can be stressful at times, remembering why you started out in the first place can be hugely motivating. “It will get hard, but remember why you’re doing this… business is about being uncomfortable” Tim says. Staying motivated is a fine balance of staying true to your reasons for getting started and constant innovation.

Pic 5

How do you cope with negative feedback about your business?

“You’re allowed to make mistakes, as long as you don’t die!” Powerful advice from Tim Campbell MBE there on being able to face the pitfalls of starting a business and carrying on anyway. But how exactly should you deal with a negative experience? Jessica Huie of Jessica Huie PR gave her talk on ‘how to get your business in the media on a budget’ and the Q&A portion proved incredibly enlightening on this topic.

“we aren’t always going to get it right but we must be accountable,” Jessica said. Sometimes your business may receive negative press or won’t be something that everyone wants. By always being authentic and doing your research, you will be more likely to speak to your chosen audience and build their trust in your brand and what you can do for them. “It takes a certain amount of bravery, you have to put yourself out there for the opportunities,” says Jessica. You can learn all about how to make your business appeal to the media and get positive coverage in her two-part workshop at the Business & IP Centre.

Pic 6

I’m nervous of networking, what advice can you give me?

There are some do’s and don’ts of business networking that will certainly set you off on the right foot, but it’s not always easy to stay confident when it comes to meeting and connecting with people at the best of times, let alone when you are also attempting to share your business ideas and build contacts.

Rasheed Ogunlaru, a leading life coach, got his audience doing just that all in the space of his 45 minute talk ‘how to network for business success’ by getting people to turn to their neighbour and simply find three things they have in common – it was surprisingly easy and got everyone talking in no time. Here are some handy tips on presenting your business to give you more guidance, but remember that making connections will give you and your business countless opportunities, so it’s well worth the time.

Pic 7

Should I hire staff based on their skills or whether or not they fit the company culture?

For many businesses, there will come a time when it is necessary to take on extra staff. When this topic came up in the Q&A part of ‘profit with purpose: how can you make money and still make a difference?’ Paul Singh of Equal Education gave an interesting answer. He had spoken at length of how important it is in any business, but especially one that is designed to make a difference in the world, that someone fit in with company culture.

Of course, the skills are important for specific roles, but Singh’s point was that if someone gets hired but doesn’t understand what the company is trying to achieve, or fails to follow the guidelines because they don’t believe in them, they probably won’t be giving their best to the role, regardless of their ability.


Pic 8


How can I build my company profile and brand?

A common theme of the day was building brand awareness. Jessica Huie suggested starting small – “talk to the local press first and find out who it is that writes religiously about the kinds of thing your business does.” They are far more likely to pick up your story and the attention It gets at first could lead to bigger and better things further down the line.

Use social media wisely. Keye Oduneye from Google Digital Garage kicked off the day with his talk on ‘how to build a social media strategy’ with a reminder that “once what you share is out there, it’s out there” so carefully curate your content. Decide who your audience is before you share and stick to sharing the things that they will want to read and share. Everything from your profile picture to tone of voice and the language you use will become a part of your business brand, so make sure you’re happy to put it out there in the first place. There’s a whole host of advice and information on social media from the Business & IP Centre here. And, If you'd like to see what more the Business & IP Centre can do for your brilliant idea, you can also check out our list upcoming of workshops and events

Pic 9

Start-up Day was sponsored by Virgin StartUp, Google Digital Garage, and The European Union Regional Development Fund. To see information on this year's Start-up Day, visit our website.

25 September 2017

10 things we learned from Start-up Day 2017

In September, The British Library's Business & IP Centre held Start-up Day 2017.

The day was filled with inspiring events and engaging workshops from speakers who share their well-earned wisdom with a crowd of budding entrepreneurs and business owners.

This year we held 18 different events, each filled with information and advice on how to turn an idea into a business, covering every topic you might need, from how to write that all-important business plan, to tips for managing your cash flow.

Hopefully, you managed to pack in as many of the talks as possible and just in case you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the information you absorbed over such a small amount of time. We’ve got just the thing to help:

Here are 10 things we learned from the day which we believe are vital takeaways for anyone looking to make a start in business.

People enjoying each others company in recreation

Anything is possible

Julie Deane OBE founded her company The Cambridge Satchel Company with just £600. It’s all she had spare to get started and she’d made a promise to her daughter that she wouldn’t have to go back to her old school that September. It was already June. Julie had plenty of hints and tips for the audience and although she has a firm belief that “your life is more than what you wear or the bag you carry,” she has created her brand based on a passion for British manufacturing and a product that will last customers a long time, making it a cost-effective purchase.

Julie’s talk on how she started her business from her kitchen table was not only moving but demonstrates that almost anything is possible when you’re as determined as she is.

Julie Deane, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company giving a talk at the Business & IP Centre at the British Library

Test your ideas first

You don’t have to immediately pack up your 9-5 and risk all your savings when you have an idea for starting your own business. In fact, many of the speakers encouraged staying comfortable while you plan and test your ideas first. Nigel Spencer, Research & Business Development Manager at The British Library, gave an insightful workshop, based on a regular offering at the Business & IP Centre, on where to take your business idea next and how to plan for its future.

Nigel recommended some of the fantastic tools available for free from the Business & IP Centre such as a Business Model Canvas that you can download, and then tailor to your business model revealing any gaps you might not have addressed yet.

Nigel Spencer, Research & Business Development Manager at The British Library, conducting a workshop

Know your worth

Anis Qizilbash’s entire talk focused in on this important reminder for start-ups and people who are venturing out into the world of business. She encourages people to employ her strategies and challenge their fears around charging the right price for their services or product. “Don’t think about the money you’re going to make, think about the impact for the customer… make it about the difference you can make.” Believing that you are charging a fair price and remaining confident in the face of a difficult sales pitch is no mean feat – but this talk left everyone feeling empowered and ready to charge their worth.

Anis Qizilbash, presenting a talk at the Business & IP centre, held at the British Library

Find people who believe in you

“If I’d have told my mum that I was going to Mars on a rocket ship she would have replied “oh, how interesting, when?” said Julie Deane. She used this as a great example of finding people who will truly support you as you make your idea into a business reality.

Neil Daly of Skin Analytics echoed this in his panel discussion on Profit with Purpose. When he asked his wife if he should work a normal 9-5 that brought in enough money but made him miserable, or follow his passion to diagnose skin cancer earlier, but run the risk of money being tight, she reminded him that “you’re a miserable bugger when you’re unhappy at work, so go for your passion.”

A common theme across the day was a need for self-confidence and belief in your ideas, but equally important is finding the people you can rely on when it isn’t going perfectly. Having someone who thinks your ideas are worth fighting for is crucial.

See your competitors as free research

Keye Oduneye from Google Digital Garage kicked off the day with his talk on How to Build a Social Media Strategy with an interesting take on how to view your competition. “see them as free research. They’re either doing something you should or doing something you shouldn’t. Learn from them and be inspired by them.”

When there’s someone out there doing something similar to you, or trying to reach a demographic that you’d like to tap into, keep a close eye on what they get up to online. Use it to decide what you might do with your next campaign on social media and keep the creative juices flowing.

Keye Oduneye, from Google Digital Garage conducting a talk at the Business & IP Centre held at the British Library

Social media is a powerful tool

As demonstrated by the live Twitter feed that had #BIPCStartUpDay trending by the afternoon of the event – social media is a force to be reckoned with. Keye Oduneye’s talk highlighted just how many customers use it to reach brands for swift responses to customer service queries, get the latest news from their favourite companies, and ultimately decide where they might spend their money.

Keye gave a thorough breakdown on the sort of things you should be sharing with potential customers and how important it is to see social media as a powerful influence to build a brand and reflect the kind of business you want to be seen as from day one.

Business & IP Centre event attendees being demonstrated the importance and power of social media through the talk conducted by Keye Oduneye from Google Digital Garage

Networking is key

Life coach, author, and speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru led an interactive workshop on ‘How to network for business success’ that was full of useful takeaways for everyone. “If I don’t meet, I don’t eat” was one such important reminder – although networking might seem nerve-wracking, meeting people and promoting your business is key to earning money from your product or service.

It certainly helped to be surrounded by people that have already started or are thinking about starting their own business all day, and plenty of business cards were exchanged throughout the event, but networking is more than just a brief connection we learned. Even if you connect with someone who might not seem like they can help you with your business, they might know someone who can. Rasheed urges people to “collect good people” that you can share values and ideas with to help grow your business and make it a success.

Rasheed Ogunlaru, life coach, author, and speaker giving an interactive workshop at the Business & IP Centre

You won’t always get it right

Setbacks are part of life and business. We can plan ahead, but sometimes we make mistakes and that’s natural. ‘How to get your business in the media on a budget’ was less of a how-to workshop than it was a lesson in how to face the potential pitfalls when you’re promoting your company. Jessica Huie runs an award-winning PR company and knows a thing or two about how to get your business into the media spotlight and create a positive buzz around what you do, but she also reminded us that it’s ok for it to not always go your way. “you are not for everyone and everyone is not for you” was the mantra, and setbacks ultimately teach us something in the long run. You will attract the right audience if you are authentic, do your research, and always seek to understand your customer better.

Jessica Huie, runs an award-winning PR company, giving a talk at the Business & IP Centre

Focus on pleasing your customer and you’ll always make money

There is a lot to consider when you’re starting out in business or working out how to turn a great idea into one. Budgets, planning, PR, social media campaigns, and networking are just a few of the plates you’ll be juggling – and sometimes all at once. The topic of Tim Campbell MBE’s talk could not have been more appropriate for the day as he shared his thoughts on ‘Staying Alive – How to get motivated when growing your start-up’. How exactly do you stay motivated and keep cash flow steady with everything else going on?

His advice was simple – focus on the customer. Don’t chase the materialistic aspects of the business as much as you concentrate on delivering what your customer expects and more. By focusing on providing the best service and product, always innovating and “delivering with quality” Tim promises you will always make money.

Tim Campbell, on stage conducting a talk at the Business & IP Centre held at the British Library

The Business & IP Centre is a fantastic resource

Julie Deane not only inspired with her story of setting up her business with minimal funds, she also shared some interesting stats. She revealed that businesses that engage with the Business & IP Centre are 4 times more likely to succeed than the ones that don’t, and as we learned from Nigel Spencer, there is a whole host of tools at your disposal to help plan and test your business. From free or low-cost workshops to online guides that cover numerous topics, it’s in your (and your businesses) best interest to check them out.

Days like Start-up Day are just a small taste of what you can achieve with the British Library’s Business & IP Centre. So, if you have a great idea and want to set up your own business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team. You can also check out our list of upcoming workshops and events to get even more great advice and support for your great business idea. 

The Business & IP Centre's information and resource stands pre and post event, for attendees to get all the help needed if appropriate

Start-up Day was sponsored by Virgin StartUp, Google Digital Garage, and The European Union Regional Development Fund.

For more information on this year's Start-Up Day, visit our website.

20 September 2017

Start-up Day 2017 live webcast: find out what you can tune in to

Over 20 master class talks are set to take place at Start-up Day tomorrow, Thursday 21 September, with over a thousand aspiring entrepreneurs joining us at the British Library to take the next steps to launching a business. If you won’t be able to join us, some of the sessions will be webcast live for you to watch from home.

Here are the times to look out for:

9.30 – 10.15
Google Digital Garage: How to build a social media strategy

Learn from Google how to optimise your online presence using the power of social media.

You’ll get a run-down of the best social media platforms to use in 2017, plus your trainer will explain how to create a social media strategy that delivers the right goals for your business. We’ll cover the importance of defining a set of marketing guidelines too, so you can always stay on brand and on message. You'll learn about:

  • Making your business's social media presence known
  • Developing rich, engaging content for social media


10.45 – 11.30
UK2: How to get your business online

In this workshop, Sara Rego, Marketing Director at leading web hosting and internet services company UK2 Group, will take you through some practical tips for maximising your online presence and raising the profile of our businesses with a great site. He will share common pitfalls to avoid and also explain how making some small changes to your business’s online presence can deliver tangible results. Content includes:

  • Getting started online
  • How to get a website that works for your business
  • 5 Common Web Design Mistakes
  • Website optimisation


12.00 – 12.45
Julie Deane OBE: How I started a business from my kitchen table

In 2008 Julie Deane – the Business & IP Centre’s ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ – started a business at her kitchen table with a budget of £600 budget and the aim of paying her children's school fees.

Fast forward eight years and the Cambridge Satchel Company is a multi-million-pound business that has five stores and sells products all over the world. Hear this incredibly inspiring story from Julie herself, and pick up some hints and tips that will help you grow your start-up idea into a global brand.


Virgin StartUp: Losing my entrepreneurial virginity

In less than four years Virgin StartUp has helped 2,000 people change their LinkedIn profile to read ‘business founder’. In that time over £24m has been distributed to help each one of them turn their great business idea into a reality. These people are now running businesses the length and breadth of the UK, from the toe of Cornwall to the tip of John O’Groats in the Scottish highlands. In the session you will learn:

  • How to apply for a Virgin start-up loan of up to £25,000 at a rate of 6% fixed p.a.
  • What you need to know before you apply
  • How to ensure you write a great application
  • The unique package of support that you can get alongside the cash
  • Plus the opportunities that might come your way from being part of the Virgin StartUp community

 14.30 – 14.50
Margot James MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility  will share a keynote address on ‘The Importance of Start-ups to the UK Economy’ followed by Q&A with the audience

Tim Campbell: Staying Alive: how to keep motivated when growing your startup

Nobody ever said that starting and growing a business was easy! Whilst the rewards can be great, new businesses inevitably must face and overcome numerous obstacles and setbacks on their path to success, some of which they couldn’t ever have predicted when they set-out.

Winner of BBC’s The Apprentice and Founder of Bright Ideas Trust Tim Campbell shares his insight on how to stay focused on your endgame when you’re traversing the trials and tribulations of business start-up, and gives some top hints and tips on how to stay positive and motivated throughout the highs and lows of your own personal business journey.

Expert Impact Panel: Profit with Purpose

Big business doesn't have to be 'bad', and a successful start-up can still make a big social impact

This event, in partnership with Expert Impact’s ‘Human Lending Library’, will give you hints and tips for unlocking the ethical impact of your start-up and balance profit with purpose. The session will benefit those wanting to start or grow a social enterprise, or those that want to improve the social impact of their existing businesses and for those interested in the topic. Our panel comprises:

Neil Daly, Founder of Skin Analytics

Paul Singh, Founder of Equal Education

Jo Godden, Founder of Ruby Moon

Start-up Stars: How I bit the business bullet

Our panel of business owners will talk candidly about taking the plunge from an employee, to self-employed, to employer, what they’ve learned along the way, what they wished they had known before they started, and why it was all worth it in the end. You’ll leave armed with practical insights, and feel more inspired than ever to turn your business idea into a reality.

The panel comprises:

Zoe Watkins of Livewire Kitchen

Rob Pitman of Tinderflint

Frankie Fox of The Foraging Fox

 To join in with any of these inspirational and practical talks simply register for our webcast. We will also be live tweeting as the whole event unfolds so be sure to follow us on #BIPCStartupDay to add your own comments and questions for the speakers.

Start-up Day 2017 is being held at the British Library in London as well as across 15 other city libraries in the country from Norwich to Newcastle. It is being run with support from our Event Partners the Google Digital Garage and Virgin Startup.

Virgin StartUp - Logo - RGB   DW_Logo_UK_EN_Horiz_Colour (4)

15 September 2017

The three tech steps every start-up business should know

With our national Start-up Day events on Thursday 21 September fast approaching, we are working with our specialist staff and many of our external partners to pull together the best advice and practical know-how to help make your jump to becoming a business founder as easy as possible.

Most start-ups are likely to have a website before their first customers and as such will need to think about delivering a secure and compelling online experience for those precious new clients. Written with help from our partner Lucidica, here are our top 3 factors to consider as a start-up, alongside choosing your brand name, fundraising, and staff.

  1. Make sure your data is safe and secure

As a start-up, data is crucial to the growth and development of your business. The idea of losing your data could cause long or irreplaceable damage to a business of this size. However, it’s had to find the right data backup solution for your business with so many options on the market and also with the need for it to be cost efficient. Intermediaries such as Lucidica can advise you and tell you which applications we’ve used and found to be effective and we will also implement these systems and ensure your data is safe. It’s always best to talk to an expert and find out what options you have, especially when it’s a technical subject you may find intimidating.

One such example is Cerberus who is a firm of commercial investigators specialising in assisting clients to protect their businesses and brands. They received help on how to share contacts, calendars, files, tasks and other company data not just within the London and the international offices, but also available to investigators on investigations from worldwide sites. They also needed to ensure that all data was backed up off-site.

  1. Get the best efficiency out of our tech equipment and systems

In your start-up years, technology solutions need to save your business time and also be cost effective. Whether it’s your email provider, technology equipment or other technical applications, they need to be scalable, adaptable and affordable for your business. A lot of retailers offer small businesses and start-ups special rates, even if they are run by an individual.  Lucidica is a Microsoft gold partner and reseller and also a Dell partner meaning they can give you the best deal on technology solutions.

Mango Logistics Group is a London based logistics company handling courier and storage needs for customers from consumers through to FTSE100 enterprises. They have eight computers and have been a client since 2009. Lucidica provided a virtual web server along with managed email hosting within a split Linux and Exchange environment.

        3. Have a plan to fend off cyber-crime and attacks

With more than 70% of cyber-attacks targeting small businesses, it is crucial that your start-up is protected. Cyber security is constantly on the rise and is becoming a profitable business for hackers. This means that businesses of all sizes are increasingly placing more priority on protecting their business and data. Not only can an attack cost you a substantial amount of money to fix, it can also lead to hours/days unable to work and files that cannot be reclaimed.

Make sure that you seek advice on what security best practices will help your business without making your work processes convoluted. Some of the questions you could plan to ask are:

  • How to identify the potential security flaws in the company and whereabouts it is likely hackers may penetrate to
  • How to create a practical data recovery plan
  • How to get a template to run a security audit
  • Where can you relocate important data

Quite often, the biggest cyber security breaches could have been prevented by the smallest changes. However, thanks to the Business & IP Centre’s new partnership with Tech experts Lucidica, we will pass on the advice you need to make the changes before anything can happen. Look out for upcoming workshops held in the British Library.


Lucidica is really well placed to offer this advice as they started small themselves – with Thomas Jeffs helping out businesses as a one-man-band in 1999. Thomas discovered he loved empowering businesses to use technology more effectively to help them grow and turned his passion into a business. Since then, Thomas has amassed an enormous amount of experience in helping over 1000 small and medium businesses solve their IT problems.  He’s gathered a team of expert engineers and support staff to help him deliver his vision. You may have even taken part in a workshop in one of his popular training sessions in the Business & IP Centre.

We are really pleased to say that some of the Lucidica team will be with us for the London Start-up Day, at the British Library on Thursday 21 September 2017. They will be on hand to answer any IT and technical questions you may have and offer their expertise advice on getting your business online and optimised.

05 September 2017

Profit with Purpose – Can you make money whilst also making a difference?

The days of profitable business meaning a heartless, soul-less, money-grabbing monolith are long gone. These days, more and more businesses are seeking to make a genuine social or ethical change. Whether through innovation, environmental conscience or simply ‘giving something back’, and in sectors as diverse as food and drink to Fin Tech, the best new businesses know the value of an integrated approach both in terms of consumer appeal and growth prospects and the rise of social enterprise shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, a recent Business & IP Centre survey revealed that 60% of respondents stated that making a ‘social and/ or environmental impact’ was an important motivating factor for their strategy.

In response to this trend, Expert Impact, who give free advice and mentoring from successful entrepreneurs for social enterprises through the Human Lending Library and The British Library Business & IP Centre have partnered to launch a new series of events which explore the question ‘can I make money and still make a difference?’

The then-new, Profit with Purpose series was to initiate engaging evenings of stories, advice and lessons learnt from entrepreneurs who have created impactful businesses in sectors ranging from the food and drink, education and retail to the healthcare, sciences and tech., sharing their personal experiences of starting and growing a business that has made a positive impact or social change.

Cemal Ezal, founder of Change Please

Cemal Ezal

The event ‘The Tastemakers’, took place on Wednesday 6 September 2017 and was be chaired and introduced by award winning business coach and motivational speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru. Throughout the course of the evening all that attended got to hear from a diverse panel of impressive social entrepreneurs:

Jenny Dawson Costa, founder of Rubies in the Rubble

Jenny Costa-Dawson

As well as top tips, you can expect the founders to share entertaining insights like their biggest mistakes and to provide answers to your most pressing questions; build on their experience to achieve your own success and improve your social impact.

Shaz Shah, founder of Harry Specters

Shaz Shah

Kendra Walsh, Programme Director at Expert Impact added:

We are delighted to be working with the British Library to deliver this important new event series. Expert Impact helps social entrepreneurs to scale their work and their impact. We do this by connecting them with those who have done it before; advice, support and pertinent introductions from successful entrepreneurs can play a huge part in generating success.

The Business & IP Centre offers a perfect environment where businesses can receive impartial support, learn new skills and get access to a wide range of valuable data and resources which enables them to launch their idea more quickly and make a bigger social impact’. 

Jamie Crummie, co-founder of Too Good To Go

Jamie Crummie

The Business & IP Centre are thrilled to support this initiative to encourage more start-up businesses to consider the social and ethical impact they can make as they turn their business dreams into a reality. For more information on how to access this wealth of support and knowledge, visit The Business & IP Centre website.