Innovation and enterprise blog

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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

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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.