Innovation and enterprise blog

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

5 posts from January 2018

30 January 2018

How to unlock the power of the internet and social media for your business

Digital is currently bigger than ever with both entrepreneurs and investors keener than ever to try and spot the next big thing and our panel of tech trailblazers at this week's Internet Icons event was a great opportunity to get the inside track on how you can turn your business into an online success story and accelerate your growth online.

The Business & IP Centre are committed to help people from all walks of life boost their digital skills and increase their chances of success: in fact, last year we successfully supported over 12,000 business owners to increase their digital know-how as part of the Do It Digital campaign. We achieved this through our regular programme of training, skills and support that runs day-in, day-out at the Centre and includes the following sessions:


Get started workshop

Get the knowledge and information you need to successfully launch a business! In this full day workshop we will cover the essentials of what you need to do to set up and launch a business.

14 February 


Tips for better smartphone photography for business

5 top-tips for smartphone photography for your business

Learn how to optimise your website on a budget by taking top-notch photos armed with just your smartphone and some enthusiasm! You'll leave this workshop with some tips and tricks to take your photography to the next level and ensure your business looks slick and professional online!

14 February 


WEBINAR: Introduction to Lean Start-up

Learn the basics of Lean Start-Up philosophy and practices! Lean Start-Up helps entrepreneurs reduce the cost of developing new products and services by ensuring that they do not waste time and money designing features that customers do not want. Increase your chance of success without large amounts of outside funding and elaborate business plans with our free webinar.  

19 February 
11-12 am


Online marketing masterclass

At this one-stop-shop for digital marketing you'll learn about the 9 must-know strategies for getting your business seen online. You'll leave the workshop knowing which online marketing methods will be most effective for your business to generate new clients and raise awareness of your brand.

20 February 
£48 (usually £98 - use discount code onlinemarketing)


WEBINAR:Introduction to using social media for business


Covering blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and more, this webinar will teach you the basics about the different types of social media and how to use them effectively for your business to engage your customers to increase sales and brand awareness.

20 February 


You can also browse our full programme of events, workshops and webinars here, covering everything from exploring your market to trade mark searching. With all this support available, now's your chance to become an 'Internet Icon' in your own right and take full advantage of the digital work to grow a successful business!

20 January 2018

Lean writing: 18 ways to get maximum impact from minimum effort


What’s the point of writing if nobody reads your words and nobody takes action? A big part of doing anything great inside an organisation is telling the story. Our partners at Fluxx have created this handy Guide to Persuasive Writing; eighteen tips, many stolen from George Orwell and Umberto Eco.

Canva - Diary  Ipad  Write  Blog  Workplace  Chocolate

1. Before doing anything else, write the headline. An article without a great headline isn’t worth writing. Far more people (often 100x more) will see the headline than read the whole article, so it’s sensible to spend significantly more time writing the headline than writing the article. Clickbait gurus Upworthy suggest writing 25 headlines for every story, which is an interesting and exhausting process

2. Never write ‘I’ in an article.

3. One lazy cliché can kill an argument. Familiar words and arguments have lost the power to surprise. As George Orwell puts it: “every such phrase anaesthetises a portion of one’s brain”. Scriptwriter Robert McKee writes “Cliché is at the root of audience dissatisfaction, and like a plague spread through ignorance, it now infects all story media.” In the listicle at the end of Politics and the English Language, Orwell writes “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”

4. When you get stuck, stop trying to write. Do one of two things. First, read a good article. Try a ‘Talk of the Town’ piece from the New Yorker, a long read in Bloomberg Businessweek, or a GDS blog post. Then… 

5. Do more research. It’s very hard to tell a compelling story without the memorable fact, detail or anecdote that brings it to life. Visit the call centre, talk to another customer, run the numbers again and again to find an image as memorable as the black thumb-print on Page 3 of Road to Wigan Pier.

6. Don’t try to write like a writer. Umberto Eco, in How to Write a Thesis, writes “Are you a poet? Then do not pursue a university degree.” Words are a precision tool. Their job is to persuade readers that your argument is correct, win them over, and probably sell them something*. Inexperienced writers try to be writerly — adopting a weird, mannered style. Confident writers write like they talk, but with the luxury of fixing every ‘um’ and ‘er’. On a recent Fluxx project, we transcribed call-centre tapes to learn how sales people explained a really complex set of products (a technique we learned from Conversion Rate Experts)

7. Has someone already written this article? Google makes it dispiritingly easy to find out. At the moment, it’s really hard to find a fresh headline for an article about blockchain, VR, AR, autonomous cars, Uber or Pokemon Go. If the article is already written, don’t write it again.

8. Use short paragraphs. Umberto Eco writes: “Begin new paragraphs often. Do so when logically necessary, and when the pace of the text requires it, but the more you do it, the better.”

9. Use short sentences. Umberto Eco again: “You are not Proust. Do not write long sentences. If they come into your head, write them, but then break them down. Do not be afraid to repeat the subject twice, and stay away from too many pronouns and subordinate clauses.”

10. Use short words and not many of them. George Orwell again: “Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”

11. Give the reader something to do next. Good writing inspires action. George Steer’s 1937 report in The Times inspired Picasso to paint Guernica. Half way through Paul Ford’s epic essay What Is Code? the reader is taught to fire up the Terminal on their mac and start coding C. What is your reader supposed to do next? It might be as simple as following a link or buying a book, but make it explicit and easy.

12. Writing an article is like launching a product. Use ethnographic research to find a story. The headline is the value proposition. The reader is the customer, and the writer needs to understand and map the customer’s journey through the article. At Fluxx we’re experimenting with a Story Generation Canvas based on the Business Model Canvas — get in touch if you want to take a look.

13. Share your work Having someone read your work is helpful twice. The reader may spot a mistake or suggest something useful. But more importantly, it lets you look at your words through their eyes. That often opens up ways to make it clearer or simpler, or simply reveals the boring bits. If there’s nobody around, reading the piece out loud to yourself can also help. There’s something about talking the words into an empty room that can loosen an idea that’s become stuck.

14. Create a banned words list for yourself or your organisation. Update it regularly. The GDS ‘Words to Avoid’ list includes robust, streamline, incentivise, disincentivise and “foster (unless it’s children)”. The BBC Academy warns against ecosystem, exponential, step change, synergy and raft (“When was the last time you heard someone say ‘I must get home. I’ve got a raft of ironing to do’?).

15. Write for the narrowest audience possible, people who really care about what you have to say. The internet is huge, so you’ll find plenty of people. Trying to write for an imaginary wider audience risks patronising those readers who might care.

16. One idea in each article. If an article contains two big ideas but only one can fit into the headline, the other is wasted. Consider splitting the article in two.

17. Make it long or make it short. A normal newspaper article tends to be 500–800 words long. It’s very hard to make that work online. Very short bits like tweets or tabloid-length stories under 500 words work because they’re fast, focussed, shareable. Very long articles — chunky features or Medium posts, over 1,500 words, can also be very shareable if they provide a real pay-off for readers who take the time. This idea is called the Quartz Curve, after the business news site.

18. If in doubt, write a list.



Fluxx is an innovation company on a mission to unlock potential in organisations, helping them to change and innovate at pace. Find out what they can do to transform your business here.

11 January 2018

Is starting a business your New Year’s Resolution for 2018?

If you’ve returned from the Christmas break resolving this will be the year to become your own boss, you may be questioning whether now is the right time to take the leap into entrepreneurship? With concerns about Brexit looming large, an uncertain economy to contend with, increasing costs and political shifts, there are plenty of factors that might prevent new businesses from launching. However, with great change comes great opportunity and we’ve spoken to small business expert Emma Jones – founder Enterprise Nation – on why, when it comes to being your own boss, there’s no time like the present.

In fact, over the past five years, the UK has witnessed a start-up boom as over half a million people from all walks of life turn their business ideas into realities each year. If this is something you’re considering, here are 5 good reasons why you should give it a go and keep the resolution:

1. You can start without quitting the day job

Don’t feel you have to dive into self-employment on a risk-it-all basis. Most people start a business whilst holding onto the day job, meaning you keep the security of a regular salary whilst giving yourself time to build confidence and cashflow in the business and get your brand ‘out there’ into the market. Often referred to as having a ‘side hustle’ or ‘working 5 to 9’, this really can be the best way to start. Providing you’re not launching a business to compete with your employer, bosses can be often be very receptive to this way of working too as it means you’re picking up new and enterprising skills without the company having to pay for it!

2. Gaps in the market still remain

You may be put off starting a business because you think that all the good ideas have been taken, people come up with all sort of amazing new and niche ideas every single day so think outside the box! From indestructible laptops for boat owners, to HR services for award-giving bodies, to new food products that respond to market trends – so many gaps in the market remain, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to sell a specific product or service to a particular audience. If you want to set up a business, it’s your job to fill that gap!

Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation
Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation

3. Technology has opened up a world of opportunity

With idea in hand, you need a route to market and there’s never been a better time to embrace technology as that route. Turn to the likes of Amazon marketplace, Etsy and Trouva for selling products online, or Kindle, iTunes iStock for selling services. It’s also never been easier to engage with your target community thanks to social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so use these opportunities to drive traffic to your own website, encouraging browsers to sign up for newsletters and special offers so you have permission to contact them again. With a basic understanding of these powerful platforms, the world is quite literally your trading oyster.

 4. Support is in abundance

Whether you’re starting a snack or app business, you’ll find there’s plenty of support available. This ranges from incentives for people to invest in your start-up (EIS relief) through to accelerators, local Growth Hubs and mentor programmes, not to mention all of the incredible resources that you can access for free here at the Business & IP Centre. It’s not difficult to access support as a start-up, you just have to know what’s available and then make the most of it! 

Enterprise Nation Logo
Our partners at Enterprise Nation are on a mission to create a more entrepreneurial society in the UK

5. Freedom and flexibility is yours

The benefit of self-employment cited most often amongst those who’ve taken the plunge is the freedom and flexibility that comes with working for yourself. You can decide where, how and with whom you work, which gives meaning and purpose to your everyday life and a much greater sense of achievement and satisfaction when you see great results. If these are the benefits you’re after in 2018, it’s time to get started!

If you are looking for some inspiration, advice and support to get your business idea off the ground, there is plenty out there to take advantage off. Innovating for Growth - Start-ups is a fully funded two-day course designed to give you all the information you need to take the first steps on your business journey, and is delivered regularly both at the Library and at satellite libraries across London.

So here’s to making 2018 the year you become your own boss!

08 January 2018

2017: A busy year at the Business & IP Centre

The Business & IP Centre Team are spending this week getting ready for a busy and prosperous 2018, supporting more entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and scale successful businesses both in London and around the UK. However, whilst there is a lot to look forward to, we’re also taking this opportunity to pause, reflect and look back at some of the successes and key achievements both for the Centre itself and amongst our network of users, supporters and partners too. Here’s a look back on some of the Business & IP Centre highlights of 2017:

Record-breaking Inspiring Entrepreneurs 

The year got off to a great start back in February when we delivered our first Inspiring Entrepreneurs of 2017 and welcomed Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella), Aron Gelbard (Bloom and Wild), Sarah Wood (Unruly) and Rupert Hunt (Spare Room) for a lively discussion on how to exploit the power of the digital world in your business. Of course our Inspiring Entrepreneurs events are always a highlight, but Internet Icons in 2017 was particularly special as we delivered live webcasts to a record-breaking eleven partner libraries across our National Network, meaning businesses right across the UK could participate. The event was so successful we’re even running it again next month with a great line-up of expert panelists. Just click here for further information, or visit our YouTube channel BIPCTV to catch-up with highlights from last year’s event.

Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella) and Aron Gelbard (Bloom and Wild) answering questions at Inspiring Entrepreneurs - Internet Icons

Innovating for Growth graduate successes 

We were thrilled to see so many of our Innovating for Growth graduates go from strength-to-strength this year too. The talent agency Young Guns Group hit the headlines in June when one of the acts that they represent (Tokio Myers) won ITV’s prestigious Britain’s Got Talent competition. Co-founder Dominic Lyons also participated in a Start-up Stars event at the Centre in July and said that the win was definitely keeping the company busy and had given the business a real boost. Boutique confectionary company Lavolio featured in a high profile article on the BBC about online business. We were also delighted for Arit Eminue, founder of DiVA Apprenticeships, when she was awarded the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ accolade at the prestigious PRECIOUS Awards in September. And 2018 has already gotten off to a great start for Innovating for Growth graduate Anthony Impey (CEO of Optimity) with the announcement that he was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for services to small business.

Arit Eminue celebrating her PRECIOUS Awards win with the judging panel

Endorsements for our Scale-up Summit and Start-up Day 

In July we delivered the first ever British Library Scale-up Summit, designed to support small businesses to scale-up and achieve their potential. The schedule featured an incredible line-up of over 20 successful entrepreneurs and business experts sharing insight and guidance on key topics including branding, raising finance, export and leadership with an audience of 150 ambitious small businesses. We were especially thrilled to welcome Deputy London Mayor for Business Rajesh Agrawal to the event, held in partnership with the Mayor’s Office and the London LEAP. In an article published on LinkedIn Rajesh described the event as ‘a fantastic opportunity to hear from some household names and brands’ and a great way to inform the London Growth Hub’s support strategy for scaling businesses.

Rajesh Agrawal delivering the closing address at Scale-up Summit 2017

Moving into September we also held our biggest ever Start-up Day – a nationwide event delivered across our network of UK libraries designed to give aspiring entrepreneurs all the information and inspiration they need to take the first steps on their business journey. Over 1600 people took part in this event and we were especially pleased that Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility participated in our London programme to speak about the importance of new business to the UK economy. You can catch the Minister’s speech in full, as well as our other keynote presentations on BIPCTV.

Margot James speaking at Start-up Day in September

Accolades for our case studies and Ambassadors 

At the Business & IP Centre we feel fortunate to enjoy close relationships with past users of our resources who have gone on to start and grow successful brands. One such user is Paul Lindley who used the valuable resources available in the Centre to research and launch the Ella's Kitchen organic baby food brand. Paul frequently generously ‘gives back’ time and expertise to the Centre in his role as an Ambassador and we were thrilled that he was named as Director of the Year by Director Magazine in December. Jane ni Dhulchaointigh, investor and founder of Sugru was also pinpointed by NESTA as ‘one of 5 female inventors that changed our lives’ for her mouldable glue product that has been described as ‘the most exciting product since sellotape.’ Congratulations are due to both Paul and Jane on their success.

A growing network of Corporate Partners

We are committed to working with a network of professional corporate partners and to sharing information on their relevant services and support with our network. We were delighted to welcome London based IT support company Lucidica as a Business & IP Centre Corporate Partner this year. Lucidica have been working with us to advise small businesses on a wide range of IT issues, providing their expertise in technology to help businesses succeed. Lucidica will be joining us in the Centre again this month to deliver a workshop helping small businesses avoid cybercrimes and there are still some places available.

The Lucidica team

Of course this just gives a brief flavour of what we’ve been getting up to this year and there’s much more to celebrate, not to mention expanding our National Network of Business & IP Centres by officially launching services in Northamptonshire and Hull during 2017 too. We’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all of our users that launched their business or continued to expand it in 2017, and to our partners and speakers who supported them in their achievements. We look forward to working with you all in the year ahead to help your business go from strength to strength.

05 January 2018

Revival Retro: an award-winning London boutique creating timeless styles for every figure

Rowena Howie, founder of Revival Retro London boutique
Rowena in front of the Revival Retro London boutique

Have you ever struggled to find a stunning retro outfit that looks great, but won’t fall apart when you wear it? Do you often feel like all that gorgeous vintage clothing is just a size too small? Fear not, because Revival Retro, a London-based vintage boutique shares your frustrations... and stocks the very best in modern day reproductions or reinterpretations of original 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s designs sourced from all over the globe. The outstanding service Revival offers in their central London boutique has won them not one, but two Time Out London awards!

We caught up with the owner of the company and past Innovating for Growth participant, Rowena Howie, to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey and hear her top 3 business resolutions for 2018.

Hi Rowena! Can you tell us a little more about the Revival Retro business?

For the discerning woman who despairs with the trend led, throw away fashion available on the high street Revival Retro is the place to go to for high quality clothing designed for women with curves. We all want to feel confident, comfortable and stylish and our staff care about finding you the outfit that fits and flatters your figure. That’s why a trip to our London boutique is such a special experience, the team’s genuine passion and expert knowledge often inspires customer’s to give us glowing reviews and recommend us to others.

What inspired the creation of your award-winning boutique?

An attempt to buy specialist swing dance shoes from America gave me the idea. I bought three pairs not knowing that the US has different shoe sizes , unaware I would pay additional import taxes and fees and not realising that by the time the order arrived in the UK the returns period would have already elapsed. My frustration led me to ask why are these products not available in London or at least the UK. I hated internet shopping, and could see the demand from fellow dancers so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I purchased £500 worth of stock on a credit card and sold the shoes to friends and acquaintances in dance class. Once I was known as the ‘shoe girl’, people started asking me if I knew where to find suitable vintage clothing. As swing era originals were hard to find, I researched reproduction vintage clothing which had significant benefits: it could be washed and worn repeatedly by dancers. When (non dance) friends saw what I was wearing and liked it I knew that I had a business that could take me beyond my niche!

Revival Retro Boutique's shop in London and pictured with staff members

How did the Business & IP Centre and our Innovating for Growth programme help you along the way?

From the very beginning I used workshops at the British Library to further my knowledge about running my own business. Long before I ever opened the bricks and mortar store I was examining the viability, profitability and likelihood of scale for the venture. I started the business because I was thirty something and couldn’t envisage ever owning my own home on the salary I was earning. The drive for me to learn and grow was fundamental to commercial success of the business, helping me achieve my personal goals.

What are your tips for the perfect vintage party dress?

Feel fabulous! Don’t get too hung up on a theme, dress code or what everyone else is doing. If you feel good and have a smile on your face, everyone will compliment you on how amazing you look.


Revival Retro Boutique London's product example
The Bombshell Sequin Gown is a staff recommendation for a show-stopping party dress

And finally, as we look ahead to a new year full of opportunities, what are your top 3 business resolutions for 2018?

It’s all about content not keywords for the website in 2018! We well be reviewing our messaging to make sure viewers better understand the what, where and why.

For marketing we are going to use our best assets (our staff and our products) to convince new audiences they should visit the boutique: we will be popping up in selected spots all around Greater London.

Last but not least, we will develop our own range of clothing further. Greater control of our product range, delivery dates and pricing without competing with other online retailers of the same goods gives us an advantage especially if we continue to listen to feedback of what our customers expect.


Ewa Domaradzka, Commercial Marketing Manager 


Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more here.

European Regional Development Fund Logo

This programme is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the British Library.