THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

10 posts from September 2019

25 September 2019

Start-up Day: What’s going on around the Network

Start-up Day 2019

It’s not only the British Library hosting Start-up Day 2019, this year we have over 40 public libraries around the country holding their own Start-up Days. The day aims to support start-ups and small business owners with talks, workshops and interactive sessions designed to take the first steps towards turning a business idea into a successful enterprise.

On average, our National Network helps create an average of 15 new businesses every working day[1]. Most of these were started at home, with 40% of them beginning in a home office and almost a third from the kitchen table. These new businesses are far exceeding national averages for success rates – 90% of them are still trading after three years, compared to UK-wide rates of 60%.

Here you can find a snapshot of the highlights going on around the country and discover what your local Business & IP Centre will be doing for the day…

Start-up Day Birmingham

If you’re in or near Birmingham, they will be running activities including:

  • Market research using IBISWorld
  • Brexit & business with Enterprise Europe Network
  • Why your IP is valuable with Forresters

Start-up Day Brighton & Hove

Our new pilot centre will be live streaming some of the British Library talks and panels and introducing the new BIPC.

Start-up Day Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

A wide variety of drop in sessions throughout the day at Cambridge Central Library with organisations and businesses including:

  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Prince’s Trust
  • Santander
  • Growth Hub

They also have free headshots with Elton Cilliers, a start-up photographer himself, as well as talks on decluttering for business, fraud and cyber-crime as well as live streaming some of the talks from the British Library.

In Peterborough, they will be holding one-to-ones on accountancy, legal advice and intellectual property, amongst other workshops.

Start-up Day Devon

Taking place in both Exeter and Barnstaple, there will be a full programme with workshops and talks on:

Exeter

  • IBISWorld
  • Introduction to intellectual property
  • FabLab tours
  • Marketing videos on a budget with BitPod
  • How to avoid legal mistakes with Cartridges Law

Barnstaple

  • Branding with South West Growth Hub
  • Bookkeeping with Mark Ponsonby Blue Ink Bookkeeping
  • Panel on the challenges of starting up
  • IBISWorld

Start-up Day Glasgow

BIPC Glasgow is our only Centre in Scotland and will be running a day of workshops and talks, such as:

  • Finance with Santander
  • Lifecycles of a company
  • Trade mark starter pack

Throughout the day there will be option to watch the live stream from the British Library as well as talk to relevant businesses and organisations at their trade stands, including:

  • NLS
  • Prince’s Trust
  • Santander
  • Codeworks
  • Gilson Gray
  • People Plus
  • Business Gateway
  • Jobs & Business Glasgow
  • Trading Standards

Start-up Day Hull

For those thinking of starting a business in Hull, you can attend workshops and talks on:

  • What you need to do in the first 90 days to increase your chance of business success
  • IBISWorld
  • Developing a social enterprise
  • Market research with Mintel
Hull Start-up Day 2018
Hull Start-up Day 2018

Start-up Day Leeds

As well as some of the talks being streamed from the British Library, BIPC Leeds will be running talks and workshops on:

  • Getting inside customers’ heads with Ad:Venture
  • Global trends with Mintel
  • Personal branding with Stepp Digital
  • How to combine profit with purpose with Agency for Good

There will also be a Start-up Stars panel, with local entrepreneurs about how they started their business.

Start-up Day Liverpool

For those in and around Liverpool you can get tips on marketing your small business and accounting, as well as hearing from local entrepreneurs, such as Owen Drew Luxury Candles.

Start-up Stars Liverpool Start-up Day 2018
Liverpool Start-up Day 2018

Start-up Day Manchester

Start-up Day is not only taking place in Manchester Central Library, but throughout the region in Ashton-Under-Lyme Library, Blackpool Central Library, Bolton Central Library, Eccles Library, Oldham Library & Lifelong Learning Centre, Preston Library and Stockport Library. You can find networking and coffee mornings, speed mentoring as well as talks on:

  • Preparing your business plan with Santander
  • Marketing with Tidal Wave Consulting
  • How to be a healthy and confident entrepreneur with Amina Waldron
  • How to tell your story with Steve Rawling
  • 10 mistakes I made in year one with a local panel of entrepreneurs

For a detailed programme in your local library, please contact the library directly for their full schedule of events.

Manchester Three Rivers Gin - Machester
Manchester Start-up Day 2018 with Three Rivers Gin

Start-up Day Newcastle

Join BIPC Newcastle for workshops on setting targets and goals, branding and IP, as well as a coffee morning with their experts in residence.

Start-up Day Norfolk

Whether you’re in Norwich, Kings Lynn, Thetford or Great Yarmouth, there will be talks for you. Each Library will have a networking coffee morning and streaming of British Library events. There will be more talks in Norwich, including topics such as getting your product to market, creative product development and start-up funding.

Start-up Day Northamptonshire

A full day of talks and networking will be taking place which includes how to manage your Portfolio Career and maximising the benefits of networking amongst others.

Start-up Day Nottingham

BIPC Nottingham will be hosting two presentations as well as speed mentoring and a networking coffee morning during the day.

Start-up Day Sheffield

A variety of business-related talks, which include:

  • Tips when starting a business with Business Sheffield
  • Researching your business with IBISWorld
  • A start-up journey with local entrepreneur Katie Bain
  • Using social media to boost your business
  • Social enterprise and investment
  • The Sheffield tech scene with Digital Llama

Start-up Day Worcestershire

Our new pilot centre will be running business support clinics all day with Enterprising Worcestershire as well as hosting talks on:

  • Digital marketing and social media with Quick by Design
  • Crowdfunding with Be The Change Café
  • Business plans with Blue Orchid
  • How to assess your big idea with Blue Orchid

For more information on Start-up Day or to book your place in any of our Business & IP Centres, click here to visit our event page.

 

[1] Economic Impact Survey 2019. Analysis from January 2016 – December 2018.

Choosing revenue over retirement - starting a business in your 60s

Bryher is the founder of Autodotbiography. In honour of Book Lovers' Day, Bryher tells us about her book-based business and the inspiration that made her start a brand new business up at the age of 60. 

I know that at the age of 60 most people think their careers are over. I spent 25 happy years at the BBC working on all kinds of factual programmes. I was Editor of 'That’s Life!' and later Editor-in-Chief of BBC Online during the very early days of website development.

So why, at this late stage of my life have I started a business for the first time? I have put my bank account, my home, life-savings and my future on the line? Is it because there is insanity in my family, and I’ve inherited it?  Not as far as I know. It’s all down to my mother’s untimely death.

When my mother died 20 years ago I was devastated.  We were extremely close, she was my best friend, my wise and trusted advisor and more than that, she was great fun to be with. With her sudden death our wonderful relationship died, and so did her memories.  They say that when a person dies a library burns and I think that is so true. There were so many questions I wanted to ask about her life but it was too late.

As her executor I had to rummage through her life to find the documents needed to sort out probate.  I came across drawers full of photographs of people who must have meant something to her but who were now anonymous.  I had no idea who they were and never would. There was no-one to ask.

She had told me very little about her childhood – I knew it had been tough and that she clashed with her mother.  Then I found a story written by her.  It was on yellowing paper and typed on a very old-fashioned typewriter.  It told of jumble sales held at the Methodist Hall where her father was the caretaker.  She described how she would sneak into the hall before it opened and try on hats with magnificent feathers, or teeter on high heels, only to tear them off and put them back when the doors opened and the sale began.  I loved reading it.

I realised that while the rich and famous have their lives recorded, this wasn’t possible for everyone.  Of course, there are ghostwriters to help people tell their story but they tend to cost thousands of pounds. A blank piece of paper or screen is very daunting. Just knowing where to start can be difficult.

I wanted it to be easy, and affordable, for anyone to write their life story and have a beautiful hardback book at the end of the process.  It took 12 years of devising and writing and spending our life savings and putting our house on the line – my husband of 44 years, Paul, has been magnificent in supporting me.

Bryher 1

So, hundreds of thousands of words later and all my savings, I launched www.autodotbiography.com , a unique online system that makes it easy for anyone, no matter how good or bad at writing, to create a beautifully written, lavishly illustrated hardback book of their life story for their family.  All the author has to do is answer simple questions - selecting from pre-written answers, if they are not a confident writer, or writing in their own words if they are.  To illustrate their stories they can upload photographs and documents, and then our automated system turns their words and pictures into a beautiful book.  Basically, it is a virtual ghost writer and a virtual book designer.

By profession I have been a television producer, so it might have been expected that I would produce videos of people’s stories and there are companies that do that. My reason for producing a book is that it is intended to be a family heirloom and that means it has to last hundreds of years.  An autodotbiography is a hardback book with very high-quality paper, designed to last.  As a programme maker and an internet entrepreneur I have watched many video and photographic formats come and go and who knows how we will be accessing our data in 100 years. More likely than not it will be impossible to get at these precious memories because the operating system or app no longer operates. But an autodotbiography will still be sitting on a bookshelf for future generations to enjoy.

Bryher 3

There are so many things to say about running my own business. It has been terrifying, amazing, frustrating and a tremendous adventure. I have learned to do so many things in the course of running the business. For instance, I never dreamed I would become a cruise ship speaker!  But lecturing and running workshops on cruise ships is a terrific way to market autodotbiography, as well as seeing the world with some delightful people who have wonderful life stories to share with their families.

I am thrilled to report that at the ripe old age of 62 I won an award from PRIME (Prince of Wales Initiative for Mature Enterprise) Best New Digital Business.  And I have wonderful comments from the authors who have completed their books and their fascinated families that makes it all worthwhile. In a world when physical books are becoming outnumbered by digital formats, it is wonderful to see the importance people still place on creating beautiful books and I love that I have been able to build a business out of this. 

To find out more about Authodotbiography, visit https://www.autodotbiography.com/.

23 September 2019

A week in the life of... Keri Jamieson, founder of KeriKit

Keri Jamieson is the founder of KeriKit, a women's accessories brand that develop bags which cater for all sides of the modern woman and alumni of the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme. The designs organise belongings, so for example, for mums there are insulated bottle holders, and D-rings to loop your bag onto your pram, but when you need to switch to work mode, you can easily add your diary, business cards and laptop. The designs are supported by the brand 'Kit' including all the essentials that you need for your day, such as travel wallets, purses, business card holders, PRAM clips, cashmere wraps, muslins and more. Here, Keri tells us what she gets up to in a typically busy week managing and developing her KeriKit brand...

Monday - Day at the Home Office

I get up about 7.40 and then wake up the kids for school which involves breakfast, uniforms, hair brushing, teeth brushing -the usual!- and a quick turnaround to get my three children over to our local primary school. Jasper is seven and my twins have just turned five. I then head back home to my home office via the KeriKit warehouse and collect any orders for the day, or if I’m lucky I can go to yoga for an hour before my workday starts. I’m all about work-life balance since I had a recent hip replacement which unfortunately didn’t go as planned, so I need to do exercise most days to keep myself moving! Balancing all this with the kids is crucial - I’m very grateful not to miss the important things in their lives whilst I balance my work and their schedule.

After yoga or the school drop-off, I check my emails and write a list of the things that need to be done - usually this involves creating a newsletter in MailChimp,  updating or adding product descriptions, doing a video or flat-lay photoshoot, discussing PR opportunities with my PR company and looking at which influencers we would like to target, and then looking if they have posted the pic yet! I also have daily conversations with my marketing director regarding new ways to get KeriKit out into the wider world. I make sure I have answered all the questions and queries on social media too.

I now put time aside each week to schedule my social media with Buffer - before Buffer, I used to find myself working until eight or nine at night whilst I was supposed to be relaxing, but relatively small changes like this allow me to organise my time more efficiently, and have made a huge difference overall. Knowing that posts will go out automatically and to all platforms when I need, is great, especially as I have less energy at night to craft posts after a long day, and with the kids around. I find the morning best for working as the kids are at school, so I can really focus.

Keri Jamieson, founder of KeriKit

With the boring office things out of the way, I then get the enjoyment of creating new designs and looking at trends and colours that are coming through to see how they will fit Kerikit's USP of making life easier and more stylish, for busy women on the go.

I tend to work through lunch so I juice quite regularly, which means my lunch is ready to go and I don’t need to stop for long. Usually I take the kids to after-school activities at 15.30 and then if I’m lucky my day ends at 17.30, so I can prepare dinner for the children and sit down for a family meal with them. After bath time is done, I tend to pop back upstairs and process any orders for the next day so they are left out ready to be packed and processed by my darling mother, who helps me everyday with order fulfilment and accounts - she is 71, bless her!

Bed by 23.00!

Tuesday - Photoshoot in Manchester

It's an early start today, waking up at 6.00. Today is all about creating new photo content as I drive from Chester to Manchester to meet our Manchester-based fashion photographer, Rosie. We recce (scope out) the locations we have pre-planned to check they are as we need them to be with lighting etc, and then get the outfits ready with the bags that we are shooting with. Today I am modelling again (although I much prefer using professionals, and staying behind the scenes!) as we need a few more shots of me with the new bag styles we are launching. 

I am always trying to create beautiful things that make women's life easier and I hope to expand my range in the future to include luggage accessories and other Kit items that support you through your day. The business has just gone through a full rebrand and we are focusing our efforts on an edited collection of perfect items that work seamlessly together, with limited seasonal drops. The rebrand involved a new website, new logo, new fonts, new colours, new imagery - pretty much everything - but retaining the KeriKit feel, which I'm really proud of.

At 12.30 we break for lunch, and Rosie and my good friend and stylist Helen are pretty exhausted as I can be quite a task master when there is a to-do list to work through! Despite my dodgy hip, my energy is high, and we finish the rest of the shot list with a lot of laughter and smiles. 

I'm home by 20.00, to have dinner with the hubby and kiss the kids goodnight, before falling into bed at 22.00!

Wednesday - Meeting in Warrington

This morning I am heading to a meeting with my marketing director and our web developers to review the latest site updates and discuss future plans. I arrive for the meeting at 10.00 and we are hammering out the details right across lunch, having some tasty sandwiches and salads as we go. I leave the meeting at 15.00, and head home to carry on working from there. I respond to urgent emails and note that my to-do list is pretty light for the rest of the day. 

If I ever get to the bottom of my to-do list (which I admit is rare!) I try to look at more strategic things within my business such as targets for next year, ways to be more streamlined, any new systems or applications that will enable me to get the job done more quickly, or improve my website. As I mentioned previously, Buffer is one of the new additions which saves time by allowing me to create all my social media in one go, and I also use Trello which is great for creating lists and making sure I get the job done. Otherwise I use freelancers from various online platforms to help with graphics and PPC. As the business grows, we are looking at other markets and although we have some great success in America, I hope to branch out into Europe and the Far East next. But we do intend to prioritise our own online business now as the margins are far better, and customers are perfectly used to buying online nowadays. We’ve taken the decision not to sell wholesale to retail stores as we have struggled to make the finances work - we would rather pass any savings on to the customer.

I finish the day at 17.30 and make the kids dinner before taking a long luxurious bath, and getting dinner ready for hubby and me. I hit the hay at around 23.30. 

KeriKit products

Thursday - Film Crew Arrive

Today we have a film crew visiting to capture a 'day in the life' at KeriKit for a UK media company, and get the lowdown on all things KeriKit. It's a busy start to the morning getting the house ready around the kids breakfasts and school prep, but by 8.30 the house is quiet and almost ready for it's close-up. I spend time strategically placing KeriKit items around the house so that whatever shots are taken, we can be sure some product always sneaks into view! The crew arrive at 9.00 and once we have found the perfect place to capture me and our hero KeriKit styles, we get straight into filming. It's so lovely that the women in the crew start cooing over each product as I show them some of our bestsellers, and gorgeous new arrivals. Its so nice when I receive genuine feedback, and it always amazes me how surprised industry-types are by the exceptional quality and craftsmanship - exceeding expectations has become pretty commonplace for KeriKit, and fortunately a few sales are made before the video is even released! 

We finish up the filming at 16.30 and I take some time to curl up with a good book on the sofa, before the kids get back from their after-school activities. I relish the time to unwind and 'come down' from my filming high, and feel much more relaxed as I get dinner on and tell the kids about my day, and hear about theirs. After dinner I catch-up with Instagram comments and requests, and get to bed at about 22.30. 

Friday - Day at the home office

After a very busy week, it's nice to get back in the office and deal with more admin-y type stuff, and tie up some loose ends that have been niggling at me all week. I really like to feel organised and in control, but when you're juggling a growing business and family life, it's not easy to maintain. I have found that if I let it get to me each day, I would probably go mad! So when I can take the time to get myself back on track and clear out anything that can be dealt with, I really love to do that. (Must be the Virgo in me!). I finish the day with what is fast-becoming a must-do on a Friday night for our community of Kitgirls - Facebook Live Friday. This involves me speaking to camera and sharing our latest samples or new stock with our Kitgirls, to get their advice on how they would use the items, and preferences on which colours and styles we should buy for the coming seasons. I love having the ability to read their comments on the feed in realtime, and respond on camera. As a small business with limited buying budgets for all the amazing things we'd like to, unfortunately we must always compromise, but having our Kitgirls support to make those decisions definitely helps me sleep better at night! We cant keep everyone happy all of the time, but our amazing community really understand our constraints and try to advise me within those, which is phenomenal. I finish the recording with a nice glass of wine and some easy-watching TV with my lovely husband. 

The weekend is family-focused (with only a few little emails being sent!) and I feel really blessed to have so much love and support in my life, always helping me to be ready to do it all again next week! 

If you are interested in seeing a day in the life of KeriKit, head to our YouTube channel (@KerikitEngland) where you can get more insight into my routine and the business I run around my family.

20 September 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Maximising Your Intellectual Property 1:1 Part 2

Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. You can see Haroun's previous posts about marketing, brandingintellectual propertyfinancial managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his latest diary entry, Haroun has his second session on intellectual property with Briffa...

In the previous session we chatted about IP and Data Protection issues in general (you can see what I got out of the session in my previous blog on IP) and since then I have ensured that our agreements with third-parties and employee contracts reflect the IP and data considerations that were raised. This week we concentrated fully on trademark registration as we have been trading a while across many territories and it is something we have dipped our toe into, but only in the UK.

Kagoshima-Chuo station
Photo courtesy of JRPass

For the UK we covered the steps needed to successfully pass an UKIPO examiner and which classes we should be considering (you can see more guidance on trade marks on the .Gov website). We then talked about international trademarks as the market for JRPass is worldwide, with customers across the US, EU and Asia, so this is a logical step for us. The requirements vary widely according to national authority and some may be prohibitive cost-wise so you need to pick and choose carefully. The most cost-effective way of seeking protection in a number of territories (more than one or two) is to go through the World Intellectual Property Office or WIPO, which offers international trade mark protection. To do so you need an existing trade mark application in any one jurisdiction (EU or UK for example) to use as a ‘base filing’, you then pay a fixed fee to WIPO to access their system, and you can then choose to ‘designate’ any of the WIPO signatory states. Your base filing will then effectively be duplicated in these territories. 

The adviser told me that going through WIPO allows you to save considerable fees if you are filing in a large number of territories, as it is often cheaper than applying directly to the relevant IPO, and instructing local counsel. A WIPO mark can be filed here in the UK, which means that you do not have only have to deal with offices for each individual territory. If you only need one or two foreign registrations then it may be best to apply directly. Most IP firms work with foreign filing agents who can act as representatives in that case.

Not related to the session, but still talking about logos... I have been using the design marketplace 99designs recently and had a good experience, so would recommend giving it a go if anyone is in the market for new branding. Also, as I write this, it is the eve of the Rugby World Cup with Japan vs Russia kicking off the opening game! It is already an incredibly busy time for us in the office. Hoping it will be a great tournament for all. To find out more about how JRPass can help with travel during the World Cup, you can visit our website for more information.

 

Visit our website for more information about Innovating for Growth and how to register your interest for the next application round.

18 September 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Marketing

Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. You can see Haroun's previous posts about branding, intellectual propertyfinancial managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his latest diary entry, we join Haroun on his branding one-to-one...

JRPass train in Japan

This marketing session could be seen as a follow up to the Branding 1:1 I blogged about previously, as this was run by an advisor from the same advertising agency, ABA. We revisited the brand architecture discussion from that session and the pros/cons of the 'endorsed' route.  The two main talking points here were 1) to carefully consider the connecting points between child and parent brands (to avoid confusion); and 2) spreading your energy and budget across building multiple brands can be resource intensive so this all needs some consideration before execution.

With the new business units/websites we are planning we discussed 'Brand Equity' i.e. what the main elements of the JRPass brand are and what we should ensure that we bring over to any new identity to maintain our values and consistency. These were:

  1.  Single country expertise and detailed knowledge, 'selling' the country
  2.  Illustrative style (user friendly and warm)
  3.  Channeling the ‘Explorer’ brand personality

One new area that we haven’t done too much of is customer research. The adviser felt is was worth reaching out to our customer base and ask them questions relevant to our brand/marketing For example:

This will help us targeting our current market segments and to create products for new audiences too. As you can see the amount of work here and in previous blogs is piling up, and we have already started to look for new marketing hires on the back of the programme, so we also talked about the skillset we should be looking for in those individuals. One area was copy and blogging (digital marketing in general). We do quite a bit already in giving Japan travel advice and tips in our blog, but we do need someone to be able to concentrate on adding to our capability both in this and in terms of affiliates. 

Visit our website for more information about the programme and how to register your interest for the next application round.

16 September 2019

Inside an ethical fashion business

Our Project Manager for the Business & IP Centre's scale-up programme, Innovating for Growth, Vanesa, not only manages the programme by day, but also runs her own sustainable fashion business by night, weekend and everything in between. Here she discusses why she started her side hustle and what values are important to her business.

Vanesa Vinhas jumpsuit

Vanesa Vinhas is a sustainable fashion brand for women, the idea starting when Vanesa couldn’t find ethical clothing in her style below the £500 price mark. “My designs are aimed at women who are looking for elegant and chic sustainable clothes at reasonable prices. Our style takes classic cuts and gives them a contemporary twist, using good quality organic or recycled fabrics. Most of our outfits are the sort of thing you could wear for work or pleasure.” After launching in July 2018 her products have been selling online through her Vanesa Vinhas website, online sustainable fashion marketplaces like MAMOQ and pop-up shops around London.

Starting a business seemed inevitable as Vanesa explains, “It’s definitely something in the blood. I took the name ‘Vinhas’ from my grandma - it means ‘vineyard’ in Spanish. She built two highly successful food shops after becoming widowed in post-Civil War Spain and had to provide for her children. Back then Spain was very much a ‘man’s world’ and life was very hard. But she was a really brave lady and a strong character. She also helped a lot of people in her local area who were in need. My dad followed in her footsteps, starting his own factory and helping a lot of people to start their own businesses. So ‘business talk’ has always been familiar to me from early childhood - but rooted as well in a very strong set of values.”

Seeing first-hand the amount of determination and energy it takes to start and run a business didn’t deter her. “I always had doubts about starting a business myself. My career choice at the start was to support other entrepreneurs. And for over a decade, here in London and also New York, I have done that, helping people at all stages of growing small businesses. But several years’ back I took an evening course in fashion design at St Martins’ and the idea of starting my own line of clothes took root.”

Vanesa Vinhas kaftan

If it wasn’t making dresses for her dolls as a child, or getting hooked on clothes through her three sisters (and the hand-me-downs), which sparked her love of clothes, her career starting in the fashion industry, working for the fashion designer Antonio Miró did. “I can spend hours looking at clothes and never get bored! Last year I finally decided to go part-time at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre so I could set up my clothing brand. In the end the ‘bug’ got me!”

Vanesa started with a simple principle, “our customers shouldn’t have to make a choice between looking good and wearing clothes that have been made responsibly. Sadly most of the clothes on sale today are made in a way that creates so much waste and damage, often in the poorest parts of the world”. From there the creative part begins, “I usually start with a mood board where I play around with ideas, before I start to draw concept designs. The history of the garment itself and the people who’ve made it iconic is a big part of my inspiration. Like Elizabeth Taylor wearing a kaftan in the Palm Springs desert. What interests me is how garments can be identified with a certain place. The jumpsuit collection is inspired by London. The jumpsuit is an outfit with a lot of history, but also very 21st Century. It's something you can wear for work or play. A bit like Londoners, it’s very versatile and constantly reinventing itself.” She then works with a freelance seamstress who works from her home in East London with hourly rates well over the London Living Wage. The outfits are made from GOTS certified organic cotton and TENCEL and are delivered to the customer in recycled packaging by Royal Mail. 10% of the profits go to charities that empower women facing injustice, violence and poverty. 

Vanesa Vinhas collection

Waste is something Vanesa is very cautious of, “I don’t want to make clothes that end up in landfill, so we make small batches and repeat orders in response to demand. Most importantly, I design my clothes for customers who want to feel stylish wearing something day in and day out until it is literally beyond repair”.

Other social causes impact the way Vanesa Vinhas is run, making sure those who make the clothes get a fair salary and work in safe conditions, all values Vanesa grew up with. “My family always took being an employer as an important responsibility. I come from a small town and as a child it was easy to see the role that our businesses had in the community. Buying organic isn’t just about the environment, it also means workers, often in developing countries, aren’t exposed to dangerous chemicals and have basic workplace rights. I couldn’t imagine having a partner in my business who isn’t treated fairly - it’s out of the equation.”

The customer is also an important consideration, “the end product has got to be an essential component of someone’s wardrobe. For me that’s something you can wear day in day out, and feel comfortable in, at work or with friends. The process of making this takes time and a lot of team work, but it’s where the magic happens. It involves sourcing the right fabric, getting the design right with my pattern maker and then figuring out how to construct the clothing with the seamstress or manufacturer. Everything needs to come together - the style, the quality of the fabric, the sustainability of the product and at an affordable price.”

Looking ahead, Vanesa’s looking at future growth and where she sees the business in the future,the brand is very new and I am still learning. What I’m working towards is that by the end of 2020 I can be profitable enough to take a part-time salary. It seems small, but the reality is that businesses take time to be profitable. It would be a big achievement as a micro-entrepreneur!”

Vanesa is currently investing everything she gets back from sales into the business. “I have chosen to grow organically instead of looking for external funding. I would like to continue designing a few new pieces each year and bringing back my most popular garments. My key focus is to increase direct sales through my website and be listed on more online platforms, pop-up shops and boutiques. I am very excited that I am soon going to be joining Gather & See an online sustainable fashion marketplace.”

Working at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre has also been beneficial, “It’s a fantastic place to work and I get to help some amazing entrepreneurs who come through the Innovating for Growth programme, so the business needs to fit around this.” Vanesa has also taken advantage of the market research reports, such as Mintel to access consumer trends, specialist sector-specific workshops which take place at the Business & IP Centre with Fashion Angel, as well as other workshops such as PR with Jessica Huie.

As with any business, there are highs, lows and lightbulb moments, “one of my most memorable moments was doing the first ever shoot for Vanesa Vinhas. The collection was inspired by a trip to the California desert earlier that year when I had my lightbulb moment and realised I wanted to start a ‘slow fashion’ brand, but I didn’t have the budget to go back so soon, so I had to find a creative solution.

“One evening I’d been joking with my husband about using the Tabernas desert in South Spain where the Sergio Leone ‘spaghetti westerns’ and Lawrence of Arabia were filmed. Then we realised it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. And could be combined with our summer holiday!

Vanesa Vinhas
Vanesa, founder of Vanesa Vinhas

“On the day, everything started to go very badly - the model cancelled, some of the samples were delayed and I fell down a marble staircase at the hotel and hurt my arm. But then it all started to go back on track. The photographer Michael knew the desert and the light by the back of his hand, and he found our model Cristina. Together they really captured the mood I wanted the clothes to evoke. It’s moments like this, putting yourself out of your comfort zone, that are the most rewarding!”

 

For more information on the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, visit our website. To see more of Vanesa's collection, visit Vanesa Vinhas' website.

12 September 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Branding

Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. You can see Haroun's previous posts about intellectual property, financial management, product innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his latest diary entry, we join Haroun on his branding one-to-one...

Branding hasn’t previously been a large concern for us. We are named in relation to our main product, however we now have projects at JRPass that may lead us to launch new websites. We have been struggling with questions of whether to promote them as distinct entities in their own right or to leverage our base at JRPass.com and cross-promote. If we choose the latter then how do we present a group of offerings with a distinct overlying ethos and value set. This one-to-one came at the right time as what we are in essence talking about here is brand architecture.

Instagram2

With Alistair from ABA agency we discussed the various brand models. These include a distinct house of individual brands, a monolithic strategy (e.g. IBM, IBM Watson, IBM xxx) or an endorsed model. For us it was agreed that the endorsed model is best and we need an identity all the websites can sit comfortably under e.g. JRPass by New Brand Name,  xxx by New Brand Name. There’s a a lot of further work to do here in terms of naming strategy that we did not have time to get into, but the overall parent identity needs to be something that reflects the values we carry across each unit i.e. Japan origins, explorer identity. The individual website names also need some effective research and we talked about polling and customer surveys. A lot of further work to do!

Visit our website for more information about the programme and how to apply.

09 September 2019

Meet our delivery partners: Alasdair Inglis, Grow

Alasdair Inglis has been running marketing masterclasses at The British Library Business & IP Centre for a decade and is our Marketer In Residence.

Grow pic

He runs two marketing masterclasses at the British Library Business & IP Centre.

About the Digital Marketing Masterclass

The digital marketing masterclass helps entrepreneurs gain clarity about their digital marketing strategy, so they can focus their spending and efforts on gaining new customers.

The masterclass covers inbound marketing, email marketing best practice, the basics of SEO and keyword research, using Google Ads, content marketing, blogging and paid Facebook marketing.

The masterclass demystifies digital marketing so every attendee understands the key areas of digital marketing. Everyone gets a 25-page workbook with plenty of step-by-step instructions. There are opportunities to meet and work with other entrepreneurs during the workshop and questions are encouraged throughout. Every attendee will leave with a step-by-step action plan to improve their digital marketing.

Grow

About the Marketing Masterclass

The marketing masterclass helps entrepreneurs focus on their marketing strategy and business model. The masterclass covers understanding customers' key problems, how to focus on ideal customers, learning how to increase revenues from every customer, mapping out and improving customer journeys, creating a system to gather testimonials, how to create offers for new customers and where to hire part-time marketing people.

There is lots of partner work during the workshop and all attendees get a 26-page bound workbook. Questions are encouraged throughout. Every attendee will leave with a step-by-step action plan to improve their marketing strategy.

Grow workshop

Who should attend the Marketing Masterclasses?

Alasdair’s masterclasses are aimed at start-ups, aspiring entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs with established businesses. His practical no-nonsense style of teaching and the in-depth workbooks enable people with differing levels of knowledge too all benefit.

What can attendees expect in the Masterclasses?

Attendees can expect a fast paced, practical approach to learning marketing with minimal theory and jargon. Expect to meet with and work with other entrepreneurs during the sessions. Alasdair understands that a lot of learning comes from group discussion and questions so expect some lively interactions.

In every workbook there’s an exercise at the end to create your own personalised marketing action plan.

About Alasdair Inglis

Alasdair has taught his marketing masterclasses to thousands of entrepreneurs, and is the BIPC’s marketer in residence where he offers pro bono sessions every month to established business owners. He has taught marketing on the prestigious Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business programme, and teaches and mentors at The School for Social Entrepreneurs in London and at Idea London, a tech incubator.

Though his company Grow Alasdair has mentored hundreds of Scale-up entrepreneurs from the London area and he lives and breathes marketing. He comes from an entrepreneurial family in the highlands of Scotland where his father and uncle ran restaurants for over 50 years.

 

Visit the BIPC's workshops and events page to view all upcoming workshops, webinars and events.

06 September 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Maximising your intellectual property

Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. You can see Haroun's previous posts about financial managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his latest diary entry, Haroun discusses what he learnt in his one-on-one session on intellectual property and how it’s important to every business...

Again this session was really packed and I had a lot of questions for our advisor from Briffa who are Intellectual Property legal specialists. We covered the following main areas:

Copyright – Since the founding of the company we have used a lot of designers for our website. Many get caught by this, but the default position for designs is that copyright remains with the designer unless signed over. We discussed having everything in place contractually for our external contributors to sign over rights as necessary.

Trademarks – We discussed our current situation with regards to current trademarks and opportunities going forward both in the UK and US now that our website is well established. This is really important when you have spent a lot of time and money in creating a brand. You need to protect that goodwill and mind-space effectively.

Logo

Commercial Contracts – We reviewed our external contracts with third parties e.g. developers to ensure that our IP is fully protected and cannot be exploited by others.

Data Protection – I’m sure we have all been grappling with GDPR ad nauseam and Data Privacy! Once again we reviewed and ensured that we had proper policies in place that are tailored for your specific company, and reflected this in our terms and conditions and on our website. For us, as a company who depends on online payments, this also feeds into PSD2 and SCA changes which are coming in September (you can read more about the changes here: https://www.visa.co.uk/dam/VCOM/regional/ve/unitedkingdom/PDF/visa-preparing-for-psd2-sca-publication-version-1-1-05-12-18-002-final.pdf).

HR – We agreed to review and incorporate IP and Data Protection in our employee contracts. This is something that did not occur to me previously so was good to catch this one.

As you can see there was a ton covered here and a lot of i’s to dot and t’s to cross that can affect your daily working practices. I think we have been ok with these areas previously, but as any company expands rapidly it is easy to lose sight of these basic legal protections and responsibilities to the point that it could easily prove to be a banana skin down the road. It’s the type of thing that many companies just kick down the road or ignore until it’s too late as we all would prefer to concentrate on the fundamental nuts and bolts of our companies. However it is really important to make sure this is all organised competently and safely, and this session really brought that home.

Visit our website for more information about the programme and how to apply.

04 September 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Financial Management

Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. You can see Haroun's previous posts about product innovation, marketing strategy, branding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his latest diary entry, Haroun discusses what he learnt in his one-on-one session on financial management, a new module on the programme...

This week I had my financial management session with an adviser from MetaValue, a well-established business consulting firm. The adviser was very helpful and ever so patient as I peppered her with questions to the point that we overran our allotted session time. We covered a lot, including areas such as price sensitivity analysis and company structure. But the three main takeaways I had from our session were:

New Opportunity Margins

As I’m sure you can understand, I can’t go into detail about this element of our discussion, but there is a good opportunity for an ambitious expansion for JRPass into a new area. In my one-on-one we looked at modelling the potential income, factoring in our suppositions and working out potential profit. This was useful in guiding us on how we test and tweak the model to help us achieve profitability. We have previously done some price sensitivity testing with services such as our meet and greet service.

Financial Plan

I actually laughed when this was mentioned as we have grown organically and haven’t spent a lot of time on developing an actual plan for growth, however given that the business is now entering a new area we agreed that we should put together a strategy around the investment and costs required e.g. covering new hires and forecasts for pricing and volumes. I was provided with some example spreadsheets with pre-built formulae to do this as well as for the financial modelling that I previously mentioned. You can see one of these below. 

Financial management

Exit Strategy

Our priority has always been to grow and scale-up the business, but it is also useful to hear about our options if we ever wish to exit. For founders of businesses, it is understandable that over a period of time, their ambitions can change, based on life events, market events, offers from other companies etc., so we need our governance to support this. We talked through a few scenarios and the advisor mentioned we should consider an independent valuation just for our internal use going forward. VC or Private Equity investment was mentioned and I agreed this wouldn’t be right for JRPass as we enjoy working under our own direction, but potentially a trade sale could work. It is worth considering early on who potential minority shareholders/investors or future acquirers could be and, based on that, effectively growing the business so that it is attractive to them.

From this one-on-one, some conversations were a broad stroke and some in detail, but as with all of my sessions so far, I am finding it very useful to keep this all in mind as we scale-up.

Visit our website for more information about the programme and how to apply.