Innovation and enterprise blog

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

13 posts from October 2019

25 October 2019

Start-up Day 2019 – How to use your networks to build your business

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Do you use networks in your business life? Do you struggle to see how they can help you? Or do you dread the prospect of networking? Or you might be a seasoned pro at working the room at any event and love meeting new people. Regardless of your outlook, effective networking is one of the keys to building a successful business. At our Start-up Day talk, How to use your networks to build your business, we heard from some of the businesses who have perfected their technique.

Panel on the stage at Start-up Day

Alison Cork, founder of Make it Your Business and Alison at Home, thought her business journey had been quite slow as when she first started her career, “there were no networks [30 years ago]. When I started out there were less than a handful of female role models” Alison thinks if she had had networks sooner, she wouldn’t have felt so lonely, “my business journey has been very slow, full of ups and downs. It was very lonely at times. Networks can help in that respect.”

Alison also highlighted that 1 in 5 businesses are owned or run by women, reasons for the low number included lack of networking, role models and confidence. By finding a network you are comfortable in, you can overcome these barriers.

An important thing to remember with networks, which Ken Davey, founder and managing director of the Smarter Group of Companies™, emphasised, was that “networks are not static, they are real people and relationships. The better the relationships, the more you get out of it.”

If you are looking for something specific from your network, think about your goals and how networking can help with those. For Naudia, founder of We Drifters, she made connections with founders one step ahead of her to get specific advice, ready for her next steps. After attending a session at the Business & IP Centre, she was able to meet people from all different sectors, who she could gain knowledge from and learn about their experiences.

To see the full talk and find about more about how networks can benefit your business, watch our video below:

24 October 2019

Start-up Day 2019 wrap up - How to start up on a shoestring

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Our ‘How to start up on a shoestring panellists taught us, more than anything, that starting up on a smaller budget doesn’t have to mean a cut in the quality of your business.

Panel on stage at Start-up Day

Alice Mayor from We Built This City, whose aim was always to put artists back in the West End, discussed the importance of finding champions and the support of people deeply invested in what you have to offer. Her advice was to think ‘who needs this product even more than you’. For Alice, that was someone who understood the importance of her mission and the key element of it being a bricks and mortar store, rather than solely online.

Pip Murray form Pip and Nut, also discussed the benefit of finding a mentor. Pip even embraced the idea of starting on a smaller scale, saying that otherwise, it can feel like a huge leap. It was a chance for her to test her product and get client feedback before jumping into manufacturing thousands of units at a time, as well as ensuring her recipes and supply chain was solid and confirmed. It was consumer feedback in its 'purest form'. 

Sam Colwil from Bathrooms by Design also points out that there is a sacrifice to be made, when starting up on a limited budget saying ‘for about 3 years I was below minimum wage'. But now, Sam is looking to start creating his own products, investing in machinery that will allow an overall increased profit for the business, an innovative way of standing out in a field of stores that primarily stock the same suppliers. 

Lynne Robertson, from Santander, started off this panel with the rousing comment that 'I honestly believe there is no time like the present to give this a go' - we hope everyone who was there in the room was inspired to get started, regardless of apparent financial constraints. 

If you want the same inspiration, watch the panel in full below:

23 October 2019

Start-up Day 2019 wrap up - How to build your business without burning yourself out

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Julie Deane OBE and Dane Krambergar from Mind, a mental health charity, discussed the all-too-unspoken problem of mental health, and the particular strain when starting up a business from scratch.

Dane and Julie on the stage at Start-up Day

It is astonishing but true that depression is the leading cause of health problems in the world: with half of all employees have experienced a mental health problem in their role, yet only half have sought help. In their chat, Julie and Dane discussed prioritising, self-worth and to-do lists, and how building an effective structure, even when you are working for yourself (and often by yourself), can help you keep your mental health in check.

The number one thing to remember from this talk is that you need to look after yourself before it gets to breaking point. Dane and Julie shared their top tips for this, which included:

  • Add structure, i.e. take a lunch break even if you are by yourself at home
  • Leave home at home and work at work, which is admittedly tricky when working at home, but try setting boundaries
  • Eat, sleep and exercise, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality
  • Celebrate little wins
  • Rethink rejection
  • Add YOU to the to-do list
  • Try to open up
  • Have a Wellbeing Action Plan - if you are your own boss, you have to have one for yourself as your 'employee'. 

For the full discussion on looking after yourself when starting up, look below or check out Mind's Mental Health at Work toolkit:

Meet our delivery partners: Alison Lewy, Fashion Angel

Fashion Angel is a fashion business support service offering mentoring, training and access to funding to both start-up and established fashion industry entrepreneurs. Their mission is to bridge the gap between creativity and entrepreneurship by offering industry-specific guidance for fashion businesses.

Alison Lewy founder of Fashion Angel

We run monthly workshops from the British Library’s Business & IP Centre (BIPC) based on the popular book, Design Create Sell, a guide to starting and running a successful fashion business, written by Fashion Angel founder Alison Lewy MBE.

These practical and informative workshops cover the key aspects of starting and growing a fashion business. The workshops are aimed at pre-start and early stage fashion businesses, as well as for those that have been trading a while but need assistance on how to take the business to the next level.

Fashion Angel workshop

The workshop programme includes the following topics:

  • Fashion Business Planning Made Easy - advice on how to build a business plan and understand the necessary financial forecasts
  • Getting It Made – guidance on sourcing and production management and working effectively with manufacturers
  • Routes to Market – a review of both B2B and B2C sales channels and how to develop a successful sales strategy
  • Selling Fashion Online – focuses on how to build an online brand and increase brand awareness and sales
  • Range Planning and Retail Merchandising – covers the principals of effective range planning & merchandising, to ensure you have the product your customer wants, when they want it
  • Plan, Pitch, Sell - how to approach and pitch to buyers and be stocked in retail stores
  • Pitching For Fashion funding – how to create a compelling Pitch Deck. This session is for businesses already trading that are looking to reach out to investors or lenders 

The workshops can be taken individually to fill in specific knowledge gaps, but collectively form a comprehensive programme covering everything an entrepreneur needs to know to start and scale a successful fashion business.

Most of the sessions are facilitated by Alison Lewy, a fashion industry expert, speaker, author and Fashion Angel Founder. Alison has extensive experience having run her brand for over 15 years, being a consultant for numerous luxury brands such as Preen and Matthew Williamson, before she went on to be Commercial Director for the Fashion and Textile Museum.

For more information, you can contact Alison on:

[email protected]

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

22 October 2019

Start-up Day 2019 wrap up - How to combine profit with purpose

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Today more and more businesses have steered away from the money-hungry corporate businesses, we saw dominating industry not that long ago. It is now more important than ever for your business to be seen to be having an impact, or to be led by core values that move beyond making money. We spoke to three businesses with very different aims and structures trying to exact change as social enterprises.

The panel from Profit with Purpose on the stage at Start-up Day

Our panellists, Fran Hodgson from GoodBox, Alex Stephany from BEAM and Meg Doherty from Fat Macy’s spoke to Lee Mannion from Expert Impact about how their businesses maximise the positive difference in the world.

Our key takeaways from the panel were that when you develop a product, you have to have the specific charitable industry in mind. As Alex from BEAM explained, that means that when you create an interface, or a user journey, it has to be efficient and simple, but also be able to tangibly show the user the difference that they are making. GoodBox focused on the idea leverage technology in order to allow storytelling as the key element that makes her product unique for the charitable industry, but also a level of customer service that the big banks can’t offer.

Interestingly, all of the panel said that they didn’t know much about the area into which they were stepping or the problems that they have ended up working on – but Meg from Fat Macy’s says that coming at the issue of homelessness hostels with new eyes revealed great flaws with the system through her naïvety but also allowed her to see innovative sustainable ways of helping the residents through grants and training.

Lee said that he hoped one day all businesses would have some sort of social mission – it’s clear that that responsibility does not fall solely with purely social enterprises any more.  

To watch the panel in full, click below:

21 October 2019

Start-up Day 2019 – How to spot the key UK market trends right now with Mintel

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Did you know you can access Mintel reports at the BIPC for free? If you need to do some market research, but aren’t sure where to start, Jack Duckett, Associate Director at Mintel, gave Start-up Day attendees some great pointers…

Jack Duckett from Mintel on the stage at Start-up Day

The importance of market research

Ask yourself, who is our core customer and how can we engage with them? How can I contextualise my offering? Market research can reinforce your offering. Place emphasis on what products you offer. Market research helps businesses to understand what is happening right now, and what might happen tomorrow.

You can use market research to show the importance of your product and its sector’s growth to potential funders.

Innovative ideas

Start-ups are in a great position to get ahead of the market as they are responding to problems in an innovative way.

What’s happening elsewhere, other than your immediate sector? You can contextualise your product. Start-ups are often in a bit of a cocoon and you can become blinded by what is going on around you. You have to understand the market around you.

Customer experience

You know your customer, you understand your customer in a way so many big businesses struggle to. You understand them as you created your product with a need, you created your service around that need. Understanding that you have an affinity with your customer. Nourish that connection. It’s the most important part of your start-up.

Nourish the experience

Don’t just focus on a low price, offer something else, offer an experience.

Ethics in business

You need to be bold about highlighting the ethical parts of your business.

Continue reading "Start-up Day 2019 – How to spot the key UK market trends right now with Mintel" »

18 October 2019

Generation Z - the new breed of entrepreneur

This week, Companies House discuss their latest campaign #GetBizzy, designed to encourage Generation Z to enter into the world of business ownership. If you're a Generation Z-er, read on for some considerations to take into account before leaping into your new career...

Generation Z, or people born between 1995 and 2010, are set to become the most entrepreneurial generation we've ever seen. This is reflected in the number of young directors aged 16-24 on the Companies House register, which has grown by 35% over the last 5 years from 87,477 in 2014 to 117,810 as of July this year.

Many young people will have dreams of becoming the next big YouTube personality, E-Sports superstar or reality TV sensation. With the success of PewDiePie, Jaden Ashman (runner up in the Fortnite world championship) and the popularity of Love Island, it’s hardly surprising. But the chances of succeeding on these career paths are very low.

For most it’s a choice between working for someone or working for yourself. Being employed has benefits such as greater job security, a regular income and fixed hours. So, you can switch off at the end of the day, go home and relax. It’s also likely that you’ll be working with others, which is a great opportunity to make new friends and network.

While this all sounds great, being in a 9 to 5 job can restrict your creativity and may limit your ability to decide what you actually do in the workplace. Your work will need to meet the expectations of your employer and your pay will be dictated by the pay structure of the company. Then there’s the boss. Great if you get on with them, but what if you don’t? 

For these reasons, many Gen Zs are choosing to forge their own career and start their own business. Being your own boss can be incredibly exciting and rewarding, especially if you’re turning your passion into a business. But it can also be risky and challenging. Before you start your business venture – or embark on your growth journey - there are a few things worth considering to make sure the future success of your business empire.    

Do you have what it takes?

Ask yourself. Do I really want to operate independently and be the person making all the decisions and shouldering the responsibility? Are you willing to put in the hours and make the sacrifices necessary to start a business? Do you have the self-confidence and self-discipline to persevere and build your business into a success?

If you answered yes, then it looks like you've got the right attitude. We’ve all heard of famous successful entrepreneurs like Sir Alan Sugar, JK Rowling and Sir Richard Branson. But for every famous business person there will be hundreds of other plumbers, shopkeepers, hairdressers and other small companies in your locality who also run successful, profitable small businesses.

Research and planning

As the old saying goes, “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. Many businesses fail because of the lack of research and planning. At the British Library Business and IP Centre, there is plenty of support and advice needed to make your business a success. With workshops, events, databases, publications and industry guides, all the essential information is on hand to help you start and grow your business.

For any new potential venture, a business plan is a critical document covering the essentials of setting and achieving your business objectives. Although it may seem a tough exercise to undertake, it's worth it in the long run. A business plan is a written document that sets out your company goals, objectives and the strategies you’ll use to achieve growth. These are crucial to the success of any business; not only do they provide a clear path for you to follow, but they also help you keep track of your goals and allow you to make changes if necessary.

If you’re a business hoping to secure investment from funding bodies or other entrepreneurs, you’ll need to have a business plan to convince them that you are worth their time and money. It’s a competitive market – thousands of businesses vie for the attention of investors across the UK every day, so if you want them to choose you, you need to give them a good enough reason.

Decide what type of business is best for you

What type of business structure is best for your start up? There are different types to choose from. The most common types are sole trader, a limited company or partnership. Each have their own pros and cons.  Starting out as a sole trader is a popular choice because it’s quick and easy to start and set up, with minimal costs. Many businesses change their structure as they expand and grow. Being or becoming a limited company can bring increased tax-efficiency, as well as limited liability.

Another key benefit of starting or becoming a limited company is the improving image in the eyes of your customers. Incorporation may give you more of a professional edge by showing everyone that you’re a legitimate setup.

It’s important that you familiarise yourself with these so that you know what type of business structure will be best for you and what your responsibilities will be.


For your business to survive, you need money to cover all your start-up costs, the costs of running the business and also have enough for you to live on. It can be months before a new business is profitable and generating a cash surplus. You may need alternative sources of income during this period, if only to cover your outgoings.

Almost all new start-up businesses require some form of funding. Many entrepreneurs turn to their bank, but there are other numerous options to boost initial working capital requirements. You could use savings, get a loan from family or friends or there may be government-backed schemes or loans available in your area.

Choose an appropriate business name and branding

No matter what business structure you choose you will need a name. First impressions count, so make sure you put plenty of thought into choosing a name and brand for your business. Try to be unique and pick something suitable that will help differentiate your business from your competitors.

It’s obvious that you don’t want to use something that is already being used by someone else. Checking the trade mark database on the Intellectual Property Office website and using the company name checker on the Companies House website is a good starting point. But there is also a chance that someone is using a name that they haven’t registered anywhere. So professional advice is worthwhile before you invest money in your new shopfront, business cards and stationery.    

When it comes to branding, remember that this is where your company personality shines through – so make it memorable! Think about the images, colours and fonts that will help attract customers and make you stand out from the crowd. Use your creativity while aiming to capture the essence of your product and yourself.

Dealing with legalities

The slightly less exciting but equally important part of starting or growing a business is dealing with the legal requirements. It’s a good idea to research each part of your business and speak to experts about the legal issues you might face. There are plenty to consider, but here are a few of the obvious ones:


Certain aspects of your business may need a licence - for instance if you are planning to sell food or alcohol. Or if you are a trades-person you may need to register with a trades-group, like the Gas Safe Register.


Employers’ Liability insurance is compulsory if you employ staff. If you don’t have this, you could be fined £2,500 every day you’re not insured. Just think of what you could spend that money on instead!

Other types of insurance depend on your type of business. It’s worth considering public liability insurance and cyber liability insurance (especially in an ever-growing digital world).

The taxman

When you’re running your own business, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll have to pay tax at some point. Depending on your structure, earnings and profits you will need to consider what is applicable to your business. Income tax, national insurance, corporation tax, VAT and business rates may be payable.  If you’re in any doubt about what taxes your business might be subject to and when you might have to pay them, speak to your accountant or HMRC for help. 

A walk in the park

It’s not easy starting a business and becoming a successful entrepreneur. It takes drive, determination, sleepless nights and a bit of luck to realise an idea. Not only do you have to discover that unique product or service, but you also need the courage and strength to take it to market.

If you need any advice about starting out, growing or just want to run your idea past someone, the British Library Business & IP Centre National Network provides entrepreneurs with free access to databases, market research, journals, directories and reports worth thousands of pounds.

There is a programme of free and low-cost events and workshops on a range of topics, including business planning, marketing and intellectual property. The friendly staff and business experts are there to help you start and grow your business.

At Companies House we are encouraging young entrepreneurs to start and grow a business with our #GetBizzy campaign. Take a look at our website and make the most of our tools and resources. You can also help inspire others by sharing information about our campaign and using the hashtag on social media.

Get Bizzy logo-08


Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn on @CompaniesHouse. Visit our website for more information.  

16 October 2019

What are the key takeaways from Start-up Day 2019?

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If you missed our event, or want a concise recap, here are the main pieces of advice we took away from Start-up Day 2019. You can watch the full videos below, or on our YouTube Start-up Day playlist:

✅ To be the best business leader, don't think you know everything. Be willing to learn and collaborate (Steph McGovern)

✅ Market research can help you make sense of what is happening now and what is going to happen tomorrow (Mintel)

✅ Make connections with your peers and those who are one step ahead of you (How to use networks to build your business)

✅ To get your idea off the ground, you need to find someone who champions it as much as you (How to start-up on a shoestring)


✅ Visibilty and efficiency are key (How to combine profit with purpose)

✅ Don't let your mental health get to breaking point, look after yourself before that (How to build your business without burning yourself out) 

You can find more detailed takeaway round-ups from each of the talks below: 

14 October 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Strategy 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 financial management 1:1, product innovation 1:1intellectual property 1:1marketingbrandingintellectual propertyfinancial managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his final diary entry, Haroun has his second session on strategy...

Japanese train in station
Photo courtesy of JRPass

Well, here we are at the end of three months, 15 sessions and countless follow-ups. It’s come and gone ever so quickly, so this final strategy one-to-one session gives us a good time to take stock. We went through the findings from the branding, marketing, finance and innovation sessions. The main takeaways were that we have so much scope for growth that I need support, so I will be hiring to capitalise on those opportunities, especially in the areas of marketing and business development. Our expansion plans are pretty clear and we must make sure that we execute properly and as rapidly as is possible. We also need to invest time into research and skills acquisition for our new growth areas.

I have found the scale-up course very useful, especially as a way of giving me the head-space to concentrate on issues that I knew needed to be tackled, but have been too busy for day-to-day. Here are my personal take-aways for anyone considering the course:

  • We are all very busy in the day-to-day running of our businesses but to take full benefit you do need to make time for both the sessions and any follow up tasks to take full benefit. This maybe a truism, but you will only get out as much as you put in.
  • The advisers are exactly that, people to advise you on your current status and next steps. They aren’t there to provide a detailed step-by-step plan. They will vary in how much they know about your industry. You, yourself, ultimately should be the arbiter of what is best for yourself. You’ve done well getting this far in your business, so trust your instincts and use the advisers as neutral external interrogators of your business. This will be where the best value lays.
  • The pace of sessions can be overwhelming at times especially with the day job, so pace yourself, prioritise and plan effectively.
  • Before attending, have a deep think about what you want to get out of the sessions. There will be nagging concerns that you may have about your business and this would be a good opportunity to have those addressed.
  • Enjoy meeting new people, there are lots of fascinating people that attend!

Well, that’s it for me, it’s been fun sharing my experiences. Also, I hope that if you consider a trip to Japan that you’ll consider us! I’ll leave you with our ten top tips for first time travellers.

Thanks, Haroun


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

09 October 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Financial management 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 product innovation 1:1, intellectual property 1:1marketingbrandingintellectual 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 financial management...

Japan Rail Pass Guide
Photo courtesy of JRPass

If you have been following the blog you will know that at JRPass we are in the midst of planning another website offering new services. Over the past few months we have used the sessions on branding, marketing and product innovation to develop this further. This time, the second of the finance sessions, was really helpful as we dived in-depth into modelling with the adviser from Metavalue.

We have a couple of options on new partnerships for the website, so the main focus of the discussion was which of these would be the most viable option. The conversation involved our margin, potential site visitors, conversion rate, payment costs, staffing costs, average basket size and advertising/marketing budget. After we got grip of all these numbers and worked out a financial template, we agreed that the following assumptions and points would have to be further investigated:

  • Before any additional mark-up the initial business could be low-margin so it will be important to control costs.
  • We made assumptions on support costs and UK vs Japan-based staff. These would have to be validated.
  • It is important to test all the inputted data and update them as we start trading, for example average order sizes and conversion rates. Pirate analytics (yes, I said ‘Pirate’) will help as these allow you to track data on visitors, post per acquisition etc. A useful guide on start-up metrics can be found here.
  • Briefly, we also touched on a previous conversation about potential exit routes. Pitchbook news and Crunchbase were mentioned as good sources of news and information.

There's only one more session left and on in my final blog, for the benefit of prospective applicants, I will talk about how I feel you can get the best out of the scale-up course. Also, whilst we are talking about budgeting, inspired by all these spreadsheets and finance chat, we wrote a blog on budgeting for a trip to Japan.

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