Innovation and enterprise blog

30 April 2020

Inspiring stories from our community of entrepreneurs

Since Covid-19 turned the way we do business, consume goods and live our lives on its head, a number of businesses from around the UK, who have used our National Network, been through our Innovating for Growth programme, or have taken part in Start-ups in London Libraries, have pivoted and diversified their offer to help those in need.

We’ve already told the story of Sabina Motasem founder, Sabina Ali and her team making scrubs for the NHS, but here are some more inspirational businesses who are supporting their local communities.

Former Innovating for Growth business, London-based Cyclehoop, who design cycle parking and infrastructure, along with Transport for London and Enfield Council, are giving space in their secure cyclehubs to NHS workers for free in Finsbury Park, Enfield Town and Edmonton Green. They are also providing temporary cycle parking for London boroughs who need it at their NHS sites.

Cyclehoop bike storage

A number of BIPCs from around our National Network and businesses we’ve supported are also putting their 3D printers to good use and making PPE for their local areas. The FabLab at BIPC Devon, BIPC Hull and BIPC Manchester and Innovating for Growth: Start-up business, Champion 3D have been using their equipment to make face shields and other PPE. Champion 3D have reserved 75% of their capacity for this purpose, whilst keeping 25% for other orders and relying on suppliers donating the material to help with their work.

Start-ups in London Libraries business, Happy Stance Yoga, has put together digital sessions for elderly people having to isolate which focuses on mobility and fall prevention.

Haven Coffee, a coffee-based social enterprise who also took part in Start-ups in London Libraries, have moved some of their events online, including their upcoming art exhibition and their community-building quiz. They have also introduced some offers for their coffee products allowing people to buy virtual coffees to be redeemed after lockdown and sending a free bag of coffee to anyone who purchases five of these.

And another Start-ups in London Libraries business, Firm Feet, have adapted their Dancing in the Dark sessions into an easily accessible audio series via their website giving participants much-needed time away from screens.

HIYOS (formerly known as Firstcare Pratice), an Innovating for Growth: Scale-up alumnus and NHS GP Practice, has set up a series of live interactive webinars and workshops on topical subjects with clinicians and experts and made it available to all patients to take part and watch afterwards. This patient engagement allows remote clinical and admin teams to offer healthcare support and advice to those who need it the most.

28 April 2020

Meet our delivery partner: Johnny Martin aka The Numbers Coach

Comfortably one of the biggest pains starting or running a business is getting on top of all the business numbers and jargon. Johnny Martin’s workshop Get cashflow confident aims to take away that fear of finance.

I’m an experienced Finance Director who now passionately explains business numbers and jargon. I’m also the author of Understanding Your Business Finances Workbook, entrepreneur in residence at the London College of Fashion and a mentor at the Royal College of Art.

I am based in Somerset where I run my own self-storage business and in my spare time, you can find me messing about on boats and off-road running.

Johnny Martin

“Demystifying business numbers to help you succeed in business.”

What’s covered in Get cashflow confident?

The workshop is currently being delivered via Zoom, whilst the British Library is shut. Whether the workshop is held virtually, or in person, it covers three key areas:

Understand the language

  • We cover the key financial reports i.e. profit and loss, cash flow and balance sheet and how they fit together.
  • Essential knowledge like the different types of profit, how to calculate break even and the importance of gross profit margin.
  • And we cover the biggest cause of confusion - why profit isn’t the same as cash!

Forecasting

  • The main principles of forecasting and budgeting – often an area of considerable stress and anxiety.
  • How to forecast sales and the importance of sensitivity analysis.
  • How to use the Excel forecasting model

Top tips on financial management

  • Company administration like basics of VAT, online accounting systems and managing working capital.
  • Different trading formats e.g. sole trader vs limited company.
  • Business valuation and pre and post money valuations.

Who is this workshop for?

This is a practical and stress-free way to get the financial knowledge, confidence and tools to help you understand, forecast and manage when starting and growing a business. So if you are:

  • Uncertain about cash flow forecasting?
  • Feeling finance is getting out of control?
  • Confused by your accountant?
  • Struggling with your business model?
  • Apprehensive about VAT?
  • About to raise finance

Then my workshop will help you.

What to expect

By attending my workshop you will become more confident at:

  • Forecasting and managing your cash flow
  • Creating financial forecasts and projections
  • Understanding financial jargon and reports so you can communicate with investors and lenders
  • Day to day management of the financial function
  • Raising capital without getting caught out by investors
  • Understanding how to value your business
  • Financial management so you can avoid the common pitfalls facing your business such as working capital

I’ll equip you with a range of practical tools and methods which you can implement straight away as well as a good foundation in business finance theory.

As part of the workshop, you will also receive

  • An Excel five year integrated forecast profit and loss and cash flow worth at least £400 for you to forecast your business
  • Copy of 90 minute video Talk Money worth £18
  • Workshop handouts, glossary and checklist
  • Post-workshop email support from me

“You must make commercial decisions based on what you know you can afford. Follow Johnny’s clear and practical, simple to follow advice to help you thoroughly understand how business finances work.”
Lara Morgan – Founder of Pacific Direct, Startup Britain, UKTI ambassador

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

26 April 2020

Will Intellectual Property provide ‘the cure’ for Covid-19?

The world is waiting for a breakthrough. Global attention is on the discovery and manufacture of an effective vaccine against Covid-19. Today is also World Intellectual Property day, so right now, all intellectual property (IP) related to treatments and vaccines is of intense interest.

And this is where it gets interesting and complicated.

There are some big questions about what existing and emerging IP can be deployed to create a vaccine to help solve the Covid-19 crisis and how that is done within the existing laws protecting IP.

Though one thing about finding a solution is clear, there is no single government or company that has all the know-how or answers. Some form of working collaboration between government, research institutions and private industry will be required. And this may even need to be international.

So agreements around IP rights will be key to how a vaccine is developed.

Out of all the five forms of Intellectual Property (patents, trademarks, design right, copyright, trade secrets) recognised around the world, developments in patents and trade secrets are taking centre stage.

So why patents?

Patents

A patent is granted by a government authority (we’ll see why this is important) to an inventor giving them the right for a limited time (usually 20 years) to prevent others from making, using or selling the invention. Patents must meet two important criteria; it must be an innovative step on what has gone before and not disclosed.

Many vaccines are made up of multiple patents because a vaccine itself is a biological preparation containing differing ingredients. How those different ingredients are composed is the innovation and therefore where the patents sit.

Drew-hays-tGYrlchfObE-unsplash

 

As a form of intellectual property, patents can be sold or licensed to others to the benefit of the owner. Patent rights can also be waived if the inventor so chooses.

Could these rights then be waived in the interests of speedily creating a vaccine? And would companies do this voluntarily? The big issue for them is the cost incurred in developing those patents licenced for use in a vaccine and this may prove to be too great a disincentive.

Governments may also look at their options.

Governments and IP

One extreme scenario are compulsory licences. Because patents are a state granted right, governments under exceptional circumstances can, if they choose, assert rights over ownership and manufacture to third parties.

In fact a number of countries are actively pursuing this route. Among them Germany, Canada, Chile and Israel. Other provisions are covered under UK law for the use of patented inventions for services to the Crown. The question is whether this provision will need to be called upon.

And what company would even want to be named as having their IP requisitioned?

It would also be assumed that such exceptional intervention would involve some compensation to patent holders.

So might companies and research institutions voluntarily share information?

Trade Secrets

This is where another form of IP is crucial in the hunt for a vaccine against Covid-19; trade secrets. This IP is as simple as it sounds. Companies in the course of their activities may acquire know-how that gives them a competitive advantage. This know-how is so important that knowledge of it is protected and bound by confidentiality to those working with it.

Companies and research institutions working in drug and vaccine discovery work with multiple forms of trade secrets.

Patents alone won’t resolve the challenge of creating a vaccine, there need to be trade secrets such as gene sequencing, manufacturing methodology and a whole host of other forms of data required in vaccine development that may even include business modeling and pricing.

Ibrahim-boran-zsKFQs2kDpM-unsplash

Therefore companies and institutions will have knowledge that will need to be voluntarily revealed in any form of collaboration and I'd expect under specific conditions of agreement.

And some are moving in this direction.

Collaboration is Key

Recent discussion of creating a patent pool of shared patents to help in the fight against Covid-19 has gained some traction. The Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada has initiated the call for a medicines patent pool available for free or licensed on reasonable terms, as well as the sharing of other data. This has been endorsed by the WHO.

So much is happening in the fight against Covid-19 that a complete list of current collaborations across the world has been produced and can be found on the Milken Institute who are compiling all the current treatments and vaccines in the pipeline.

Another organisation, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) is an ‘innovative global partnership between public, private, philanthropic and civil society organisations’. This overseeing body is co-ordinating funding and deploying it. CEPI has helped fund the recent Oxford University vaccine.

They are also collaborating with GlaxoSmithKline who own the patent to an important adjuvant to enhance the effectiveness of any vaccine.

CEPI is an example of how public, individual, research institutions and the private sector are coalescing and co-ordinating their responses to Covid-19. The fruits of this provide some cause for optimism for finding a workable vaccination that benefits all contributors.It’s an indication of where we may be heading in terms of how IP is shared in such unusual times.

‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’ couldn’t be truer in our urgent need to find a vaccine against Covid-19. And the way will require a significant collaboration of IP, public and private interest. Something the world will hope for more of this World IP Day. 

If you’re seeking to find out more about how intellectual property can work for you or your business you can access our series of free webinars at https://www.bl.uk/events?audience=business

Jeremy O’Hare is an Information Expert in Intellectual Property at the British Library.

22 April 2020

Book and podcast recommendations from our entrepreneurs

Some business owners are using this time to tune into podcasts or read books from other entrepreneurs they are inspired by, to get tips with business help books or just read for leisure, for themselves or as a family activity. We’ve put together a reading and listening list, with recommendations from entrepreneurs we’ve supported from around the UK on what’s inspired them (you can now also read recommendations from the BIPC team as well)…

Sabina Ali, founder of Sabina Motasem, a bridal wear designer and boutique

Sabina Ali

Small Giants by Bo Burlingham. It’s a great book on how to became an AWESOME company not a big corporation, and how business can make this a much better world to live.

Gil Kahana, co-founder of ChattyFeet, who create illustrated character socks, mugs, enamel pins and paper models

Gil Kahana

The last enjoyable book was 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, written by Yuval Noah Harari. One of the important messages was that 'global problems demand global solutions'.

Abigail and Chloe Baldwin, founders of Buttercrumble, a creative studio based in Leeds

Abigail and Chloe Baldwin

It may be old school, but Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a huge influence. When reading this as children, it offered so much hope. Quentin Blake (who created the illustrations) inspired us to pursue a creative career from a young age.

Anthony Lau, founder of Cyclehoop, who design cycle parking and infrastructure

Anthony Lau

A book which has really impacted me is The Way Things Work by David Macaulay. It’s a book from my childhood, it inspired my interest in design, engineering, and making things that work!

Natalie Taylor, founder of Acacia Facilities, who supplies interior and exterior landscaping and flowers to business throughout the UK

Natalie Taylor

Think Rich and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, a personal development and self-improvement book.

Amanda Overs, founder of I Can Make Shoes, a London-based shoemaking school for beginners

Amanda Overs

A book which really impacted me is In My Shoes by Tamara Mellon. I thought I was aspiring to have a glamorous company and that once you reach a certain status things become easy. After reading, I realised that no business is glamorous. Everyone has to do their tax, deal with problems and juggle their personal/professional life. Once I realised this, I was free to just grow the business.

Podcasts have more of an impact on me though; I’m obsessed with How I Built This. I love to listen to entrepreneurs share their successes and failures; it helps get perspective on issues I’m facing.

Jon Swain, co-founder of Hackney Brewery, the oldest brewing company in Hackney

Jon and Bruce

I don't read as much as I would like to, time is taken up with research papers and new books about how to make better beer. The last book I read was The New IPA by Scott Janish, it's a collection of scientific papers analysing hop flavour and aroma formulation in beer.

The books that has had the biggest influence on me was mostly cult classics like 1984, On the Road, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fear and Loathing Las Vegas, and Naked Lunch.

Mickela Hall-Ramsay, founder of Haringey-based HR Sports Academy

Mickela Hall-Ramsay

Who Moved My Cheese and The Miracle Morning are both books which are really good for helping you transform your life and adapt to change positively. Engaging and easy reads!

Joe Faulkner, founder of The Krio Kanteen, a family run Sierra Leonean food pop-up based in London

Joe Faulkner

Many books have inspired me, but one that really stands out is Shaping Up Culture by Mark Maciver aka Slidercuts. I’ve always had a keen interest in his business as I went to school with Mark, so I have followed his journey closely. He is a real role model and his book gives simple answers to many questions that most budding entrepreneurs would like answered. It is a book I would highly recommend!

Keira O’Mara, founder of Mama Designs, a mother and baby retailer based in Birmingham

Keira O'Mara

When I do have a chance to read, I loved Chillpreneur by Denise Duffield Thomas. I love the idea that you can run a successful business without being busy or stressed out.

Siobhan Thomas, founder of What’s Your Skirt? A fashion brand based in Leeds

Siobhan Thomas

I am a big reader and many books have impacted me, I am currently reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

Hazel Russell, co-founder of The Wood Life Project, who produce UK crafted eco-friendly wooden products

Hazel Russell with her husband

If I Could Tell You Just One Thing by Richard Reed. This book is really well written and full of inspirational stories from some of the world’s most successful people.

21 April 2020

National Tea Day with HumaniTea

With National Tea Day taking place on the 21 April, we caught up with Innovating for Growth: Mentoring alumna, Tina Chen, about her business HumaniTea, a tea beverage social enterprise that supports wellbeing and sustainability initiatives.

Tina Chen

As a Taiwanese-American living in London, Tina was inspired by Taiwanese bubble tea and British tea drinking culture and decided to create the UK’s first plant-based tea lattes. Prior to launching HumaniTea, Tina worked as a Technology Consultant, performing project management activities for large-scale software implementations. After consulting for three years, she began her MBA journey at Imperial College Business School, where she honed in on innovation, social impact, and sustainability modules. Tina shares, “With my love for a quality cuppa and my desire to make a positive impact on society, I made a career switch from IT to just tea and incorporated HumaniTea in December 2018.”

Tina used the British Library’s Business & IP Centre (BIPC) to search for consumer research reports on the tea market, including Mintel and Euromonitor, which are available for free to Business & IP Centre users. “The market research reports provided me with valuable information about market size that would have taken me months and large amounts of money to gather if I only conducted primary research. Through secondary research, I learned about market trends for ready-to-drink tea, plant-based milks, and low-sugar soft drinks.”

In the UK, the soft drink sector is booming with sales valued at £15 billion. The flavoured milk drink and milk alternative sales are valued at £538 million, ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee sales are valued at £146 million, and RTD tea sales are valued at £23 million. Tina explains, “Consumers desire organic RTD tea with low sugar or health benefits. There is an expected increase in the range of RTD tea, like matcha and kombucha, as consumers search for heathier alternatives to RTD coffee and energy drinks. In fact, 1/3 of UK adults think cold tea is a good alternative to other soft drinks.”

As well as the health benefits (all her flavours Matcha, Earl Grey, and Rooibos, contain low sugar and calories, exclude preservatives, artificial flavours, or any additives), ethical sourcing and sustainability are at the heart of HumaniTea. Their teas come in paper bags from Fairtrade, organic farms, oat milk is used instead of dairy as oat milk is one of the most eco-friendly milks available and making one cup of tea requires less water usage and releases less CO2 emissions than making one cup of coffee.

Besides performing market research, Tina also attended several events at the BIPC, including the monthly Inventors’ Club special food edition. “During these events, I exchanged networks with fellow entrepreneurs and gained knowledge on intellectual property, especially trade mark protection.”

Humanitea logo

However, registering her intellectual property hasn’t been a straightforward process. Four months after filing for four trade marks in December 2018, Tina received a cease and desist letter from the soft drink producer Schweppes. Now in a cooling off period until late 2020, Tina has gone on to file for a fifth trade mark and has successfully crowdfunded over £10,000 through the NatWest x Crowdfunder Back Her Business Programme. This will allow Tina to scale-up manufacturing and pursue a rebrand with the newly filed trade mark, HumaniTea. “Showing humanity is displaying compassion and kindness towards others, so as a social enterprise, we felt the name HumaniTea really embodied our business selling tea lattes to make a positive impact on society and the environment.”

HumaniTea Tea Lattes

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, HumaniTea lattes were available at Imperial College London and farmers’ markets, like Borough Market. “As we possessed an offline presence, new social distancing rules meant that we could no longer trade at our main points of sale. We are using this time wisely to develop our brand image with a professional designer and prepare for production with a contract manufacturing partner as we scale-up from commercial kitchen production.”

Tina continues to engage with consumers via the brand’s social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). “In unprecedented times with unknown outcomes, I’m doing my best as Chief Tea Officer to form contingency plans and remain both realistic and optimistic at the same time. In 2020, we plan on manufacturing our vegan tea lattes in a factory and delivering all the pre-orders of our tea lattes and HumaniTea merchandise that we received through our crowdfunding campaign. We will continue our discussions with retailers and distributors and hope to bring our tea lattes to supermarkets, universities, office canteens, and online environments in the near future!”

Borough Market stand

Tina has also participated in the BIPC’s Innovating for Growth Mentoring Programme. “I was matched with a fantastic mentor Sam Duong, the CEO of Ming Foods, who helps guide and motivate me through his 16 years of experience in the food manufacturing industry. Through our mentoring relationship, I have gained so much knowledge on manufacturing, contracts, supply chain, sales, margins, cash flow models, and team management. Discussing with my mentor my company goals and desires for scaling-up my start-up, I feel confident about my business decisions with strong foundations in place. Sam challenges me to think beyond the present and prepare for the future, allowing me to grow and develop my entrepreneurial skills and focus on my goals. At one of our mentoring meetings, I visited Ming Foods state-of-the-art factory, where they produce duck pancakes and bao buns that are sold both domestically and internationally. I am inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of Sam and the success of Ming Foods and have truly benefited from the Innovating for Growth Mentoring Programme. I aim to also grow HumaniTea and achieve UK-wide and international sales and bring the drink that’s good for humanity to our global community!”

 

To find out more about the Innovating for Growth: Mentoring Programme, visit our website. You can also book on to our free IP and business virtual one-to-ones with the BIPC reference team. Book your slot here.

20 April 2020

Business support around the UK

Although the doors to libraries are closed, for the time being, our Business & IP Centres around the country and Start-ups in London Libraries borough venues have been adapting and changing their offering to make sure our community of entrepreneurs still have resources to access at this challenging time.

Databases

Many entrepreneurs count on access to the various databases each BIPC offers, the good news is that some databases are still available remotely with your library account and others can be accessed via the staff in your local Centre. Here is a list of what’s available:

Remote access with library account

COBRA Birmingham, Brighton & Hove, Devon, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Northamptonshire, Norfolk, Nottingham, Sheffield and Worcestershire. All Start-ups in London Libraries boroughs (Bexley, Croydon, Greenwich, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest).
British Standards Online Glasgow
ProQuest ABI inform Glasgow
Law & Business Glasgow
Kompass Global  Liverpool, Manchester

Access via library staff

IBISWorld Birmingham, Brighton & Hove, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Devon, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Northamptonshire, Norfolk and Sheffield
Mintel Hull, Leeds and Liverpool
Fame Brighton & Hove, Hull, Northamptonshire and Norfolk
Mint UK     Hull

What else is available?

North

BIPC Glasgow will soon be offering one-to-one sessions and some webinars with their delivery partners and Experts in Residence. The team are still available through their dedicated business email enquiry service.

BIPC Hull will be offering delivery partner sessions online. Their Makerspace has also been using the 3D printer to make face masks and shields for local keyworkers.

BIPC Leeds’ IP delivery partners are offering one-to-one phone consultations and Enterprise Club are being delivered online, which include topics such as writing a business plan, social media for business, marketing and finance.

BIPC Manchester is continuing to respond to emails from entrepreneurs. They are also putting their 3D printers to good use to produce face protection for GPs and people working in social care in need of PPE as part of the Covid-19 Face Shield Volunteer Initiative for the NHS.

BIPC Newcastle is offering IP support by email and can carry out research on some of their databases on behalf of BIPC users. The team can also help people carry out a patent search.

East

BIPC Norfolk can connect entrepreneurs to their delivery partners who are delivering sessions on Accountancy, (Larking Gowen) Legal Advice (Leathes Prior) and business continuity (NAGH) remotely and can take your business enquiries through their dedicated business email enquiry service.

They can also arrange one to one telephone calls and Zoom chats to discuss IP issues, or any answer business-related questions and offer business support and guidance, including signposting to partner organisations. (New Anglia Growth Hub, Menta, Leathes Prior, Larking Gowen and NWES).

The team continue to offer many free online business and IP tutorials, workshops and webinars via our BIPC Eventbrite page, they can also conduct patent and trademark searches using an online database and provide access, information and advice on grants available at the BIPC and via Grants for Norfolk.

General business advice can also be accessed on the Norfolk County Council website, as well as information on the latest support offered to support business since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Looking ahead, we hope to extend our webinar workshops with our own tried and tested Spotlight sessions to include, What can the BIPC do for you, Protecting your idea- An introduction to intellectual property and host regular Zoom IP one-to-ones using the BIPC Eventbrite page as the booking platform, so keep your eyes peeled!

West

BIPC Devon is offering delivery partner workshops via Zoom, which include topics such as CV writing and interviews and top tips for business start-ups. Their FabLab is currently making PPE using the Centre’s 3D printer.

Midlands

BIPC Birmingham’s Immigration Lawyers and BLAC Legal Team are delivering telephone legal advice and the BIPC team are still taking enquiries which come through the Library of Birmingham.

BIPC Northamptonshire’s team is offering basic business support by email.

BIPC Nottingham’s team will be available at times to answer any business-related questions via the library’s QuestionPoint live chat facility.

BIPC Worcestershire will be running online drop-in sessions with their delivery partner Blue Orchid. Soon their workshops will be available as webinars.

London

Start-ups in London Libraries - Starting up? Start here!

The Start-ups in London Libraries community remains active during this period for all aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs in the capital. All of the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops are now available as webinars and can be booked via our Eventbrite page. This includes new two-part Marketing Masterclass sessions.

Our borough Champions are running virtual one-to-one sessions. You can contact them on any of the below email addresses to arrange a session:

Bexley- Ioanna Lymperaki
Croydon- Sophie White
Greenwich- Loretta Awuah
Haringey- Nicola Moore
Lambeth- Rachel Samuels
Lewisham- Mark Berbeck
Newham- Rashed Belal
Southwark- Dean Williams
Tower Hamlets- Abraham O'Dude
Waltham Forest- Sarah Eschner

If you have a borough library card, you will be able to access COBRA remotely to conduct research. If you are a first-time user of the system, we recommend going through it with one of our borough Champions. 

We have also compiled all the support that each of these boroughs is offering specific to the impact of Coronavirus on local businesses on a dedicated page, you can find the full details here

17 April 2020

From silk wedding dresses to cotton scrubs for the NHS

Sabina Ali is a bridalwear designer, based in North London. Only a few weeks ago, she launched her 2020 collection and was looking forward to the busiest time of year for brides-to-be. Like so many entrepreneurs and small businesses, her bridal boutique, Sabina Motasem, has been severely affected by the Coronavirus and has shut its doors for the time being. But in a time of crisis, Sabina and her team saw an opportunity to put their fashion expertise behind those on the front lines of the pandemic. Read on to find out how.

Sabina Ali

Can you tell us a bit more about your business?

Although I have a degree in fashion, this actually started as a hobby. I designed my first wedding dress for a friend as a special gift. Word quickly spread and my hobby soon turned into a business.

In 2012, we discovered the Innovating for Growth Programme at the British Library Business & IP Centre. It was a transformative experience. Our business expanded and became an established brand, dressing brides all over the world. We’ve seen a lot of growth since we started out in 2007, but we’re proud to say our dresses are still made right here in London, with the best craftsmanship, by an extraordinarily talented team.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your business and what changes have you made to your business model to keep on operating?

Like most small businesses, we have been affected by Coronavirus. All our brides have either had to cancel or postpone their weddings until 2021. Essentially, the bridal industry has stopped. In the week that lockdown happened, we were about to shoot our new sustainable and vegan wedding dress collection, but that will have to wait. In the meantime, we have been doing virtual appointments with brides, enabling us to talk them through different options and show them the dresses, as well as the fabrics. Being stuck in lockdown means more valuable time to plan a wedding, so we’re also trying to keep our brides inspired by creating useful content on our blog and social media channels

Sabina and bride

In the meantime, you and your staff have volunteered to use your skills and facilities to make scrubs for NHS front line staff. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

When the lockdown started, it really made me feel a little redundant, with no way of being able to continue meeting and greeting brides. Sitting around at home doesn’t feel natural to me. Like most people, I like to keep busy. 

Through the North East London Sewing Group and De Beauvoir Association, which I am part of, I became aware of the great shortage of scrubs for NHS front-line staff. Scrubs are plain clothes worn by medics when dealing with patients, and they are being used by an increasing number of NHS staff as part of their personal protective equipment. They need to be changed frequently in order to stop the spread of the virus.

We also started receiving many requests from friends, brides, and Instagram followers who are doctors and nurses, asking us if we can help the Coronavirus effort by using our specialist skills. So our dedicated team of professional machinists and pattern cutters have swapped sewing wedding dresses in silk by day for making NHS scrubs in cotton drill and poly/cotton during lockdown, whilst still carefully abiding by the rules for social distancing.

I am stunned at the sheer volume of doctors and nurses who have been left with no scrubs. “Scrub hubs” are bringing together a small army of volunteers to make up the shortfall. That’s why, alongside the work our bridal boutique is doing, I decided to create the Islington and North Hackney scrub hub, to mobilise our local community of sewers.

Sabina's team making scrubs

Finally, in these turbulent times, what would be your message to our readers?

Postpone, pause… but don’t cancel. This is what we’re saying to ourselves and to all our friends and brides: just pause for a bit, but don't cancel your plans. 2020 will go down in history as the year we all stayed indoors… come 2021, hopefully we’ll all be looking for ways to celebrate life and all the good things in it. There are going to be so many weddings, and people getting married! Lots of our brides who were supposed to be getting married will be doing just that in 2021, including some of those couples who decided to move in early together just before the lockdown. We’ll enjoy reconnecting, although we seem to be doing that already, engaging and talking a lot more with one another, and we’ll appreciate it even more once we are all out of this mess. I really hope the world will be a kinder one. I hope 2021 will become the year of love, that’s something worth celebrating and looking forward to.

 

 

 

Ewa Domaradzka, Marketing Manager