Innovation and enterprise blog

4 posts from July 2021

28 July 2021

Inventor(s) of the month, Alexander Fleming and the story of Penicillin

Miracles happen and they happen in labs. The modern laboratory has been a place of great discovery where the destinies of so many lives have been changed.

Among these great ‘miracles’ of the 20th Century was the discovery of penicillin. Millions upon millions of lives have been saved because of it. Perhaps you’re among them.

Anyone who has ever been prescribed an antibiotic will attest to its incredible effects.

But the story behind Penicillin’s discovery and use is fascinating, surprising and telling for our time today as we grapple with the a very different health challenge to what its pioneer, Fleming was addressing.

Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) has long been credited as the person who ‘invented’ Penicillin. The man and the myth play upon a popular idea of the scientist as the lone genius and discoverer of new natural knowledge, previously hidden by nature. Fleming has come to embody this and he was quite happy to encourage it.

Alexander_Fleming

But the story of Penicillin is not the story of one person but of at least three. Among those who made it a reality are also, Sir Ernst Chain and Baron Howard Florey (the titles came later).

The story begins in 1928, when Fleming, by now a respected bacteriologist at St Mary’s had returned from holiday. On his return he noticed a discarded plate culture by an open window, where some of the micro-organisms were missing thanks to a contaminated mould. The contaminant was a common mould called penicillium notatum. What could’ve been ignored as a passing oddity sparked the curiosity of Fleming who saw the potential of what it could do against pathogenic germs. Concentrations of his ‘mould juice’ against the germs proved quite successful and Fleming reasoned this could be an effective, non-toxic, antiseptic for humans.

However, the concentrations weren’t high enough to have a significant effect on infected areas of the body, outside of very local treatments. Nonetheless, a paper was submitted in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology in 1929 summarising his findings.

The experiments weren’t taken much further until the late 1930s when the story of Penicillin takes another serendipitous twist.

Then, a brilliant Australian ex-pat by the name of Howard Walter Florey (1898-1968), who had earned himself a scholarship to Oxford to study Physiology was now the Chair of Pathology at Oxford.

Howard_Florey

Florey’s force of personality had forged a culture of team work and collaboration that was to serve him well with an astonishing breakthrough. Working on a relative shoe string and hiring talented post-graduates with their own research grants Florey put in motion a number of research projects.

Among them was to establish whether there was a clinical value in working with the enzyme lysozyme and how that dissolves bacteria. Florey had some previous interest in this but was uncertain to the significance of it.

That was until one of his new hires, Ernst Boris Chain (1906-1979), a gifted biochemist and German-Jewish refugee who had fled Hitler’s Germany, embarked on new research. Chain had completed his second PhD, this time from Cambridge, and in working through the literature on lysozyme came across Fleming’s 1929 paper. It described how the penicillium mould seemed to dissolve any pathogenic bacteria in its vicinity. Chain became convinced that the problem of Penicillin’s instability of use could be overcome. Eventually after many experiments and collaborations, a bio-chemical breakthrough was discovered. A change of substance stabilised the Penicillin into a pure form to be effectively used.

Ernst_Boris_Chain

Soon experiments with mice had proven that Penicillin protected them from the deadly infections of streptococci and staphylococci. The results pointed clearly to the need for human trials, which Florey could now push for.

And so by January 1941, there was a limited trial on patients at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. Despite some restrictions the results were clear, Penicillin was demonstrated to overcome infections where other treatments couldn’t. Further trials over the next couple of years put its efficacy beyond doubt.

With the Second World War raging and its considerable loss of life, the necessity for new medical interventions to treat the wounded was overwhelming. The question now was how to utilise the incredible effects of Penicillin further.

And this is where industry gets involved. Florey needed funds and an expansion of infrastructure to scale production. However, the war had restricted the use of supplies and infrastructure in the UK so Florey had to look to the United States to overcome the next challenge. This one was technical, how to produce large quantities of the new drug?

This problem was solved during the war with the aid of American industry supported by President Roosevelt’s War Production Board. A technical solution was engineered using deep fermentation to mass produce the product for the front-line war effort.

By now the power of Penicillin was clear to industrialists and not just scientists and clinicians.

But it was a great irony that Florey was actively discouraged from taking out a patent on Penicillin as being unethical. Instead, in the US, a patent for methods of mass production of Penicillin in 1945 was filed by Andrew J Moyer, a microbiologist. The UK was soon to catch up regarding the importance of patent protection and industry, post-war.

The story of Penicillin is one that rings true for us today. The lone visionary scientist is an exceptional person indeed. There is only one Newton or one Einstein. But here instead we have brilliant individuals in their own way brought together by serendipity of circumstances, curiosity of subject and outstanding abilities.

Penicillin is a modern miracle in every sense. Its creators had crossed continents and borders to bring about its existence. In the case of Chain he had fled persecution or for Florey who found a new world of opportunity from outback Australia or for Fleming who had found fame from humble beginnings. Each were of their time but living in extraordinary circumstances, all working to bring about a little less suffering in the world.

Fitting indeed, that all three men were recognised by sharing the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1945.

And for that, and for our time, we have lessons to learn and gratitude to give.

21 July 2021

Waltham Forest Winners

This week we are celebrating the launch of the new Business & IP Centre local in Waltham Forest. Over the last two years, the Libraries in Waltham Forest have played a major role in our Start-ups in London Libraries programme. Our Champions Sarah and Jacqueline have been working hard to support a number of aspiring entrepreneurs in Waltham Forest to get their businesses off the ground.

Here are just some of those flourishing businesses...

 

Sweet Paper Creations

Sweet Paper Creations - Ice Cream Pinata

Sweet Paper Creations, founded by Patty and Ali Gurman, is a not-for-profit business that is here to support those with poor mental health through crafting and creation. Sweet Paper Creations make and sell piñatas, made from recycled materials, for any occasion via their online shop, where customers can also commission their own bespoke character. The profits from the shop help them to deliver their 'Make It and Break It' workshops, where they provide a creative outlet for those suffering from mental health issues, stress, bereavement, or those helping support someone going through such issues.

“From the time I met Sarah at the Walthamstow Library, I felt reassured and confident to be able to develop my ideas into reality. She listened to my ideas, helped me to organise my priorities and to develop an action plan which includes looking at ways to fund-raise in order to deliver our pilot workshops. Attending the library events and workshops also provided me with the opportunity to learn about legal requirements and to identify new opportunities to continue my business development. As a new business with limited experience, we believe that Sarah’s support and encouragement has helped us to be where we are now.”

 

Price Management Consultancy

Marjorie Price

Price Management Consultancy Ltd. was founded by Marjorie Price, who is a specialist in training those in a management of leadership position with the essential skills to manage their workforce more efficiently and effectively. She provides mentoring services and coaching, supporting managers and leaders to harness their ideas, and turn them into action.⁣

"The SiLL programme has been an invaluable resource that has supported me with setting up and running my business. The 1-2-1 support with Sarah has been brilliant, from signposting me to relevant services outside of the programme, to practical help with developing my website and much more.  Sarah is friendly, supportive, encouraging and a good listener. The overall training provision has been well thought out; there is a course to help you at every stage of your business journey."

 

Firm Feet

Charlie Boyd

Charlie Boyd’s business, Firm Feet, focuses on various sessions to achieve movement and connection with your own body. Soon after setting up her business, she met with one of our local business Champions in her borough as part of our Start-ups in London Libraries programme. Charlie designed a session drawing on her qualifications and experiences that she knew worked for her, to try and help others.

“My local SiLL Champion, Sarah, has been brilliant and someone I respect and feel as an equal which is a wonderful person to have as support. She is always extremely helpful and supportive and great at listening and understanding the direction of my business. She always goes above and beyond supplying me with important documentation and hints and tips.”

 

Haven Coffee

Haven Coffee

Haven Coffee is a socially-conscious coffee company, founded by Usman Khalid. Each cup of Haven Coffee bought supports refugee communities across the UK, providing barista training for refugees building new lives for themselves in the UK. The Haven team also organise events to promote refugee artists and creatives. Usman has recently introduced a virtual coffee scheme allowing customers to purchase a coffee in advance. And many of their events, including their art exhibition, have moved online.

“Networking and meeting new people is always something I’ve loved. Through the SiLL platform, I got to know more like minded people and small businesses operating in Walthamstow and had a chance to speak with them.⁣”

 

Bushwood Bees

Salma Attan

Salma Attan decided it was time to turn her hobby into her livelihood and started her beekeeping business Bushwood Bees. She maintains hives on the roof of the East London Mosque, making honey and other bee-based products from her local source. On top of this, Salma offers paid beekeeping courses to beginners and provides guidance to experienced beekeepers.

“In the early stages of asking myself “Is this really such a good idea?”, I took part in the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops which made me realise that, actually, it was.  The plan was sound, I had the beekeeping skills to execute the practical aspects of my idea and with the SiLL workshops I could focus on the practicalities of starting up a business.

The one area I seemed to have zero skills was technology! This is where Sarah (the Waltham Forest Business Champion) was a great help. She was happy to meet and give me plenty of ideas on how to get started. Sarah also let me know about where to get further free help to improve my use of social media in terms of business promotion – this is something I’m still learning but less anxious about. Sarah also gave me really good ideas for improving my business plan. It was helpful to have someone with fresh eyes looking at my ideas. She was willing to help put a pitch together, gave really practical advice and was able to give me fresh perspective on parts of my plan that I would not have had otherwise.”

 

Authentic Worth

Esther Jacob

Authentic Worth, founded by Esther Jacob, is a book publishing company that is dedicated to help aspiring authors to write and publish a book. The purpose of starting up Authentic Worth Publishing was due to a family bereavement in 2018. Esther wanted to continue the legacy and continuation of her books to make an impact, helping others to build their storytelling at a confident level. 

“The SiLL project helped me in setting up my business through their workshops I attended in 2019. On the first day, I was able to connect and network with other aspiring entrepreneurs that had different ideas about what they wanted to achieve in their businesses. I was able to share ideas with them and vice versa which helped stimulate trust and the tenacity to grow my business gradually.”

 

 

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.

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19 July 2021

Introducing Authentic Worth, founded by Esther Jacob

Authentic Worth is a book publishing company that is dedicated to help aspiring authors to write and publish a book.⁣ It was founded by Esther Jacob in 2018, we spoke to Esther about her business journey and experience on the Start-ups in London Libraries programme.⁣

Esther Jacob

'My business, Authentic Worth was Founded in October 2018 providing bespoke face-to face-workshops initially. As a multi-published author, I took the initiative to use my two books that were published in 2016 and 2017; It’s Time to Heal and Completion to continue the face-to-face workshops in 2019. During that period, I held workshops on the fundamental and basics steps on how to write a book for beginners. I decided to utilise and share my expertise on helping aspiring authors write a book, and has now become a book publishing company. Due to the demand of the workshops being popular, Authentic Worth Publishing now offers bespoke book publishing services, monthly online seminars, 1-2-1 consultation support on writing and tailored online course(s) to reach creatives and aspiring authors to learn about publishing and how to market their book effectively. 

The purpose of starting up Authentic Worth Publishing was due to a family bereavement in 2018. I wanted to continue the legacy and continuation of my books to make an impact and would be the starting point to help others to build their storytelling at a confident level. I also wanted to give back to the community, reminding them that their pain serves a purpose and that is to help someone use their challenges to make a difference. For this reason, Authentic Worth Publishing is making a positive impact in the lives of those that are willing to share their story and build upon their own confidence. 

Authentic Worth Homepage

The SiLL project helped me in setting up my business through their workshops I attended in 2019. On the first day, I was able to connect and network with other aspiring entrepreneurs that had different ideas about what they wanted to achieve in their businesses. I was able to share ideas with them and vice versa which helped stimulate trust and the tenacity to grow my business gradually.

The most helpful part of SiLL were the 1-2-1 meetings with one of the SiLL champions. It was very useful and I was able to get more clarity about starting my business, including creating further awareness through the use of social media, being able to connect and collaborate with other aspiring authors and business owners in my field and ultimately, focusing on my target audience which helped to create a catered/tailored service to those that publish their book with the Authentic Worth brand. 

Covid-19 had an impact on my business as a client’s family member had a bereavement. I decided to take the opportunity to pivot and strategise, whilst working on my fourth book; The Power of a Forward-Thinking Mindset published in July 2020. The purpose of this book is to support people’s mental health during the Covid-19 lockdown and beyond. I then decided to host virtual workshops from July 2020 onwards on several topics including how to write a book during Covid-19, how to set up a business, how to build confidence and personal development, and combining them with new clients that were able to use their free time at home to write their manuscript and turn it into a book. 

My advice to anyone looking to start up a business is; get a mentor who understands the vision of your business – don’t be afraid to ask questions and network. Build your connections on LinkedIn and always remain a student, willing to learn from those that are ahead of you.

BIPC Quote Tile

It is important to reach out and attend one of SiLL’s workshops as they are not only free, but they offer valuable insight into how to start a business. They are able to help aspiring entrepreneurs to find their passion and turn it into useful resources to serve their audience. The workshops also teach the fundamental steps it takes to run a business, the pitfalls that one may encounter, but above all, they share a common trait which is to work together. This has helped the growth of Authentic Worth Publishing and would recommend any new starter that is willing to learn about business from a basic level to attend their workshops.'

 

Click here to visit the Authentic Worth website.

Authentic Worth logo

 

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.

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12 July 2021

Meet Judy Chicangana-Matthews, founder of Delmora

We are shining a light on one of our fantastic, fashionable Start-ups in London Libraries (SiLL) businesses, Delmora, founded by Judy Chicangana-Matthews. Demora offer a variety of beautiful jewellery items and accessories for women. We spoke to Judy to find out more about her business journey and her experience with the SiLL programme.

Judy, founder of Delmora

Can you please tell us a bit about your business and how it came into being?

Delmora is a brand that helps women turn a 'good look' into a 'great look'. How do we do that? We sell the best jewellery and accessories for women's outfits. I always say "we" because I foresee Delmora expanding into a company that offers many jobs and does great things for its community. At the moment, it's just me doing the production, packaging, quality control, marketing and so on. But behind Delmora's progress, it's not just me. There are a lot of people and small businesses behind the curtains. For example, my husband that motivates me during those difficult moments as an entrepreneur, all the Delmora suppliers (at the moment, 85% of our suppliers are British) and finally our partners, we donate a part of our net profits to the Charity LAWA based in London.

What was the inspiration for Delmora?

My father and aunt are entrepreneurs, and I always had the idea that I would follow in their footsteps, so I studied business. I remember once I suggested to my father that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and he told me that he wanted a better future for me. He wanted to see me working in a big office for a big company. So, I shut down my dreams, believing that being an entrepreneur wasn't good enough. Now, looking back I am grateful for the advice, but I suggest to any parents listening, please support your children and help them try to achieve their dreams.

I choose jewellery because:

  • It is my passion
  • That market doesn’t have many barriers to entry which is good, but it also makes it super competitive
  • The initial investment required wasn’t too high
  • I found suitable suppliers quickly

Why did you want to start up a business?

Independence and support. I am looking for financial freedom and being able to manage my life in a way that I can care about myself. While working in offices, I was tired of doing nothing but working for someone else. I used to dream about having a hobby such as painting or crafting. I love working with my hands and creating new things. That is how I found out that jewellery would be perfect for me.

My second motivation is supporting others. When I was living in Colombia, I was a lecturer in a university that aimed to help people that couldn’t afford private, professional education. It was great! I worked there for 6 years, and I felt fulfilled because I was doing something good for others. One day I realised that I was not achieving my dreams. The working conditions made it almost impossible to dream about having a house or having enough money to travel for holidays. I had the same car that my father gave me before graduating from University. So, I realised that I needed to help myself first to be able to help others. I decided to launch Delmora and look for that financial independence to help myself at the same time as I help others. Currently, Delmora is supporting the charity LAWA based in London. My dream is that in the future, I will be able to help many girls that are living through domestic violence or any other type of abuse.

How did the SiLL project help you in setting up your business?

SiLL is a terrific project because it's available to anyone. Even if you don't have your own business and you have an idea. That is how I started the programme; Delmora was just an idea when I decided to attend the masterclasses. Although I have a business background, I didn't know where to find information or how to address the British market. That was the most significant help. Learning about COBRA and how the library supports businesses with industry guides and multiple resources such as Mintel and Euromonitor reports, helped me to create my marketing strategy to start Delmora.

In the marketing masterclasses, I learnt how to approach the different e-platforms with good content and how to reach my final customer. As Delmora has a presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest, that was super important. There is still so much to do, but this was an excellent starting point.

What was the most helpful part of the SiLL project for you?

Learning about all the free tools that the Library offers to entrepreneurs. After I enrolled in the project, I started to be more interested about the activities, webinars and seminars that the Library provides and I have attended the ones on Intellectual property, marketing and how to take photos with an iPhone.

I am an avid consumer of the market reports to educate myself about the behaviour and product preferences of my customers. When I go to the Library, I spend hours taking notes and reading all this info.

The masterclasses are also very helpful as they teach new trends that help entrepreneurs to improve their processes.

Can you tell us a bit about the business community that is developing as a part of SiLL

I love when I’m around other entrepreneurs as you can learn from other business’ experiences. Also, being able to share your experiences is therapeutic and make you realise that you are not alone. SiLL facilitates those conversations and networking. I always look for other small business that could potentially be my suppliers.

Making black Tshirt

What was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your business/plans to start up a business? How did you respond? 

The impact was huge. I launched my first product at the end of February and then in March, Covid hit. In the beginning, people were buying the essentials such as food and toilet paper, so jewellery was considered a luxury. Nowadays, many people are concerned about their jobs and how that is going to impact their finances.

Covid also affects my KPI’s in terms of delivery. I use the service Royal Mail 24, and I have had severe delays on the delivery of the parcels. To compensate my customers, sometimes I offer discounts as a part of the customer service. This practice has seriously affected my margins, so surviving has been very difficult.

My response has been offering discounts to my customers and creating programs to increase the brand’s recognition. For example, I offer the Delmora Club discount to all my customers in which the members have exclusive access to special discounts and pre-launch of our collections. We also recently created the program named “Delmora Brand Champion” that aims to get more positive reviews around our online presence.

What advice would you give anyone looking to start up a business?

Do it. I was petrified before I started Delmora as I had a good job with a steady income, and I felt my professional future was promising. I had job interviews in big companies, and I was starting to love the London nightlife with cocktails/wine on weekends and shopping during my free time. So, starting a business required for me to save money and Goodness knows when I will take a steady pay cheque again however, I really enjoy being my own boss and working for myself instead of using my talents to line the pockets of other business owners.

When I started, fear was always a factor but I'm glad I went through that phase and decided to create Delmora. It gives me a purpose and the learning has been immense.  After a year, I have spent all my savings and I am not at the point of taking a salary yet. But the reward has been incredible experiences, and I have known incredible people that are going through the same.

Also, it is good to remember that the options are endless. If an idea doesn't work, there is always another idea that could be the one, but you will never know if you don't try.

What are the key things you have learnt while starting up your business?

Before I started my business, I took the Clifton Strengths Test, which reveals your main strengths. One of those for me is that I am a Learner. That was a big revelation because I wasn't aware of that, but I have since realised it is true. This has been crucial for me as an entrepreneur.

When I started, I thought that a bachelor's degree, a postgraduate diploma, an MBA and a qualification in Project Management would be enough. But I had to learn Photography, Photoshop and I am in the process of learning Illustrator and how to shoot videos.

I also thought the most difficult thing would be negotiating with suppliers, but that was the easiest part. Establishing processes and organising all the info to give the customer the best possible experience is very difficult. For example, every time I sell something, I need to go through a long quality control procedure involving a 30-point check list to ensure the customer journey and service levels are excellent and consistent. It is easy to get lost in the countless files and e-files that I manage.

Another example is when I receive raw material, I need to assign a code to every unit, and I need to fill in a file that records all the updated stock, which is crucial when I am planning a new collection. Also, I need to put that info on my cash flow to monitor where the money is going.

Key points, I would say, organisation and the willingness to learn have been skills of paramount importance that I have developed during this process.

What would you say to anyone looking to go to a SiLL workshop / talk to their local SME Champion?

It is a great help. All the masterclasses and tips will help you at some point. I would advise you to organise the information by subjects, and then you can come back as and when you require. I was always taking notes and filing the info I got from the programme. For example, I haven’t done my Canvas business plan but thanks to the programme, I know I have the template and all my notes ready to start it.

 

I think it is vital to say thank you to all the people that have helped entrepreneurs throughout their formation and to the Bexley Library and British Library for offering these programs and making them available to anyone. Thanks to Bexleyheath library for the time and effort invested as well as to the instructors for sharing all the tips and information. Finally, thanks to you Ioanna, because you have been an approachable person from the beginning of the programme showing a sincere interest in helping us.

 

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.

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