Innovation and enterprise blog

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

4 posts from August 2021

30 August 2021

Introducing Rose Arouca-Claro, Rosy Clean Spaces

We spoke to Rose Arouca-Claro, founder of Rosy Clean Spaces, an after builders cleaning business. Rose took part in the Start-ups in London Libraries programme to help get her business started. Let’s hear more from Rose about her business journey…


“Rosy Clean Spaces started focusing on after builders cleaning for residential developments. I worked in the construction business for 15 years. I began as a document controller and ended up as an assistant site manager.

After completing my master’s degree in construction project management, I decided to start my own business. 

For many years, there has been a joint consensus that women are underrepresented in the construction sector, due to various reasons, the work environment, the hours, etc, I noticed that in most sites that I worked even the post-building cleaning team was predominantly male, which is ok, however, I believe that as women we can work on a construction site without necessarily building but offering cleaning services.

I believe that with the major regeneration happening in London boroughs of new builds there are opportunities for local women who want to get back to work but struggle to find flexible working hours to accommodate their childcare needs. We wanted to bridge this gap by allowing flexible working hours.  We also provide end of tenancy deep clean, commercial cleaning, but the main motivation to start the business was to address the underrepresentation of women on building sites, not as builders but providing after builders cleaning service.

I also have a passion for clean spaces, I have had the opportunity to supervise various apartments being cleaned and ready to be handed over to clients, knowing that I am part of that process of handing over a property that is spotless brings great satisfaction to me.

SiLL has been awesome, from the first meeting with an advisor in Lewisham library my business journey was transformed from a mere dream to what it is today.

I attended various workshops and have had one on one meetings. During the pandemic in 2020, SiLL was there for me every time I had a question or needed guidance, from cash flow and elevator pitch, to how to set up a business account and being visible on various platforms. I was advised on grants available to business.

The pandemic did hinder the start of the business, however, we sought opportunities in the middle of the pandemic, we started thinking outside the box, where we offered to pack, especially for tenants who found themselves stuck abroad unable to travel back to London due to Covid. We packed, stored and handed the properties to the estate agents. We started using specific steam cleaners that eliminate 99% of viruses. During the pandemic, I also took the opportunity to complete an online course for cleaning businesses on how to dispose of waste in different environments.

BIPC Quote Tiles London Aug 6

If anyone would like to start a business, I would encourage them to get in touch with their local library, do as much research as possible, speak to people, face your fears and do it because you learn every single step of the way.

One of the key things I have learned is the importance of communication. Get help from people such as the SiLL Champions, who will help you set out your ideas in order to make it easy to focus on your objectives. Also, attend as many SiLL workshops as possible because you get to meet other people who are on the same journey as you. It was encouraging for me to be part of the SiLL programme."

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit

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23 August 2021

Meet Sally Paull, Owner and Managing Director of Positive Signs

We spoke to Sally Paull, about her business, Positive Signs, a Deaf-led service provider, supporting and raising awareness of the Deaf community.

Positive Signs is a one-stop-shop for services for Deaf and hearing customers, including the provision of British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreters and other Language Service Professionals (LSPs), BSL and deaf awareness training, employment and education support.

Sally Paull

A graduate of the 2013 Innovating for Growth: Start-ups programme, Sally has grown her business by expanding its offering and increasing the client base. Here, she reflects on her journey and plans for the next phase of growth, including how Covid has catapulted them into developing full online service provision.

'I started Positive Signs in 2004, following a successful and diverse career in social work, leading on the delivery of the first BSL NVQ and Interpreter Training for a national deaf charity, and as one of the first qualified Sign Language Interpreters in the UK. I wanted to combine my skills, broad professional knowledge and strong network, to create a unique offering centred around the provision of BSL training and interpreters. The seeds of Positive Signs were planted!

Since then, we have grown into an established provider of services to support the Deaf community in the workplace and higher education. Our expansion has enabled us to become a family run business and I really value their involvement and support.  Six incredible people make Positive Signs what it is today. 

We are driven by our passion for ensuring Deaf people achieve and succeed. Many people are not aware of fabulous schemes like Access to Work and Disabled Students Allowance, which support Deaf and disabled people to get into work or education, stay there and achieve. For Deaf people this could be providing BSL Interpreters for interviews, then regular on-site support so they can engage with colleagues and customers, take part in meetings, and attend events such as induction, training and conferences.  We work with clients to apply for these awards and then manage their ongoing support provision.

I am proud of the many things we achieve every day at Positive Signs. From the small things that make a big difference, such as seeing the results of matching the right interpreter to a Deaf person; to the big things which show the world that Deaf people don’t have limitations, only those put on them by others, such as securing 24 Deaf apprenticeships at blue chip organisations without any funding or partnerships, just sheer determination to support young Deaf people onto the employment ladder.

In 2013, I was fortunate to secure a place on Innovating for Growth: Start-ups. The programme and one-on-one support enabled me to develop a formal business plan, identify obstacles and opportunities to broaden and improve our business. It gave me the confidence to grow to where we are now.

We’ve built our reputation around quality, honesty and importantly, taking the time to really understand what clients want. We then carefully match our provision to meet that need. This makes for great customer satisfaction and has enabled us to develop our brand.

I’m delighted to have been accepted onto Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups, to coach myself and Positive Signs to the next level. In preparing the application, it’s been satisfying to stop and look back on the last seventeen years – what we’ve achieved, the amazing people we’ve met, how we’ve grown – and beneficial to help crystalise future plans. We don’t often take the time to reflect as we’re always striving for what’s next!  That’s one blessing of Covid, it’s given us the time to stop and reflect.

Covid has massively disrupted the lives of Deaf people in work and education: the tech requirements of working or learning from home; the impact of mask wearing on communication; the reduced availability of LSPs; the overnight switch to remote interpreting online; last minute logistical changes to whether lectures are onsite or online.

It’s a lot to deal with at the same time as trying to keep up-to-date with government guidance on Covid safety, which unfortunately, in England, has not been made available in BSL. BSL is not the same as English, it’s a language in its own right with its own grammar and structure, so it’s not as simple as saying, ‘read the subtitles’ or ‘look at the website’. Vital information such as this needs to be provided simultaneously in BSL. But it’s only due to the dedicated efforts of charities, who took it upon themselves to act, that some provision has been made after the event.'

Covid has also disrupted much of our service offering: with training courses cancelled; prohibitive costs of delivering Covid-safe training; less LSPs available to work due to shielding, home schooling, or unwillingness to travel; many LSPs can’t work online as video remote interpreters as it’s expensive to kit yourself out, or they simply don’t want to work this way. It’s been really tough. However, I take my hat off to our handful of regular LSPs who were determined to continue supporting Deaf clients on site throughout the pandemic, so that they could maintain employment, despite the fact that BSL Interpreters weren’t immediately granted Key Worker status.

In taking time to reflect, we are re-framing our experiences as a way to create opportunity. We have fast-tracked plans to take existing services online in new and innovative ways, for example our online interpreting service and BSL training. These will become part of our standard offering recognising the shift in people’s attitudes and purchasing patterns, as well as ensuring business continuity during any future crisis.

We are introducing new services, starting with an essential Employment Service to support Deaf people back into work as lockdown eases and later, a Translation Service to open up important information to Deaf BSL users. Plus, we wish to reach new audiences who wouldn’t ordinarily work with a Deaf-lead company, either because they are not aware of us or don’t realise they have the perfect potential to take on Deaf people with our support. 

Through expansion we aim to create more jobs for Deaf people who can find it harder to gain and remain in employment, making us a role model for our services.

Positive Signs

We are not short on ideas! We’ve recruited new, full-time staff during lockdown, and we are investing in major systems to increase automation, save time and to improve our ability to create and convert opportunities as a data driven entity.

It’s going to be very different for me. I have managed Positive Signs as a one-woman band for many years, doing everything from Access to Work applications, client management, coordinating bookings, delivering training, marketing and finance. I’ve worn a lot of hats and thrived on every minute! Transitioning from a hands-on manager to a leader who coaches others to deliver isn’t always easy, but I’m working on developing the skills to ‘let go’!

People often say that I’m ‘lucky’ to have my own business. But Positive Signs didn’t happen by luck, it happened by design and hard work. However, I am lucky that I have been well supported, both to set up Positive Signs and to keep it growing, including by my family and Innovation for Growth, which I am really grateful for. And I am lucky to work with amazing people doing things we love every day. I can’t ask for more than that and I’m excited to see how the future shapes up.'

20 August 2021

The Story Cube: What you do matters

What does your business do?

It’s a simple enough question. And one you presumably answer on a regular basis. Customers need to know, current and potential employees want to understand, and potential partners or investors are keen to get under the skin of your venture. Indeed, how you answer this simple question can therefore secure sales, inspire staff and ensure the very future of your operation. No pressure then...

Yet despite this importance, “What do you do?” is a question that too often inspires an inadequate answer. And that’s usually because we fail to recognise the intentions of the person asking; we fail to think about what people want and need to know.

It’s best illustrated with an example. 

Let’s imagine a personal trainer, Jo. If she meets someone at a party, they might ask her “Jo, tell me, what do you do?” And after she predictably responds with ‘Oh, I’m a personal trainer’, there’s a space to fill. And a number of ways to fill it. 

Jo could say, “So what do I do? Well it’s lots of gym sessions obviously. I feel like I’m always sweating! But my clients are lovely and it’s a really fun job. And it’s basically impossible not to stay in shape, so I think I will have another vol-au-vent”. 

Or Jo could say, “So what do I do? Well I hope I help people feel better about themselves, normally when they’ve struggled to lose weight - which is where I was a few years ago. It’s mostly 1-2-1, but I do online classes too so I can be accessible for everyone whatever their situation which I think is important”. 

Which of those is more compelling? Which tells you more about Jo? Which gets you on the hook to find out more? Which version of Jo would you be likely to recommend and hire?

It’s the second one, obviously. But why does it work? Simply, because it recognises the core elements that make a good brand story. It understands a problem, presents a solution, contains a motivation and touches on elements of differentiation. It even shows a good understanding of the audience and why they would be interested in her services in the first place. It comes from empathy, and it understands the value that she adds to her clients. 

And when anyone asks what your business does, you need to do exactly the same. 

To make it easier for businesses to do that, we created Story Cube. It’s a simple framework that helps every business understand the story they need to tell by answering six simple questions: What problem do you solve? What solution do you provide? Why does your organisation exist? What sets it apart? How do you reach your customers? And, what obstacles could trip you up on the way? The combination of your answers are the basis for a compelling brand story you can use to sell to clients, inspire staff and encourage partners to work with you. 

The Story Cube

On the last Friday of every month we run a webinar that goes into more detail about Story Cube in order to help your business tell a compelling story and, ultimately, grow. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, what experience you have or what you want to achieve, the Story Cube framework can help you get to grips with what you need to communicate.

Click here to sign up.


Blog by Robbie Dale, creative director at The House London

16 August 2021

Introducing Shari Bollers, founder of Self Love Club

Self Love Club (SLC) was founded by Shari Bollers in 2019, it’s a platform dedicated to supporting, empowering and educating BAME women on their mental and sexual wellbeing as Shari believes that mental wellbeing and sexual wellbeing are linked. Let’s hear more from Shari...⁣

Shari Bollers, founder of Self Love Club

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

Through the platform I educate, bring attention and awareness to these taboo subjects by creating a resource of information (around sex tech and sexuality), to get people started on their journey and showcase that it’s more than about sex. It’s not just vibrators and sex robots, but toys, products (lubes, creams, intimate hygiene, bush oil, contraception to name but a few), apps, books, virtual reality, porn, platforms, services etc. Sex tech is on its way to being a billion-pound industry but it doesn’t represent all womxn, whether in the products, algorithms, data, ads etc? The industry is not diverse enough (yet) and this is my action to change the industry.

Female sex tech is a diverse and rich industry with some amazing women leading the way. It focuses on education, pleasure and intimacy but also on essential women's issues such as menstruation, endometriosis, fertility, and menopause - the whole life cycle of being a woman.

SLC aims to create safe and sex-positive spaces (online and IRL) to have conversations free from guilt, shame, embarrassment and awkwardness. I am Intentional in the spaces I create and use feedback from the community to create events, marketing and strategy around it.

I facilitate these conversations by holding workshops, check-in and talks, covering topics like self-care, anxiety, self-love, intimacy, fetishisation of black and brown bodies, misogynoir etc.

I also look to work in tandem and collaborate with allies, not to exclude them, because diversity shouldn’t be divisive.

Why did you want to start up a business? What was your motivation?

I had an idea and I wanted to see if it had legs. I couldn't be sure if it would become a viable business or if anyone would be interested in it, but I was driven by a deeper purpose and curiosity, so I had to take the chance.

Not only did I want to remove the stigma around discussing mental and sexual wellbeing and normalise these discussions but I wanted to see more diversity in the sex tech and sexual wellness industry.

My motivation was based around going to events, meeting all these great people, finding out about all these amazing products but not seeing other BAME women in these spaces. I didn’t know where and I didn’t want to presume, I just wanted to improve it. I had to give people a choice, the knowledge and resources to find out for themselves, so I started SLC.

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

The workshops, in the beginning, were really helpful. They helped me understand how to build a business and what was needed - it helped to manage my expectations.

I was given a great advisor who I was able to turn to for advice and keep me on track.

I am not always great at asking for help so I had to ensure I used SiLL for support where I felt I needed it. My advisor was able to suggest resources, events and networking opportunities for me to utilise, which I did.

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

Having an advisor was helpful. Running a business on your own can feel encompassing, isolating and you are wearing many hats. It was brilliant to have someone else to turn to, who also had useful suggestions and time for you.

Thank goodness he was understanding and supportive of my idea even if the theme was uncharted territory for both of us.

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

I originally intended my business to take place in person, where I would facilitate real-life workshops, discussion and events. I’m thankful that I managed to get a few workshops in before the pandemic hit but once we found ourselves working from home, I had to pivot to working online.

It wasn’t a major shift but I had to change how I saw the business and create a marketing and social media strategy because I was seeing my business as more of a project. The pandemic made me consider it being a business.

I started thinking about how I could be intentional about creating safe spaces online. How I could incorporate my facilitation skills online and what I could do to engage people without being there in person.

The pandemic brought a shift in the importance of mental health, so I decided to create an online check-in once a week, where BAME women could join and discuss their mental wellbeing. Over time as things adjusted, and from feedback from the community, the sessions were once a month.

Around the time of George Flloyd’s murder and the BLM protest I made another pivot and went back to doing workshops, one of which was an ally workshop around allyships in friendships, as allyship is always spoken about in work or community settings but not those close to you. We worked with BAME women and white allies, and it was a timely and necessary event.

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

Shari Bollers Quote Tile

Everyone is different and motivated by different things, therefore it's important to remember:

  • Take care of you mental health and incorporate self care into your routine
  • You win and you learn, there no such thing as failing, it’s just another opportunity to develop
  • Ideas can change and evolve, you might go into solving a problem and you could end up creating something that fulfils another need
  • Be prepared to spend your free time and your time for free on this
  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and what they are doing. Focus on you and your goals - be patient and what is meant for you will be yours at the right time
  • Have a board of trustees (people whose opinions you trust and value) - who can test, critique, give feedback and opinions on your ideas/pitches/work etc.
  • Also, not everyone is going to understand your vision, that’s on you.
  • Don’t talk about your business, do it - talk about what you are doing and what you have done, not what you haven’t started yet.

There are tonnes more but I think that’s a good start

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

  • To practice what I preach, so make sure I take care of my mental health and be self-aware enough to not take too much on. I take regular breaks from social media when I need to and I have learnt not to feel bad but thankful for doing it.
  • To ask for help when I need it and not be afraid to reach out to friends, peers and people in my community for advice or collaborations
  • To have patience in the process and remember progress over perfection
  • To keep learning and being curious, it’s gotten me this far. Use what you learn to feed into my work and to remember not to neglect my sexual wellness and sex tech journey.
  • Nothing is free, it will come at a cost, one way or another
  • Have respect for the journey, every day you learn more, you become more and you do more

What would you say to anyone thinking about starting up their own business?

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.  What I am saying is don’t look back in regret for not having started sooner, take action now. Today is always better than never.

Yes, it is your business but always think about your user/customer/community, get their buy-in and ask for their feedback. Their feedback is invaluable, you are making it for them so you want to make them feel included in the process.

Try to be inclusive and authentic with your brand, build it into your strategy and if you don’t know work with people who do - from ethnicity, race, nationality; gender & sexuality; health & disabilities; religious affiliation; socioeconomic status etc.

People like and want to see themselves reflected in products, services, pictures, media and so on - representation matters. It’s not just a tick box, be intentional and thoughtful in your approach.

And of course take care of your mental health, all roads lead back to it ; focus on you mind, body and soul, find what works for you whether it be meditation, workouts, walks, hydrate, eat well etc.

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

Do it, what’s the worst that can happen. There is no real financial risk to you but an opportunity to learn, get support and develop your idea.

I love what I do, even though people might not always understand where SLC is coming from and it’s still taboo. This is not about invasion of people private lives but a way to have better conversations around sexual wellbeing and sex tech (it's way to becoming a multi-billion pound industry in the next few years). Access to better mental and sexual wellbeing can come as a privilege but we try where we can to make it accessible and it starts with the tools and resources to have these conversations.

Most people have never heard of sexual wellbeing, but you can buy products in Boots and Poundland. It’s not just vibrators and sex robots, but toys, products (lubes, creams, intimate hygiene, bush oil, contraception to name but a few), apps, books, virtual reality, porn, platforms, services etc.


For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit

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