Innovation and enterprise blog

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

08 November 2021

Meet the sustainable speakers of Start-up Day 2021

With Start-up Day 2021 just around the corner, we wanted to introduce you to some of the eco-conscious entrepreneurs taking part! 

This year, we’re focusing on the importance of sustainability in business. We believe sustainable businesses play a significant role in encouraging more sustainable behaviour. Through collaboration with consumers and government businesses and their owners will help accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis and make a positive impact in society. 

Natasha Steele, founder of Urban cordial

Natasha Steele

Bored of working in the city, Natasha started to forage for ingredients in her allotment and turn them into cordials. To let the fruits’ true flavour shine, she used very little sugar and soon perfected her recipes. It wasn’t long until she found herself selling them at her local farmers market and demand grew. Over a third of global food does not reach our plates, often because of the appearance of the item, even though it is perfectly safe to eat. Natasha, being aware of this issue, contacted local farms to source their surplus food produce and to date, Urban Cordial has helped to save over 100 tonnes of fruit from landfill. Urban Cordial’s production process is also zero waste with all fruit pulp going to the local farms to become animal feed.

Jane Riddiford, co-founder of Global Generation

Jane Riddiford

Jane co-founded Global Generation in 2004. She has more than 30 years of experience in delivering environmental, arts and vocational training projects in New Zealand and the UK.

She managed a City Farm for Framework Trust and developed an Inner City Forest in Auckland New Zealand as a learning resource for the Dept of Education, set up and ran an NVQ Horticulture programme for Camden Job Train and co-ordinated Camden's Environmental Education Network. She also managed Rise Phoenix, a community arts organisation that worked with children and young people in the war torn areas of the Balkans, in Tanzania and in London. Her interest in young people and projects that bring different parts of the community together has been a consistent thread throughout her working life. Her love of the outdoors began as a child growing up on a farm in New Zealand.

In 2016 she was awarded a Dprof in Organisational Change from Middlesex University and Ashridge Business School. Through an action research approach her inquiry drew on experiences within Global Generation and focussed on how the living story of ecology and the wider cosmos can support collaborative approaches to leadership within an organisation. Jane invites engagement with the rhythms and patterns of nature through a combination of storytelling, hands on and reflective experiences.

Sheila Akinlabi, founder of CocoBean Giftbox

Sheila Akinlabi

Sheila Akinlabi is the founder of CocoBean Giftbox, a themed subscription box aimed at multi-faceted, diverse and consumer conscious women who enjoy discovering new brands and products. CocoBean giftbox combines well-established lines with exciting and emerging black owned brands. Catering mainly to a female audience, the brand supports women-led initiatives and products, particularly ones founded from women of black and ethnic minority heritage.

CocoBean has worked with corporations such as Spotify and Warner Music to supply luxury gift boxes for their workforce. The company continues to be committed to championing Black owned businesses whilst working with established brands and curating high end gift boxes which are truly diverse.

Khalia Ismain, co-founder of Jamii

Khalia Ismain

Khalia Ismain is the co-founder of Jamii, an online marketplace and discovery platform for black creators and makers in the UK. Launched in 2016, Jamii is home to more than 250 makers and has organically grown a community of more than 38,000 people keen to align their purchase with purpose. Named as one of HSBC's Top 25 Black Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2021, she is on a mission to make shopping with community-owned businesses as easy as possible. Khalia is also a member of the Lloyd's Bank Black Business Advisory Committee and a mentor on the Virgin Start Up programme.

Tonisha Tagoe, founder and CEO at Apples and Pears Holdings

Tonisha Tagoe

Tonisha Tagoe is a certified business development strategist, enterprise educator and the CEO of Apples & Pears. She leads a team of talented individuals tasked with helping people of all nations to expand, scale and make their businesses sustainable. Having achieved a global reach, Tonisha has helped to transform the lives and careers of entrepreneurs from all walks of life. Carrying almost fifteen years of industry experience, she is bursting with knowledge and techniques for building a successful company from the ground up, and is now bringing her expertise to you.

BIPC Glasgow


Supporting entrepreneurs and innovators from that first spark of inspiration to successfully launching and growing a business. Whether you’re looking to start, grow or run a business, Business & IP Centre Glasgow, based in The Mitchell Library can help.

They have trained staff to assist with one-to-one sessions and workshops on a range of topics including business planning, marketing and intellectual property. They also host regular talks and events delivered by our partners.

Business & IP Centre Glasgow is being developed in collaboration with the National Library of Scotland.


To explore more about our speakers and enjoy a day of free talks and practical advice sessions designed to get your business idea off to a flying start, register your place here. It’s free to join and open to everyone. And for over a year, it has been fully available online.