Innovation and enterprise blog

09 December 2021

Celebrating Start-ups in London Libraries

The Start-ups in London Libraries programme has now come to an end, as much as we are sad to say it’s over, we couldn’t be more proud of all of the wonderful businesses we’ve seen flourish along the way. Join us as we take a look back and see just how far the project has come.

This pilot programme first launched on 2 May 2019, with a keynote speech from the Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Rajesh Agrawal and a panel discussion chaired by Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, founder of Stemettes. The aim was to deliver grass roots business support in high streets across ten London boroughs. Over the course of the programme running, we have seen a number of brilliant start-ups find success with help from the bespoke business support, workshops and one-to-one sessions available through Start-ups in London Libraries (SiLL). In less than three years, we have supported 2,369 people to get their business off the ground!

Keynote speech from the Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Rajesh Agrawal

The programme has been funded by the ERDF and has helped to ensure that people from all walks of life can access the right information and support locally. It has also proven the value of being situated in local libraries, as they act as community hubs where people come to get information. SiLL has been able to address some barriers people face in starting a business and has reached underserved communities; with over 71% of our clients identifying as women, 56% from BAME community and 11% identifying as having a disability.

We couldn’t have delivered the project without the wonderful help of our Specialist and Reference Librarians within the BIPC and the SME Champions in the SiLL boroughs. They have the knowledge and access to useful databases and tools such as COBRA, saving aspiring entrepreneurs from wasting their time and money when starting their journey. Our latest report demonstrated that those who receive start-up support from the BIPC are 4 times more likely to succeed in sustaining their business.

SME Champions with Rajesh Agrawal at SiLL launch event

We were able to pivot the programme to support businesses across all of London since we went into lockdown by delivering our services online so more people than ever were able to access the free support, just when they most needed it. We have seen a variety of different businesses come through Start-ups in London Libraries; from construction and publishing, to social work and hospitality.

Now it’s time to take a closer look at some of our superb start-ups and hear about their experience on the SiLL programme. 


ArtPerÚK dancers

Delivering and promoting the well-being of individuals through dance classes, ArtPerÚK was created to share Peruvian culture with the wider community in London and the UK through the art and enjoyment of dance. Founder Katherine Tinoco received support from our Croydon Champion, Sophie White.

“I've joined more than ten SiLL online webinars and workshops, where I was able to learn more about how to reboot my business in this time of crisis. The Marketing workshop has really helped me to improve my social media presence on Instagram and Facebook, the Finance workshop helped me understand how to manage tax returns effectively. I was also able to enrol in several one-to-one meetings with a Business Expert, Sophie White, who was amazing! She helped me align my ideas for the business and connect me with people to receive support on finance, legal and also helped me to promote my events.⁣”

Parent Power Limited

Bianca Sapara-Grant, Founder of Parent Power Ltd

Bianca Sapara-Grant, founder of Parent Power Limited works on teaching parents skills to help them take care of their children's mental health and wellbeing. Bianca was supported by our Greenwich Champions, Jawahir Sheikh and Martin Garlick.

“The SiLL project helped me tremendously. They helped me with identifying and crystalizing my vision and goals. I was able to attend a number of their workshops including marketing, social media and sales. I also found that their networking events were a great opportunity to share knowledge and experiences.

The most helpful part of the SiLL project was receiving one-to-one support. I had several one-to-one meetings, to discuss my specific needs and requirements. I remember one of the team members from the SiLL project supported me by using specific software to upload podcasts and YouTube videos.”

Yum Seng

Yumseng family

Yum Seng is a successful Dim Sum and Cocktail meal kit business founded by husband and wife, Chuong and Stephanie Van Dang, during lockdown. They have always had a passion for great Dim Sum restaurants and decided to start their own. Chuong and Stephanie received support from our Lambeth Champion, Rachel Samuels.

“SiLL was instrumental in giving us the confidence to flesh out an idea, develop it into a viable business plan and then launch as a commercial business. We’ve learnt a lot from their workshops and were inspired by other entrepreneurs that we had met along the way. Our local SiLL Champion Rachel Samuels was incredible. She took time to help me with my previous venture, by identifying and introducing me to other council departments that could help. She also helped me successfully apply for grant funding. She gave me the confidence in myself and my idea, which was a massive morale boost.⁣

Starting your own business can be very lonely, and SiLL is offering you a community of support. You never know, you may even meet your future business partner there!”

Amaze Associates

Fiona Wedderburn-Graham and Jennifer McLean, Co-directors of Amaze Associates

Fiona Wedderburn-Graham and Jennifer McLean, are the co-directors of Amaze Associates; a transformational coaching company that empowers individuals and businesses to achieve their goals and to navigate work and life challenges. Fiona and Jennifer were supported by our Lewisham Champion, Mark Berbeck.

“The workshops SiLL provided were great, particularly the ‘get ready for business’, marketing and finance workshops. SiLL also provided excellent networking opportunities. ⁣

However the most helpful were the one-to-ones with our SME Champion (Mark Berbeck). Our one-to-ones helped us to consolidate the learning and gave us more business insight. Our champion connected us with other businesses, funding sources and helped us to think about how to scale the business.⁣”

The Goodfriends

Daphne Gutfroind, Founded of The Goodfriends

Daphne Gutfroind founded her business The Goodfriends, which is a recruiting and coaching company. Daphne aims to bring career development and childcare solutions to the families of Haringey. She received help from our Haringey Champion, Nicola Moore.

“I was signposted to the programme by my DWP coach and felt so privileged to access such a valuable course, that I attended all the workshops. It has helped me with my marketing, if I had to point where I use my SiLL learnings the most. It has also greatly helped me with developing any funding strategy thanks to the finance and crowdfunding workshops. More generally, the programme has helped me to stay focused on my own development as the best way to keep my business moving and innovating.

I received direct support from Nicola on numerous occasions. It was helpful to navigate the programme and stay in the know of what is happening and when. It also helped me gain confidence in online networking. Nicola also offered to connect me and my business partner to key individuals of the council for our project (pot on the fire!). Finally it helped me simply feel confident that I am not alone, a professional is reachable for support.”

The Brave Project

Donelle Grant, Founder of the Brave Project

Donelle Grant, founded The Brave Project community interest company, a non-profit suicide prevention and wellbeing service; for BAME boys and young men. The mission is to prevent suicide through public awareness and education. Donelle was supported by ⁣our Champion for Newham, Rashed Belal.

“Rashed has provided me with access to a number of business workshops and support for Marketing, to finance, and many more. I am so grateful for the SiLL programme and my SME Champion Mentor Rashed Beal, who has been a great business Mentor, consistently empowering me to  push forward with my business.”

Nu(pw)R Ltd

Roohi and Nida Mohiyuddin founders of Nu(pw)R Ltd

Roohi and Nida Mohiyuddin founded Nu(pw)R Ltd, a service-based business that helps professional women become confident and empowered leaders without overwhelm through mindset and success mentoring. Roohi and Nida were supported by our Southwark Champion, Dean Williams.

“We were given the most amazing mentor who is the SME champion for Southwark. He encouraged us to be better every step of the way. When we hit a wall he showed us how to work out a way to climb it with confidence. Our questions were answered, our worries were addressed and we kept growing and being better.

We understood that failure was a tool for growth and that our journey was about progression and not perfection.

In addition, the SiLL program allowed us access to numerous amazing resources. We had access to events, training and met other mentors to learn about marketing, copyright, patenting and the resources to start up a business.”

The Breakhouse Café

Chloe Bailey-Williams, Founder of The Breakhouse Café

Chloe Bailey-Williams, founded The Breakhouse Café. With her passion for coffee and amazing food, Chloe has created a space that the local community loves. She aims for the business to be sustainable and ethical wherever possible, and to be inclusive of a variety of tastes, reflecting the diversity of her customers. Chloe was supported by our Tower Hamlets Champion, Abraham O'Dude.

“It’s been good to catch-up with Abraham in our one-to-ones and through emails, some other programmes that I have tried just don’t keep in touch. It’s quite challenging setting up a business in a pandemic so I appreciate that Abraham would visit me at the Café to go over different strategies. He would also inform and support me in taking up opportunities like the mentoring, which I successfully applied for. It really helps to speak with him about my business and I continue to benefit from his experience and advice. His ideas on how to use the space (like setting up a film club) and some Café tips I can’t mention (it’s a trade secret) have been great, we are currently planning our first film night!”


Judy Chicangana-Matthews, Founder of Delmora, making a T-Shirt

Delmora helps turn a 'good look' into a 'great look' with their beautiful jewellery and accessories. Founder Judy Chicangana-Matthews, received support from our Bexley  Champion, Ioanna Lymperaki.

“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.”

Authentic Worth

Esther Jacob, Founder of Authentic Worth

Esther Jacob is founder of Authentic Worth, a book publishing company that is dedicated to help aspiring authors to write and publish a book.⁣ Esther was supported by our Waltham Forest Champion, Jacqueline Brown.

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 one-to-one 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. 

Further support for you

Attendees at BIPC workshop

The end of the Start-ups in London Libraries programme certainly does not mean the end of business support for you! We have plenty of online resources to help guide you on your business journey as well as our Innovating for Growth programme which is here to help you to continue building your business whether that means adjusting to ‘the new normal’ or scaling up. Our advisers and external consultants will help you to be more resilient and adaptable in the face of a changing future.