Innovation and enterprise blog

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

11 March 2024

She means business: start-up tips from women entrepreneurs

We're extremely proud of all the businesses we support, but did you know that 66% of them are owned by women? Two of them recently caught up with The Gender Index to discuss their business journeys and give tips to fellow women who are on the same path.

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Kate McKenzie is the founder of Word Window, a device for parents and teachers to use when reading to children. Kate was one of the BIPC Northamptonshire SME Grant winners and has used the BIPC's resources to propel her business forward. From invaluable one-to-one sessions to comprehensive market research reports, she’s gained crucial insights to fuel her growth. With our expert intellectual property support, Kate has safeguarded her innovative ideas and met with a vibrant community of like-minded small business owners.

Kate's tips for start-ups include:

Head to your local library

"I’d gone from working full time in a college to setting up my own business. I didn’t know anything about the world out there for entrepreneurs or the help available. For me, the library was a place to get a book, it wasn’t a place where I could be signposted towards business specialists or IP experts. Most local libraries will be connected to a central library so speak to yours to find out more."

See what you can get for free

"Lots of companies will offer an hour’s advice for free. And if you need market research data, don’t just assume you have to pay for it. BIPC holds all sorts of data and resources that are free to access so have a good look through to see if they’ve got what you need. It’s surprising what information and help you can get for nothing."

Accept it won’t be perfect at first

"You can’t think too much and you can’t make it too perfect before you go for it. You have to just believe in yourself, even when it seems things aren’t working, and keep the faith."

Most importantly…

Keep quiet

"If you’re launching a new product, don’t tell anyone about it! To register your own Intellectual Property (IP), you have to declare you’ve not shared your concept with other people. Luckily I’d heard about that, so kept my idea to myself."

If you need any intellectual property support, head to your nearest BIPC.

You can read Kate's full interview with The Gender Index here.



Susan Widlake was an IT Auditor with a passion for hats, who travelled the world with a sewing kit and a collection of treasures in her suitcase. After spending years learning and honing her craft, Susan hung her corporate hat and turned her passion into a business when she founded Mill House Millinery.
Susan's journey:
"Early on I went to a Start your Creative business Day at the British Library in London. That was really helpful, and if you go up the stairs at the library you’ll find the Business & IP Centre. I didn’t even know it existed! They run a whole range of courses and workshops and the majority are free or very low cost. It was an excellent introduction to starting your own business."

Use your skills

"It was a real bonus when I realised I had the knowledge, I just needed to scale it down. My background really helped me when doing things like drawing up the business plan and targeting customers and messaging. That’s exactly the sort of thing I had been auditing."

Everyone makes mistakes, and that's ok!

"I’ve also learnt that you shouldn’t be scared of making mistakes. That’s been a big mind change for me coming from an audit background where everything has to be perfect."

Find your business family

"One thing that was completely different though was networking. I was used to being in a very male orientated, and dominated, field. In hat making, suddenly I was having to network with a totally different set of people. And actually, I felt much more comfortable."


You can read Susan's full interview with The Gender Index here.