Innovation and enterprise blog

116 posts categorized "BIPC National Network"

12 February 2024

Show small businesses some love

February is a month in which high street shops are adorned with hearts and flowers, and products are often tailored to reflect the theme of love. However it can be more than just a time for romantic gestures, and also a chance to treat yourself and your loved ones while also showing your local business community some love.

Below you can find a selection of luxurious products from the entrepreneurs supported by our Business & IP Centres (BIPCs) across the UK. Whether you're looking for self-care treats, or thoughtful gestures for friends and family, you’ll also help support our vibrant community of small business owners.

Give something scent-sational

perfume bottle

Sarah McCartney, who used our scale-up programme Get Ready for Business Growth, has always had a passion for making her own scents. Her award-winning fragrance, Goddess of Love & Perfume, is dedicated to Aphrodite and how she imagined the perfume she would be wearing if she descended to the North York Moors. Treat yourself or your loved ones to this luxurious perfume, a blend of all the fruit and flower materials we love best: rose, violet, raspberry, blackcurrant, bergamot and Mandarin.

Cost: £60 for 15ml,  £150 for 50ml

Where to find: 4160 Tuesdays

A sweet surprise

Gift guide 2

Vicky Armitage used BIPC North East to research the trends in healthy eating and chocolate, and her business produces raw cacao bars made from organic and nutritious ingredients. With flavours ranging from roasted almond to orange and raw caramel, these bars create a healthier alternative to chocolate that is just as delicious. All ingredients are ethically and sustainably sourced and the packaging is recyclable, so you can give a gift that does good!

Cost: £4 each (10% off if you buy 4 or more)

Where to find: Meraki cacao

Wrapped up in elegance 

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Get Ready for Business Growth participant Rory Hutton's products are perfect if you're looking for some luxury. Rory is an award-winning, Cambridge-based artist, print maker, and historian. Drawing upon many inspirations, including architecture, theatre, opera and dance, his collections of silk scarves are testament to the strength of his passion for beautiful things and creative flair. With designs inspired by Shakespeare's First Folio and beautiful manor gardens, these scarves hold a timeless beauty that will add a touch of elegance to any outfit. 

Cost: £45 - £200

Where to find: Rory Hutton

Good enough to eat 

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Amarachi Clarke completed our Innovating for Growth programme (which has now been succeeded by Get Ready for Business Growth) and used the BIPC resources to research the chocolate market. After teaching herself to make chocolate at home she learned that the bean-to-bar quality chocolate could be much better than that available in the mass market, even than perceived luxury brands. From a selection of tasty chocolate bars to Belize cacao infused gin, Lucocoa offer high-quality, delicious products that will make the perfect gift.

Cost: Chocolate bars start at £2.75

Where to find: Lucocoa Chocolate

12 January 2024

2023: Our business journey continues

As we embark on another exciting year at the Business & IP Centre, we are looking back at just some of the highlights from 2023, both for the Centre and among our network of users, supporters and partners. From the launch of our Democratising Entrepreneurship 2.0 report to the opening of more BIPCs across the UK, it certainly was a busy year!

The London Network continues to grow

photo from start up wandsworth launch

January saw the launch of Start Up Wandsworth in York Gardens Library, who also opened another business hub in Putney Library later on in the year. This is part of our BIPC local offering that brings our business support services to the heart of five London boroughs, also including Bromley, Greenwich, Lewisham and Waltham Forest.

Start-Up Day never goes out of style

start up day one to one event

Start-Up Day returned in February with events taking place across the National Network. This jam-packed day consisted of speed-mentoring, informative talks, free IP support and networking opportunities aimed at helping creative businesses thrive in the arts and culture sector. We finished off the day with our Inspiring Entrepreneurs - The Changing Face of Fashion event at the British Library, in which a panel of industry experts, including Patrick Grant, discussed the latest trends in the fast-paced fashion industry.

Kickstart Your Business is born

kickstarting the london economy launch event

In February we also launched Kickstart Your Business, our programme designed to deliver grass roots business support and expert advice in libraries across London through two-days of free workshops, supported by JP Morgan. We delivered over 30 workshops in 2023, and we look forward to continue to support entrepreneurs across the capital this year.

Championing women in business

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We celebrated International Women's Day in March across our network of libraries. BIPC Devon launched their 12-week Women in Business programme, delivered by Devon-based Business Women to empower others to realise their full potential and pursue their dream careers. Our Inspiring Entrepreneurs - Disruptors and Influencers event took place at the British Library and focused on the 2023 Women's Month theme of Embracing Equity; topics discussed included shifting the image of women in business, and how we can best embrace and encourage diversity and inclusion in business for colleagues and peers from marginalised communities. 

Success for the National Network 

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In April several of our National Network BIPCs, made up of 22 regional and 90 local BIPCs across the UK, secured additional funding from UKSPF, ensuring they continue to be a vibrant hub of support to small businesses until March 2025. Entrepreneurs and innovators in various regions can count on continued access to resources, expertise, and opportunities provided by their local BIPC, find yours.

 Serving up more events

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Our Inspiring Entrepreneurs - The Business of Food: From Farm to Fork event took place in May, as part of the British Library’s Food Season celebrations. We were joined by culinary experts Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones MBE, The Black Farmer, and Thomasina Miers OBE, founder of Wahaca, who discussed emerging trends in the food industry, the changing image of food on the high street and the ways we can be more sustainable with our food choices.

Honouring women's enterprise 

women enterprise week event

We held an event in June to honour National Women's Enterprise Week, led by our ambassador Alison Cork. The panel discussion featured four exceptional women we have supported throughout their entrepreneurial journey - Cultureville, #ChalkandBlade, Pageful Productions and Skin Solace. They shared their first-hand experiences, discussing the realities, benefits, and challenges of being women in business and provided invaluable insights to empower other women navigating similar journeys. We are immensely proud to have supported not only these extraordinary women but also over 92,000 individuals since 2020. Among them, 63% are women, 32% of whom were from a Black, Asian and ethnic minority and 13% disabled - reflecting our commitment to fostering gender equality in entrepreneurship. 

Double celebrations

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July gave us lots to celebrate as the British Library turned 50, and we launched our independent Democratising Entrepreneurship 2.0 report at the House of Lords. The report shows that Department for Culture, Media and Sport funding between April 2020 and March 2023 has helped grow our Network from 13 to over 100 libraries. 

Art meets business

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BIPC Liverpool City Region teamed up with Liverpool Art Fair throughout the summer in support of businesses in the art industry, in which they held Entrepreneur in Residence Clinics and hosted a number of events which gave support and advice to artists and others in creative industries. The 6-week exhibition culminated with an interview with BBC Radio Merseyside’s Claire Hamilton and Faith Bebbington, nationally renowned sculptor who is living with cerebral palsy and has survived cancer. She has since become a BIPC Liverpool client, and we have provided her with one-to-one support on her legal contracts and marketing. 

Our BIPC local turns one

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September marked the 1st anniversary of our BIPC local in Lewisham. To celebrate we ran an out of home awareness campaign, supported by Lewisham Council, with over 50 outdoor placements to promote the BIPC services in Lewisham. We also published this blog where we caught up with our Lewisham business ambassadors and heard about their journey with us.

Black History Month celebrations

saluting our sisters

To celebrate Black History Month in October we hosted our seventh Inspiring Entrepreneurs event of the year: Saluting our Sisters, honouring Black women in business. Our panel of visionary women shared their journeys to success, how they overcame challenges and discussed the evolving business landscape. We ended the evening with a fireside chat with Sabrina Dhowre Elba, CEO, Model and Activist. 

The National Network expands

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In November BIPC Nottinghamshire opened a business hub in Nottingham Central Library, and enjoyed a launch event to celebrate their new space. Our interactive map also went live this month, which allows users around the UK to locate their nearest BIPC: you can find yours here.

BIPC takeover

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Throughout November and December we ran a large scale out of home campaign in London to promote our overall BIPC services at the British Library and the Kickstart Your Business workshops taking place in our London Network libraries. This involved advertisement at bus stops, underground and rail stations, and other outdoor placements across the capital.

Wrapping up the year

winter market

We ended the year on a festive high with Winter Markets taking place in some of our libraries around the UK. This featured local businesses coming together to showcase and sell their products just in time for Christmas. We also curated our annual BIPC Festive Gift Guide, sharing gift ideas from small businesses around the UK who have used BIPC services.

24 August 2023

BIPC Oxfordshire – helping young people to succeed in business

It’s been a whirlwind year for our Business & IP Centre (BIPC) Oxfordshire. Although it’s still relatively new, we’ve already supported over 1,500 people with their start-ups and ideas, and all of our hard work was recently recognised in the form of an award from Libraries Connected.

We’re delighted that our work helping young people in enterprising activities and supporting them into business has been recognised by Libraries Connected - a membership organisation representing the public library services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - in the form of the Children's Promise Award. 

BIPC Oxfordshire receiving the Children's Promise Award from Libraries Connected
BIPC Oxfordshire receiving the Children's Promise Award from Libraries Connected

Of course, the BIPC doesn’t only support young people, but we’ve been particularly focused on younger generations here in Oxfordshire, partnering with local and national organisations to nurture their ambitions, and give them the skills to build their enterprise.

For the past two years we’ve been partnering with Oxfordshire Young Enterprise to host the end of year showcase. Last year alone, we had 75 students from 14 schools all over the county attend a special learning event where they pitched, exhibited and were interviewed on their projects.

We’ve additionally hosted individual school visits, including those for children special educational needs. This includes introductions to resources including our free market research databases including COBRA, which provides how-to guides on starting hundreds of different types of businesses.

For people making the first steps into business, we appreciate there can be barriers to accessing the knowledge that is mostly gained from experience. Having the tools to navigate the market is critical in so many sectors, and being able to offer access to some of these is something that makes us unique here in Oxfordshire. This is also why we’re also looking at cross-organisational approaches to link up with colleagues in Target Youth Support services to help young people who may not ordinarily have this access to get involved and gain skills they need, while also signing them up to benefit from a library membership more widely.

Beyond this, we’ve also been looking at how we can support companies or help people to create companies that support young people in education, wellbeing and other related activities.

Among the organisations to benefit from our services is GetFED. GetFED provide barista and business training for young people at risk of exclusion and exploitation. Through bespoke training sessions, the organisation supports young entrepreneurs with the basics of running a small business, developing barista skills and even project managing their own events.

Tim, founder of GetFED
Tim, founder of GetFED

The Drone Rules is another organisation that has been working closely with the BIPC. This unique organisation provides education for individuals and educational providers on all things drone-related – a technology that will be no doubt of interest to a lot of people.

William, founder of The Drone Rules
William, founder of The Drone Rules

BIPC Oxfordshire is certainly opening the doors for many young people and we hope we can continue to tap into the undiscovered skills of many more.

If you want to find out more about the work of BIPC Oxfordshire visit their website or head to the Centre, you can find them on the second floor of the Oxfordshire County Library in Oxford, with Locals in Bicester and Blackbird Leys Libraries.

Ryan Johnson – BIPC Engagement and Marketing Manager at Oxfordshire County Council

12 July 2023

50 Books for 50 Years of the British Library

As we celebrate 50 years of the British Library, home to over 13 million books, we’ve put together a reading list with recommendations from entrepreneurs we’ve supported from around the UK.

1. “My favourite books are slow-paced and reflective. Michael Cunningham's A Home At The End Of The World is the first book I remember reading as an adult that gave me that comforting, peaceful feeling I now associate with reading, which I do a lot." - Sam Hutchinson, co-director of b small publishing

2. "A book that impacted me is Small Change by Nabeel Hamdi." -  Jan Kattein, director of Jan Kattein Architects

3. "I would recommend Profit First by Mike Michalowicz – ever since I read it and made the changes mentioned, my business has been in profit and I can see it!” - Keri Jamieson, founder of KeriKit

4. "A book that has significantly impacted me is Games for Actors and Non-Actors by Augusto Boal, a revolutionary collection of exercises and approaches to using theatre to rehearse for challenging situations in real life." - Jon Dixon, director of Dramatic Theatre

5. "One of my favourite books is Henri Charrière's Papillion. It is a story about grit, determination and the ability to stick to stuff you feel strongly about. Something I believe is so important about being an entrepreneur." - Doug Marshall, CEO of Altaura

6. "A book that has impacted me is A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.” - Jessica Mello, co-founder of London Sculpture Workshop

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7. "It may be old school, but Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a huge influence. When reading this as children it offered so much hope. Quentin Blake (who created the illustrations) inspired us to pursue a creative career from a young age." Chloe and Abigail Baldwin, founders of Buttercrumble

8. "Frankenstein by Mary Shelley impacted me because I have such a vivid memory of being in primary school and finding out that the author had to publish the book anonymously because she would have been unable to do so otherwise, as she was a woman. I remember being so shocked by this revelation and discovering that women, people of colour and basically anyone that wasn't a white male, often wrote under pseudonyms due to them not being granted the same privileges. Mary Shelley is now infamous world-wide for being one of the first science-fiction writers. I just think it inspired me because it goes to show that in life, there will be obstacles in the way and people may tell you that you aren't capable; but if you are passionate enough and persevere, you can achieve anything.’ - Rachel Sampara, founder and director of Wings & Radicles

9. "A book that has impacted me is the Mechanical and Metal Trades Handbook. This is the English translation of a German engineering bible. Engineering textbooks are often impenetrably dense, but this book is accessible to all." - Nick F, founder of PipSqueak 3D 

10. “I've been inspired by Leading an Inspired Life by Jim Rohn" - Constantin Cornel Paunoiu, co-founder of Wine Chateau

1 Jasmine Richards photo credit Josimar Senior  and Black Writers’ Guild’ (1)

11. "Aziza's Secret Fairy Door by Lola Morayo - it was the first book I sold from my production company and thus my proof of concept that this business idea had legs!" - Jasmine Richards, founder of Storymix

12. "A book that impacted me is The Source by Dr Tara Swart. The book talks about the power of mind and visualisation backed by neuroscience. I find the concept of neuroplasticity inspiring. Our brains have an amazing ability to change and adapt at any age. It’s never too late to reach our potential!" - June Mineyama-Smithson, founder of MAMIMU 

13. "One of the best books I found for anyone starting a creative business is The Practice by Seth Godin. It’s made up of lots of small ‘blog’ type posts which are ideal to just pick up for an instant shot of motivation and focus."- Helen Cross, founder of Helen Cross Jewelry 

14. "The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber was the first ever business book I read, the month I started out. It’s about understanding starting a small business, why most don’t work and what to do about it. It really impacted me and made me want to succeed all the more." - Victoria Eggs, founder of Victoria Eggs Ltd

15. "I enjoyed reading Suitcase by the Russian writer Sergei Dovlatov. The novel, published in the 1980s, is a collection of stories, each one inspired by an item he took in his suitcase when he left the USSR for exile in the USA in 1978." - Laura Sheeter, co-founder of Chalk + Blade

16. "A book that impacted me is Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy. It’ll help you stop procrastinating and focus on your biggest frog (tasks) first. Being a Virtual Assistant I am constantly juggling a million and one tasks, how do you identify what your most important task is when everything is important!?” - Keira Simpson, founder of Daisy Days Virtual Assistant

17. "A book that's impacted me is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg." - Adam Chandler, founder of Reel Film

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18. "The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson impacted me because it shows that small, consistent activity is the key to forming habits that make people successful." - Danielle, owner of Wise Owl Tuition 

19. "While many books have influenced me, none compare to the Bible. Growing up Catholic, I find solace and wisdom in its stories, even during the busiest of times." Brian Danclair, founder of Fish, Wings & Tings

20. "The book that has had the biggest impact on my life is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by the late Stephen R Covey. In 1994, I was fortunate enough to attend a management course which was entirely based on Covey’s principles of the book. Two of the key symbols for Covey were the clock and the compass. Covey explained; the clock represents what we do with and how we manage our time. The compass represents what we feel is important and how we lead our lives. I was so inspired by Covey’s philosophy, it was the reason why I named my business Clock and Compass Coaching." - Daniel O’Connor, founder of Clock and Compass Coaching

21. "I've been inspired by a wide variety of books - reading James Joyce’s works like Ulysses while studying him at University in Ireland had a huge influence on me in understanding European connectivity. Also anything by Roald Dahl, who I’ve always loved!" - James Seager, company director of Les Enfants Terribles

22. "I’d have to say Brian Johnson’s Optimize. What’s fantastic about this series is that each episode condenses multiple business books on areas such as leadership, productivity and habits, taking the best bits and presenting them in 1h podcasts." - Zachary Pulman, founder of Zachary Pulman Design Studio

23. "A book that has had a great impact on me is Drinking from the Fire Hose by Christopher J Frank and Paul Magnone. Nowadays, we are constantly bombarded by information and data. This book helped me focus on the data I need and leave the rest aside." - Mario Spiridonov, co-founder of Santa Sofia

24. "I've been impacted by S.U.M.O by Paul McGee. I don’t usually read self-help, however, I found S.U.M.O. very relatable, easy to read and thought provoking, with plenty of humour thrown in for good measure. The book helped me learn some self-awareness, to look at myself honestly and understand how to make positive changes. I would recommend it to anyone who’d like to improve their confidence or find some motivation to change their path." -  Tracey Purcell, founder of Beautiful Ethical

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25. "My favourite book is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It taught me that life can change at any moment, and if it does to keep going and do it with a sense of humour." - Laura, founder of Higham Refill

26. "I have been inspired by Natives by Akala." - Danson Njoka, CEO of Kugali Media

27. "I love to read motivational books and books on improving myself in all areas, and I spend a little time each night with a book. One of my favourites is Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill and W Clement Stone. It is a brilliant reminder that mindset is key, so this is one I turn to often to pull me back on track." - Maria Grachvogel, founder of Maria Grachvogel London

28. “My recent favourite books have been Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi." - Sadia Ahmed, founder of Oliver's Cupboard

29. "A book that has inspired me is Zero Limits by Joe Vitale." - Mary Otumahana, founder of The RecordShop

30. "A book which has impacted me has to be The Art Of Effortless Living by Ingrid Bacci. I read this book in 2010 and it started me on the most amazing journey with myself! This led me to start my business in 2013." - Rose Hill, founder of Co-Creative Connection

31. "The books that has impacted me the most is Dream Big Journal by Bob Goff." - Adeola Adelakun, co-founder of Cultureville

32. "A book which has inspired me recently is Sitopia by Carolyn Steel. It felt almost prescient reading it just before lockdown, discussing how we all need to reconnect with growing and making our own food in order to live healthier lives and save the environment.” - Frankie Fox, co-founder of The Foraging Fox.

33. "A book that I find inspiring and fits with my philosophy is Paul Jarvis’ Company of One: Why staying small is the next big thing for business.” - founder of Becky Griffiths, founder of Mother's Ruin

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34. "We've been impacted by The Vinegar Cupboard by Angela Clutton." - Andrew and Sarah du Feu, founders of The Slow Vinegar Company

35. "Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman has been a huge influence. Not only is it an incredible story, it’s also one of the simplest ways of illustrating how unfair racism is in our society." - Eleanore Richardson, founder of Fulham Scalp and Hair Clinic

36. "Ancient Wisdom Modern World by the Dalai Lama has made a huge impact. My mum’s had this book since she was in her 20s and gave it to me when I was 19. It started my path to Buddhism, which led to me adopting the vegan lifestyle, which led to Heart Street.” Evie-May Ellis, founder of Heart Street

37. "A couple of years ago a good friend of mine bought me In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney which has inspiration and advice from over 100 female makers, artists and entrepreneurs. On those difficult days in business it shows what you can achieve when you pursue your passion, giving you the courage to follow your dreams.” Kate Underdown and Rachel Walker, co-founders of The Fold Line

38. "I am passionate about cities. One of the most important books for me captures all the intensity, excitement and ambition inherent in building one of the great cities in the world. It's Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan by Rem Koolhaas." - Jan Kattein, founder of Jan Kattetin Architects 

39. "I recently read The E Myth by Michael Gerber again. I think all entrepreneurs should read this to help plan their way forward. Working ON the business, rather than IN the business.” - Bhavin Shah, founder of Central Vision Opticians

40. "The book that has impacted us the most is Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass." - Savvy and Stevo, founders of Savvykraut 

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41. "I've been inspired by Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes" - Ronke Jane Adelakun, co-founder of Cultureville

42. "A book which has impacted us is Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Great insight into the underbelly that is the commercial kitchen." - Sam and Sarah, founders of Marla's Sandwich Shop

43. "I read to escape and switch off, so crime fiction is my favourite. I love Mary Portas' How to Shop with Mary, Queen of Shops. I have a signed copy after I met her at a book event and she told me she loved my boots while I waited in line - it was a true fangirl moment when I told her they were from our shop Finale and we chatted about it.” - Faye, founder of Finale Shoes and Accessories

44. "I enjoy books about food, local recipes, and the history and social stories that accompany food. One of my favourites is Taste Ye Back: Great Scots and the Food that Made Them by Sue Lawrence. Here a number of well-known Scots reminisce about their younger days and the food they enjoyed as a child. Everyone’s favourite dish comes with a special story, recipe or family tradition and always a huge dollop of nostalgia. When I read this book, it gave me reassurance that a Clootie Dumpling website was not a completely mad idea."  Kirsteen Oliver, founder of Granny Beaton's

45. "Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder of international brand Patagonia. This book changed my outlook on corporations as it challenges the culture of consumption that we find ourselves in. It looks at the crisis we’re facing in western society and how to deal with it as forward thinking leaders and change makers. It’s had a hugely positive effect on not only the way I run my business, but equally how I live." - Hellen Stirling-Baker, founder of We Are Small Stuff

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46. "All books impact me, regardless of their genre - for example, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens." - Tas Jennings, founder of Very Craftea

47. "A book that's impacted has impacted me is Creativity, Inc. - Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration by Amy Wallace and Ed Catmull. It's a book about running a creative business from the founder of Pixar. It's entertaining but also packed with really useful insights into how to run a business well for and with creatives." - Julia Alcamo and Dan Hodgson, founders of Happenstance Films

48. "One of the first books I remember reading is Fluke by James Herbert. It was totally captivating. I’m not sure I understood everything at the time but it’s the story of a dog who remembers being a human in a past life. I love reading fiction as it takes you away from the everyday. If I’m not reading fiction then I am looking at cookery books – another great passion of mine.” - Alli Briaris founder of Drinks Kitchen

49. "A book that has impacted me is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, as I truly feel that if you are living in the moment then there can be no stress and you can be inspired effortlessly to what you need to be doing." - Julie Silver, founder of The Vitality Fairy

50. "A book that has inspired me is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. It can be likened to a new business starting out, slowly and steadily working your way through your business plan and the process of what you need to do, getting everything in place bit by bit, before the final launch of your new business and spreading your wings." - Tracey Sharman, founder of Crescent Research

12 January 2023

2022: Our Year In Business

As we enter a new and exciting year at the Business & IP Centre, we cannot wait to help even more entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and scale their businesses across the country. Before we jump in, we want to take a moment to reflect on all of the amazing things we got up to in 2022. This was a year that saw the 10th anniversary of the BIPC National Network and the return of in-person events. let’s recap all our achievements from last year.

The London Network keeps on growing

photo from greenwich launch, Warren King Photography

2022 was a busy year for our London network, with three more London boroughs joining our rapidly expanding National network. We welcomed Lewisham and Greenwich in September, and Bromley a month later. Through our existing partnership with Waltham Forest, that now brings our business support services to the heart of five London boroughs.

Reset. Restart returns

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In May we welcomed the return of Reset. Restart, a series of free webinars and in-person events around our National Network aimed at supporting businesses in recovering from Covid and in navigating a post-pandemic world. This year we've had over 1,140 people attend these events and benefit from the free expert advice and support on offer.

Creative entrepreneurs got ready for growth

Zoom screenshot of get ready for business growth attendees

After our previous scale-up programme came to an end in January of last year, a new, national programme for creative businesses launched in August to fill the hole. Funded by Arts Council England, our Get Ready for Business Growth programme is only in it's second delivery round & we are already supporting 50 entrepreneurs across the UK in various creative fields. From artisan homeware to theatre and dance companies, we're here to help those in the creative sector who may have pivoted during the pandemic, or are looking for new ways to to grow sustainably. 

Libraries mean business

photo of camera filming the trailer

Did you know, there's more going on in libraries than you think? After filming our trailer in July, we premiered in December across social media, our newsletter and Sky video on demand. We loved having Cultureville, Paradise Cycles and Okan London, as well as our own British Library reference team member, Seema, be involved. What might you find in between the shelves of your local library?

 

We welcomed you back in person

photo from Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Building the Black Economy event

October saw the return of in-person events in the form of Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Building the Black Economy. We heard from a panel of Black entrepreneurs who are building empires online and discussed the power of the Black economy with Swiss, founder of Black Pound Day.

 

Celebrating 10 years of national business support

 

banner celebrating the national network anniversary

This year we also celebrated our National Network's 10th anniversary and welcomed two new Centres, BIPC Cumbria and BIPC Southampton. Since launching, we’ve attracted 185,000+ attendees through events, workshops and webinars, helped create 19,000+ businesses and 12,000+ jobs, supported 10,000+ existing businesses and helped safeguard 4,000+ existing businesses.

 

In 2023 we've got even more in store for entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and scale successful businesses both in London and around the UK.

 

11 November 2022

A day in the life of Ronke Jane Adelakun, co-founder of Cultureville

This month we are following the co-founder of Manchester-based African-inspired fashion brand, Cultureville, who specialises in hand-crafted clothing and accessories that feature bold African wax prints in contemporary designs. We'll hand over to Ronke Jane to find out what a typical day is like running the business...

In the life of an entrepreneur, each day is unique and in my role as the co-founder and Creative Director of fashion brand Cultureville, this is certainly true. Within the span of a week, my days can vary from having a glamorous shoot on one day to a grueling day of accounting and admin the next, but that’s part of what makes it enjoyable.

I’m constantly being challenged, learning and developing. An added benefit for me is that I get to do it all with my sister, co-founder and best friend, Adeola. Although there is no “typical” day for me, here is what an average day in my life can look like.

Ronke Jane and Adeola
Ronke Jane and Adeola

My day typically begins at 10am, one of the perks of working for yourself is that you get to choose your own hours and as a night owl, I definitely take advantage of this on days where I don't have early meetings. I start my day by praying and reading the bible before getting ready for the day ahead. While I enjoy working from home, I find that I'm more productive in a work space, so I head over to our co-working space whenever I can.

11.00 – 11.30

To help shape my day, I start by writing a to-do list of the tasks that I need to get done and order them by priority. My co-founder and I have weekly strategy meetings which I use as the basis of my to-do list. I usually select four tasks to complete each day – two relatively easy, two more challenging. I think starting your week off by achieving something difficult makes you feel like you can do anything so I try to kick off my week by getting something challenging crossed off my list.

11.30 – 13.30

As the Creative Director of Cultureville I lead our digital marketing and communication efforts so some of my tasks include formulating our content strategy, planning our shoots, designing for upcoming collections and communicating with our mailing list. The first portion of my day is usually dedicated to one of these tasks.

13.30 – 14.30

As a late riser, I tend to do brunch rather than breakfast and I like to break for brunch after I've gotten into the swing of my day. For me, getting started is the hardest part of completing a task so I tend to take my break midway through so I can just pick up where I left off.

14.30 – 19.00

I like to switch between admin and creative tasks to stay engaged, so if my first task was something admin heavy like crafting a content calendar, I'll try to lighten it up with something more fun in the afternoon like creating a reel or writing a blog.

19.30 – 21.00

We are huge proponents of work/life balance at Cultureville therefore our social schedules tend to be packed. In addition to my role at Cultureville, I’m a poet and spoken word artist so in my evenings I can often be found performing at open-mic nights. On the days where I'm not performing, Adeola and I can be found hanging out with friends, either at a games night or dinner.

21.00 – 23.00

If we haven’t had dinner by this point then we’ll head home, rustle up something and curl up on the couch with a good Netflix show. The evenings are when I spend quality time catching up with my family

23.00 – 1.30

I really enjoy working at night , the world is quiet and I can focus so this is the time I dedicate to editing videos for Cultureville. I usually wrap up by 2am and head straight to bed.

While running a business can be extremely challenging, I am lucky to have a job that allows me to use all my skills and pursue my talents wholeheartedly. It’s so fulfilling to see all that work come to fruition when someone wears our items for a special occasion like their wedding and to know I played a part in their story.

09 November 2022

Celebrating small businesses this festive season

Small businesses in the UK have had a lot to contend with in the last few years, however, the UK’s brilliant independent retailers are among the most hardy in their sector. Figures from the Local Data Company have revealed that the independent retail and leisure sector was more resilient to the impact of Covid-19 compared to national chains with five or more outlets.* In this blog we are celebrating their incredible achievements and contributions, both economic and creative. We have curated a selection of some fantastic products from small businesses around the UK who have used the BIPC services, to help you narrow down the search for that perfect gift.

For those with a sweet tooth

Klara's Gingerbread products with a festive theme

One business who received support from BIPC Leeds City Region, Klara’s Gingerbread, makes and hand decorates gingerbread biscuits; each piece made using a traditional Hungarian recipe and carefully decorated by hand making a perfect edible Christmas decoration. Lactose free and vegan versions are available. Klara also runs workshops, both in Leeds and remotely for all ages to relax, have fun and learn how to decorate their own gingerbreads.

Cost: Between £2 – £50

Where to buy? Klara’s Gingerbread

Raise a glass

Selfish Spirits bottle held by a man

Selfish Spirits is an ethically conscious spirit brand based in Skipton, aiming to make the world a little bit better through supporting charitable causes and being as sustainable as possible wherever they can. Their signature product is a dark spiced rum made from molasses from Guyana and fermented and distilled in the UK. It has all-natural flavourings of vanilla, caramel, Mexican lime and a touch of blood orange.

Cost: £34.95

Where to buy? Selfish Sprits

Make your mark

Personalised engraving on a wine bottle

Martina Rocha Luz is a Leeds-based calligrapher and engraver offering a personalised engraving service to make your gifts extra special! Engraving is the perfect way to elevate a present and Martina personalises anything, from wine to perfumes. In addition to her engraving service, Martina also offers unique wedding signage and personalised stationery.

Cost: Prices start at £19.95

Where to buy? Martina Rocha Luz

Don’t get in a pickle

Northumbrian Pantry Pickled Pear chutney with a glass of port and stilton cheese

Northumbrian Pantry makes sweet and spiced pickled pears preserved in a special blend of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. The perfect pairing for a Christmas Stilton and a glass of port and equally delicious with whipped or ice cream or as a classic pear salad with walnuts and Roquefort cheese. Handmade in small batches using seasonal pears in the North Tyne Valley village of Simonburn.

Cost: £5.40

Where to buy? Northumbrian Pantry

Super superfood

Boxes of muesli - photo by Julija Baburina

Harper and Willow, who used BIPC Northamptonshire, was created with the intention of bringing healthy, wholesome, delicious organic food to the market with their own personal twist. They use great flavor combinations with premium ingredients, resulting in an amazing taste experience. The muesli and granola doesn’t use refined sugar, processed oils, preservatives, additives and flavourings. All products are vegan and gluten free!

Cost: Various

Where to buy? Harper and Willow

Look the part

Bag modelled on woman

April’s designs are inspired by the geology surrounding her in the North East of Scotland, she has continued to use nature as inspiration, despite moving to Glasgow where she used our BIPC in the Mitchell Library. Inspired by her photography of stones and geological sites around Scotland, she set out to create a collection of luxury textile accessories whilst upholding her personal values: buying less by buying better; supporting local businesses and sustainability first.

Cost: Various

Where to buy? Agate and Ayre

Give the gift of giving

Photo of the Santaceptor with Father Christmas

For those who are looking to give back this festive season, BIPC Greater Manchester’s Action Media Hire deck out a Police Interceptor Action Vehicle, which usually stars in TV and films, for their fundraising. The Santaceptor distributes sweet treats to children and collects donations to assist with the project operations and other local charities.

Cost: Up to you

Where to donate? Santaceptor

For those who love self-care

Founder Natalee holding Skin Solace products

Natalee Onyeche’s Skin Solace is a sophisticated, luxury brand to reflect the high-quality ingredients used, which makes her customers feel pampered. Your skin absorbs 60 - 70% of everything you put on it within 26 seconds! With this fact in mind choosing the right products becomes more important. BIPC Nottinghamshire’s Skin Solace products are formulated to offer the very best nourishment and moisture naturally. Skin Solace aims to turn everyday occurrences into opportunities for self-care with the products it provides.

Cost: Various

Where to buy? Skin Solace

Bold accessories

Helen Cross Jewellery necklace

Contemporary jewellery designs inspired by the beautiful English countryside and made by hand in the heart of Norfolk using recycled sterling silver. Good jewellery is something that makes your heart sing whenever you wear it - the necklace given with love, the cufflinks bringing individuality to workwear, or the tiny horse shaped stud earrings showing a love of riding. Wherever we see it, jewellery always embodies the essence of the wearer in choices that are as individual as fingerprints. Making jewellery by hand allows Helen, who used BIPC Norfolk, to make one-off pieces on commission for clients.

Cost: Various

Where to buy? Helen Cross Jewellery

Dress to impress

Cultureville founders holding fan

Where African culture meets contemporary fashion. Manchester-based Cultureville offers statement looks and hand-crafted accessories, ethically sourced from West Africa. Their goal is to showcase the beauty and talent of Africa through bold and beautiful African inspired clothing and accessories.

Cost: Various

Where to buy? Cultureville

For the crafters

Very Craftea founder holding a crafting kit product

The 'why' of Tas’ business is to make all people create moments to feel comforted and included. It does this through uniquely flavoured, consciously sourced loose-leaf tea and modern embroidery kits, designed and created locally in Cambridgeshire.

Cost: Various

Where to buy? Very Craftea

For the K-pop stans

SOKOLLAB CD compilation

Get Ready for Business Growth business, SOKOLLAB, is an independent Korean music and lifestyle store bringing you the best in KPop, KBeauty, stationery and books.  Visit their London and Birmingham stores or go online for authentic Korean gifts this Christmas!

Cost: BTS Proof Standard Edition £54.00

Where to buy? SOKOLLAB

Eco-friendly Skincare

Eucalyptus Bath Soak 560g standing on a bath tub

Another of our scale-up businesses, BATCH #001 creates award-winning, sustainable, organic skincare products and beauty gift sets for dry, sensitive skin, powered by the bees, the land and the seas, using only natural ingredients, eco-friendly packaging, and everything is handmade, at their small female founded business. They offer a range of luxury and bespoke gift sets at all prices points, which are gift ready, wrapped, with a personalised note and free UK shipping. Choose from Bath Soaks, Body Scrubs, Bath & Body Oils, Beeswax Balms and Candles. Perfect for Christmas gifting!

Cost: Various

Where to buy? BATCH #001

Bring the world home

multiple soapstone Hippo Dishes on shelves

Meaning 'friend of the people', AARVEN is an ethical homeware and jewellery brand founded by two adventurers, inspired by their artisans around the globe. From wood block printed textiles, recycled brass jewellery, to hand woven baskets, they design their joyful collections in collaboration with the world's best artisans. Working in close collaboration with over 30 artisan groups across Africa and in India, AARVEN uses ancient craft techniques to create contemporary heirlooms for the modern home.  

Cost: Various - save 10% on purchases over £10 with code BL10 (expires on Christmas day).

Where to buy? AARVEN

The perfect accessory 

Pom pom bag

Pom Pom London was born in 2015 with the aim of delivering affordable, stylish and contemporary products. All their products are designed from the UK, they are passionate about creating fashion pieces that are unique and fun for all ages and the expanding range is a reflection of this. Whether you are looking for a warm hat or a useful bag, there's something for everyone.

Cost: Various 

Where to buy? Pom Pom London

 

If the shoe doesn't fit

I Can Make Shoes Kit

I Can Make Shoes teaches people how to make their own shoes from home using their beginner-friendly online tutorials, shoemaking kits and books. Whether you have difficulty finding shoes that fit or you're just a shoe lover who loves to craft, I Can Make Shoes is the best place to start! Our previous scale-up programme helped I Can Make Shoes founder, Amanda Overs, triple her team size and launch an online community. She's now taking part in our new business support programme, Get Ready for Business Growth, tailored to arts and culture businesses and fully funded by Arts Council England.

Cost: Various - save 10% on books, kits & supplies with the code: BritishLibrary10

Where to buy? I Can Make Shoes

Does what it says on the tin

Body wash being poured from a KANKAN can into a bottle dispenser

Introducing KANKAN, natural body care in a can. A simple at-home refill solution. Nourishing botanical soap supportive for your skin health and wellness. Made from all natural ingredients, plastic free and infinitely recyclable. Oh and one tree is planted for every can sold ensuring your daily wash is giving even more! Delivered gift ready in reusable packaging. 

Cost: Starter set prices start at £24 - use the code BRITISH LIBRARY KAN to enjoy 20% off your first purchase.

Where to buy? KANKAN

Design your own wardrobe

Sew Me Sunshine founder with rolls of fabric in the haberdashery

Sew Me Sunshine is an independent dressmaking fabric & haberdashery shop shipping worldwide. We have a curated selection of dressmaking fabrics, including a large range of sustainable eco fabrics & deadstock (ex-designer) garment fabrics, dressmaking patterns and high quality sewing supplies. Our one stop shop will help you make a handmade wardrobe that will make you smile.

Cost: Various - save 15% on all orders with code BRITISHLIBRARY15

Where to buy? Sew Me Sunshine

Cards for every Christmas

Jelly Armchair christmas card and envelope on wood

Jelly Armchair is a small family business specialising in big silly puns. Run by two sisters, Jelly Armchair has a collection of colourful illustrated cards, gifts and homewares designed to bring some silliness to everyday life and make you giggle (or grimace) at the pun based 'dad joke' humour. Cat, the illustrator creates beautiful, detailed artworks that you'll want to look at time and time again, and you’ll notice something new each time. Our collection of 'multipun' Christmas cards is suitable for all ages and even comes with a fully illustrated Christmas envelope.

Cost: Various - save 10% on all orders with code BLXmas22

Where to buy? Jelly Armchair

*According to COBRA reports (which you can access for free in many BIPCs around the UK)

21 September 2022

Gold and the alchemy of Intellectual Property

Our obsession with one metal has inspired some of the greatest art and creativity in history. Why are we so enamoured with it?

Gold is rare, malleable, remoulded and reinvented into countless forms, throughout many different cultures and civilisations. It is also incredibly beautiful.

We extract it from the earth to form objects that are coveted and often become more valuable over time until they become treasures. This process inspires great innovation and creativity. All in the pursuit of one, precious metal.

The British Library’s Gold exhibition showcases its own collection of golden treasures. On display are manuscripts, treaties and book covers of varying ages and from different places, cultures and civilisations from all over the world.

Here we see how this valuable commodity, when combined with innovation, creates new objects that can be protected, valued and resold. As we’ll discover, it’s a kind of intellectual property alchemy.


Innovation to extract beauty


Over the centuries there have been various places where people have literally, ‘struck gold’. These have become renowned; from the ancient mines of Egypt, India and Anatolia to parts of Europe, where explorers obsessed over a mythical place in the new world called El Dorado, the city of gold. More recently, it is the 19th century that springs to mind, with its gold rushes in Australia, New Zealand and North America as well as Canada’s famous Klondike gold rush in the Yukon province, immortalised in novels and film.

Each gold rush generated new migrations, economic development and new technology. It’s here that the patent system gives an interesting snapshot into what was going on technologically as speculators were investing in sophisticated ways to extract more and more from the same mine.

A patent is an intellectual property right that will protect new and original inventions and processes. The British patent GB1853 no.997, Apparatus for Washing Earths containing Gold, is one such example. Here, two mining engineers from France sought protection for a new technique to ‘dredge’ and ‘wash’ earth and materials derived from rivers to extract more gold. We can see an illustration of how their patent worked in practice here:

Detailed black and white sketch of an invention used for mining gold

There were many other such patents at the time related to mining and metallurgy to keep up with the demands of the industrial age’s hunger for minerals and metals.


Innovation in transformation


Once sufficient quantities of gold are gathered, they can then be transformed into objects of various kinds. How the gold is used has inspired many different techniques over time that have lasted through to today. The use of gold leaf is over 5,000 years old. Ancient Egyptians developed techniques to hammer gold into a thin layer, which created just the same appearance as the solid material but with a more economical use.

Gold leaf can also be finely ground into gold paint combined with a pigment to create ‘shell gold’. Again, another economical use of gold which means that the gold, in its leaf and shell forms, can be used in as varied works as wooden sculptures to gilded porcelain to illustrated manuscripts; such as the British Library’s Harley Gospels.

But the value is not just in the commodity, it’s in the artistic creation. Many jewellers have registered designs for unique pieces made of gold and other precious metals. A well-known brand like Bulgari have a number of watches registered as a design, presumably as they are unique signature pieces of great value to the brand and its design heritage. Here is one such UK registered design:

Extravagant Bulgari gold watch with diamonds


Main illustration for design number 80800720005000


Registered design is an intellectual property right that gives companies or individuals the right to protect the appearance of a product, such as its shape or pattern. These are ordinarily for more than one piece that is in production.

But what about one of a kind creations using gold? Can they also acquire extra protection and value?


The golden rule of copyright


Each of the works on display in the Gold exhibition is a unique work of craftsmanship and art. Among the most modern is an Art Deco binding by Pierre-Émile Legrain (1889– 1929) of Colette’s La Vagabonde Paris, 1927. Like nearly all of Legrain’s work, they are one-off, original creations and so are automatically protected by copyright at the time of creation. You can call it the golden rule of copyright: if you create an original work it’s automatically yours to own (or sell). However, as Legrain died over 70 years ago, his work is now in the public domain so can be copied and reused. However, this doesn’t lessen the value of his originals, which sell at impressive prices at auction due to their recognised skill and scarcity.

Intricate art deco style artwork using circular shapes. Gold in colour with accents of blue and white.

Pierre-Émile Legrain binding on Colette, La vagabonde Paris, 1927. British Library, C.108.w.8


All that glitters isn’t exactly gold


Gold is so valuable and treasured that anything associated with gold, almost unconsciously takes on this value, conveying a meaning that taps into our shared cultural experience and memory. This is where the modern world of branding has lifted this golden association and taken it into new places, in every kind of trade conceivable!

What do you think of, when you hear ‘golden arches’?

A search on existing registered trade marks is a fascinating look at how everybody wants to be associated with all that’s golden. There are over 1,000 trade marks that begin with the word, ‘gold’. From estate agents to media companies, the tourism sector to restaurants, to name but a few.

This goes to illustrate just how we love all things golden, that the value of a trade mark and its reputation is enough for businesses to invest in their brands with the hope of one day selling or licensing their name. This is IP alchemy taken to another level!


Why gold will always hold its value


But it’s not just the value of gold as a commodity, it’s the versatility of gold that exponentially increases its value. Its value may be in a beautiful jewellery design, a one-off work of art that features gold, an invention to find more gold or the power of association that makes us love a brand or business.

Gold carries a symbolism seen in every culture and time. It’s been considered sacred and it’s been considered profane. It’s inspired the best of our creativity (and sadly the worst of our greed). It is truly timeless and its varying forms are endless.

So next time you see anything golden, remember there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to its value. There’s creative alchemy, and sometimes a little IP.

Jeremy O'Hare, Business & IP Centre IP expert

 

25 April 2022

Ten Things I wish I knew about Intellectual Property when I was younger

Every generation of young people wants to change the world. And they do, in some way.

Right now in someone’s studio flat, or halls of residence or on a gap year adventure is the next founder of a tech giant, a publishing phenomenon or an inventing genius. Of that, there is no doubt. But some may not get the success or recognition they deserve for their originality, creativity or inventiveness. The one thing that can often make or break an entrepreneur or business venture is getting their intellectual property right, first time.

This year’s theme for World Intellectual Property Day is IP and youth: innovating for a better future.

Here is a list of the most common mistakes that I’ve come across in helping thousands of entrepreneurs, creatives and inventors. I’m a little older now having helped so many but I hope what you read here will make all of us that much wiser not matter how young we are.

  1. Knowing how important Intellectual Property actually is.

You don’t know what you don’t know and that’s the point of our first tip. For any new business (or established) not understanding how IP can protect your creations and innovations is a fundamental mistake. There are two sides to IP; one is preventing unauthorised use of what you create and the other is maximising your existing IP as an asset that can acquire value. And if you come to sell your business, a lot of its value potentially resides in your IP. Understanding this and building it into your business strategy will maximise your IP, and therefore, your business impact. But how? That’s the next point.

  1. Getting to know the IP family

Want to patent your idea? Re brand your design? Copyright your invention? Mixing metaphors is one thing but not understanding the different forms of IP and what they do is like being stuck in a maze without an exit. What’s more, knowing a thing you create in your business or a creative pursuit can often be protected by more than one form of Intellectual Property is a great help. I like to call them the IP family. Knowing the difference between them and the job they do will provide clarity, and help you formulate your IP strategy clearly. So, for the record, you patent your invention, register your design and copyright your artistic expression. You trade mark your brand, keep quiet your trade secret and everything else is know-how known only to you. And as we’ll see, timing for all of this is key.

  1. Don’t be late to register or protect your Intellectual Property.

I’ve been an agony Uncle to many downhearted, once enthusiastic, start-ups. What has been the most common problem? ‘I started trading with this amazing brand only to find someone else was using it’. It’s a fundamental mistake. What you think is an amazing name for a product or business is probably so amazing that someone else has got there first. So do your research online but also for the register of existing trade marks in the UK here. Our team in the Business & IP Centre’s around the country can assist you with how to do a basic search. This of course as relevant to all the other forms of IP, so it’s always good to register or protect as soon as you can establish originality.

  1. Don’t overshare and the importance of confidentiality

We’ve all done it. It’s irresistible. We’re so excited and captured by our new business proposition or new gizmo that will change the world that we ‘overshare’. Pub environments are particularly risky. If you do have something of real potential, why tell the world, or just anyone else you know? The other thing I hear often is that ‘so and so stole my idea’. Unfortunately, the idea shouldn’t have been shared in the first place. Knowing what a non-disclosure agreement is and when to use them, is a good first step to securing your idea if you need to share it with interested parties. In fact, when it comes to inventions, anything already known in the world invalidates your application. So, as a rule of thumb, share nothing with no one, unless necessary, and with the right protection in place.

  1. Assuming a good idea is a commercial idea is the easiest mistake.

This is a big one but I have to say it. Lots of people have amazing ideas for inventions or services and create incredible things, but not all of these will be commercially successful. Why? Because there’s no market value to them. The thing you create doesn’t satisfy a big enough demand where people are prepared to pay for it. So a good exercise early on is to ask yourself three questions; what problem am I trying to solve? How big a problem is it really? And does my invention or business provide a good enough solution? Inventors very often fall into this trap. They discover a solution to something without considering the size, and therefore commercial value of the problem. History proves this, as there are piles and piles of granted patents which never made it to market. Anybody care for spray on hair? Electric shoe polishers? But at least we can be reassured that even the biggest and boldest companies can fall into the same trap. Anyone own a Betamax?

  1. Not market testing your new product or service.

With this in mind, it’s just good practice to do prepare a robust business plan that includes some evidence of potential demand for your innovative product or service. Market research and testing are fundamental steps to get right early before properly launching. This helps to safeguard any future investment, both time and resource and IP, that you subsequently put into the business. At the British Library’s Business & IP Centre you can do market research with some of the best researchers and publishers in any given industry. That will help to demonstrate that you’re on the right track (or not).

  1. Not setting an IP budget.

There is a cost to registering some forms of IP, those that are known as registered rights. Specifically, these are patents, trademarks and design. The most costly are patents but you should do all your IP research early and work out what the most cost effective options are balanced with maximum protection (supported by a sound business case). That way you’re on track to make judicious IP decisions that pay off. It’s also very helpful to list IP as a necessary cost alongside other costs such as marketing spend, operational and staffing. Ultimately, if your IP is effective, the asset should pay for itself.

  1. Not factoring in infringement costs

First, some bad news. There are no IP police. You will need to be alert to anyone else copying your invention, using your brand or selling a different version of the same product you created. And it’s up to you then to act. Sadly, as your brand grows with your product or service, you should expect copycats. Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, except when it takes out your bottom line or ruins your hard earned reputation. Early and tough action on infringement is the best way to shut down any threats and that will almost always involve some legal expertise. So set aside a war chest in your IP defence but be reassured that there is professional help out there. And that’s when IP lawyers are there to fight for your interests. IP lawyers should be members of professional bodies such as CIPA or CITMA. Also be aware of trading standards for some circumstances of infringement.

  1. Not knowing what to ask an IP attorney

Ignorance is never a good thing, especially when trying to solve a complex problem like IP infringement or a new application for protection. That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert, by any stretch. But at least by having a good solid grounding and understanding of how IP works for you and your business means you can maximise the time and effort of any professional advice you seek. Knowing enough about something to ask really good questions and to evaluate the reply is more power to you and encouragement that your IP budget is paying back. Time is money (especially legal time) so cut out the IP small talk and get to the crux of the IP issue and its possible resolution.

  1. Not starting with your Business & IP Centre or Patlib!

How could I not conclude by inviting anyone with an IP issue or question to get in touch with their local Business & IP Centre or Patlib (patent library) network? You’ll be able to talk with staff who have experience and are able to be a sounding board for you to make informed decisions that support your business. No matter what your age (but especially if you’re young), you deserve to be rewarded for your new and innovative creations! And intellectual property is there to ensure you do just that.  

20 April 2022

Inventors of the Month: John Waddington and Anthony Pratt

If you were to hear the names, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard or Miss Scarlet, the board game Cluedo, might immediately come to mind. And for good reason too. The game is a part of so many of our childhoods.

It’s almost eighty years since the idea for what we now know as Cluedo was first pitched to Waddington games by Anthony Pratt, musician and factory worker at the time. Yet, would you think of it as a Leeds innovation?

Illustration of Cluedo board game from trade mark GB50000000001364562
Illustration of Cluedo board game from trade mark GB50000000001364562

The story goes that he was inspired with his wife, Elva Pratt, to create a board game based on some of the live murder mystery games played in country houses that were popular at the time. The Leeds games company saw the potential of the idea right away and did a deal with Pratt.

The eponymous company was founded by John Waddington in Leeds. Its brand has been a household name in Britain for much of the 20th Century. If you could time travel back to any post war decade and take a peek into any games cupboard in any home in Britain, you’d likely find at least one Waddingtons’ game. Probably more. A household name is not an over statement.

So this was certainly a magnificent opportunity for both games inventor and manufacturer. Waddingtons was becoming a local Leeds institution and their reach would be pivotal to the success of Pratt’s invention.

But what was really the key to making Cluedo such a household name around the world? The answer is in three rather forgettable words, intellectual property rights. Here we see Cluedo’s widespread success and the collaboration between Anthony Pratt and Waddingtons as a fascinating case study in intellectual property (IP) and why these rights are so important.

We’ll see how and what lessons we can learn for a new generation of games inventors (and anyone else).

Monopoly right?

Waddingtons built their early success on another game, which also just happened to become a household name. The new American game, Monopoly. They had the exclusive licence from US maker and rights holder, Parker Brothers, to make and sell in the UK. A very savvy move as it turned out, as the favour was swapped with Parker Brothers eventually obtaining the licence for Cluedo (or Clue as it was rebranded in the US).

So the first lesson here is that being a licensor (the owner of the IP rights) and the licensee can (and should) work in both party’s interests.

It certainly worked for Waddingtons, as Monopoly’s success put them in a strong position to develop more games. Cluedo (and Anthony Pratt’s idea) came at just the right time in the company’s growth potential.

But what of the inventor; how would Pratt protect his idea?

Patently obvious answer

Interestingly, Pratt patented the idea for Cluedo back in 1944. Though if you search for any patent called Cluedo, you won’t find it (for reasons to be explained).

Pratt’s patent specification GB586817, Improvements in Board Games, is a fascinating patent. You can view the original here. A patent is a particular type of IP protection for inventions and/or processes. It is usually technical or mechanical in nature, so it’s interesting to read how a game could be considered as such.

Illustration of cards and weapons from patent GB_586817_A
Illustration of cards and weapons from patent GB_586817_A

Here’s an extract from Pratt’s original patent, outlining the process in playing Cluedo. Anyone who’s played it may well understand the selected extracts;

A board game comprises a board divided into areas representing rooms of a house connected by small squares… ten differently coloured movable pieces representing persons, nine tokens each representing a weapon, and a pack of cards having three suits, one suit containing nine cards which correspond with nine of the rooms… The object of the game is to identify a hidden combination of three cards, one from each suit, as a result of information accumulated during play.

The patent for what we know as Cluedo was granted (meaning finally approved by the Patent Office) in 1947.

This gave Pratt, ownership and rights over the game and the ability to sell or licence the process behind the game to any games maker. Owning the patent also provided him a way to oppose any unauthorised copying.

It raises the question, can you still patent a board game today?

Patents and games

The bar is much higher today to be able to patent a board game. That’s because the same criteria apply, that is the games’ process, or method have to be non-obvious and never been done before. It’s actually more difficult to come up with a really new games process that is truly an innovative step.

It’s also the more costly of the IP rights and takes the most time. There are other IP options, the same ones that Waddingtons also used.

Illustration of Cluedo board from patent GB_586817_A
Illustration of Cluedo board from patent GB_586817_A

Copyrighting a game

Copyright is an automatic and unregistered right, meaning the creator owns it as soon as it’s created. Putting a copyright sign, naming the owner and year of creation on the game is a simple and legally recognised way of asserting your IP rights.

Copyright applies to all artistic and written creations. It includes visual elements, wording and designs incorporated into the whole board game, and all can be considered copyright. If, there was ever any copying of a games look or distinctive elements, the creator can seek redress as an infringement of their copyright.

One other IP right called registered design, can sometimes be used. Especially if there is an element of the game that is three dimensional, such as player tokens.

The other very important IP right in relation to games is the trade mark. You can find more information about IP and board games by reading our Industry Guide.

Protecting the name of the game

The appeal to the game Cluedo is in the name, Cluedo. That may sound like stating the obvious but the creation and use of the name is another very important ingredient in a game’s success. The original name for Pratt’s game was Murder! But the one of Waddington’s company executives, Norman Watson, who ran with the idea promptly changed the name to Cluedo. Which was an apparent play on a Latin word ludo, meaning ‘I play’. A clever games title and eventually a brilliant, valuable trade mark.

Here is a wonderful marriage of concept and process (the patent) with the branding and name (the trade mark), topped with a visually appealing board design and unforgettable player names (the copyright). All of these forms of IP protection acts as bricks in a defensive wall of 'idea protection'.

But if you own the trade mark, in practice you pretty much own the game.

Cluedo today

Our Leeds story goes global, as Waddingtons was purchased by American games giant, Hasbro in 1994. And so, Hasbro obtained all the IP rights to Cluedo. We can see that the registered trade mark for Cluedo is still active today. As well as the trade mark for the board game.

Hasbro have taken Cluedo into new directions. Interestingly, the design of the board game, with its various rooms and names is also now a trade mark. The company is using all means of protection to extend the life of the game and retain IP rights over it. It’s a way to safeguard the investment in its purchase. Is it hardly surprising when we see what a timeless success Cluedo has become?

In recent times there have been many Cluedo spin offs, including novelty versions of the game for the Simpsons and TV comedy Big Bang Theory. Back in the 1980s there were even computer game versions and film as well as a TV show in the 1990s.

It all goes to show how a great games idea, playing on our love of old fashioned parlour games, mixed with Agatha Christie style characters can create something as novel as a board game, lifting a name like Cluedo, to the status of iconic.

So who dunnit?

It was a Leeds inventor and games maker that brought hours of fun to families, down generations, around the world.

Jeremy O'Hare, Business & IP Centre IP expert

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