THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

64 posts categorized "BIPC National Network"

07 June 2019

IP Corner: Intellectual Property behind the Writing: Making Your Mark exhibition

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I don’t know about you, but since the growth in our dependency on computers of all shapes and sizes my handwriting has certainly deteriorated. Everything I was taught at primary school has gone out the window in favour of Calibri 18 and the ease of using Word 2010.

I never really gave it a thought until I visited the British Library’s Writing: Making Your Mark exhibition and realised that we are (in my opinion) in danger of losing an art that dates back over 5,000 years.

The Writing: Making Your Mark exhibition is a fascinating look at the origins of writing taking us on a journey through time from ancient wax tablets through to modern day computer screens. A look around the exhibition was enough to send me back to the Business & IP Centre to see which patents I could find relating to some of the topics.

If you ask most people about writing and the invention of writing implements they will probably say the most memorable was the invention of the Biro.

The first ball point pen (to give it its correct name) was invented in 1938 by Laszlo Josef Biro a Hungarian journalist. However, it wasn’t called a ball point pen initially, instead Biro’s British patent GB498997 had the title ‘Improved fountain pen’. It is said that Biro had noticed how newspaper ink dried rapidly leaving the newspapers smudge free and this gave him the idea to invent a writing implement that used the same kind of ink. However, as this ink was thicker than normal it wouldn’t flow freely down the nib of a traditional fountain pen and so Biro had to devise a new way to transfer the ink from the reservoir to the paper. He did this by adding a tiny ball bearing to the tip of his pen and found that, as the pen moved over the paper, the ball bearing rotated transferring the ink as it went. Success!

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Biro’s British patent GB498997

Biro’s version of a ball point pen wasn’t the first though. This honour goes to an American inventor named John J Loud. Loud invented a ball point pen which he stated in his US patent US392046 (issued October 30 1888) was “an improved reservoir or fountain pen especially useful among other purposes for marking on rough surfaces such as wood, coarse wrappings and other articles where an ordinary pen could not be used.” Unfortunately for Loud his invention does not seem to have been as commercially successful as Biro’s whose invention wasn’t developed until 20 years after Loud’s death in 1916.

Ball point pen
Ball point pen US patent US392046

BiC Crystal is a name we are probably all familiar with as it is reputed to be the best selling ball point in the world. However, it’s not their ball point pen which is of interest, rather their patent application GB2218381A for a ‘Safety cap for a ball point pen’. They withdrew the application before grant, but still used the safety caps on all their ball point pens with the aim of preventing people choking on the caps should they make the mistake of swallowing one.

BiC
BiC's British patent GB2218381A

And what about pencils?

Pencils in some form have been around since the ancient Romans began using thin metal rods to make marks on papyrus. Some of these early styluses were made from lead which is where the name ‘lead pencil’ comes from, even though pencils today are made of graphite, graphite and clay or even plastic polymer. Some pencils were originally wrapped in string or twine, but later pencil cores were encased in hollowed out wood.

Sampson Mordan was the first inventor to patent a version of the mechanical pencil with his patent GB4742 of 1822. This was a patent for a refillable mechanical pencil and Mordan’s company S.Mordan and Co, continued to manufacture mechanical pencils until the factory was destroyed during the Second World War.

One of my favourite inventions relating to writing is Hall’s Diplometer. Patented by George F Hall in 1846, with patent number GB11060 of 1846, the Diplometer was a writing instrument which allowed pawnbrokers and the like to write out three identical tickets at the same time. I remember seeing one of these being used in a pawnbrokers when I was a child. One of the earliest forms of copying machines I have been able to find.

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Hall’s Diplometer patent GB11060

All of the patent documents mentioned above were found using the British Library’s Business & IP Centre collection of historic intellectual property. The collection is a great resource that can be used to trace your ancestor’s inventions or to check whether or not the idea you have for a new innovation has ever been done before. The staff in the Centre will be more than happy to guide you through your search.

Hammond Typewriter
Hammonds Typewriter patent US224088

A final highlight from the exhibition, Hammonds Typewriter US224088 is only one of the patents obtained by James Hammond for his ‘Typewriting Machine’. The machine itself is a thing of beauty, although I am not sure how one would comfortably use it!

Writing
By Daderot - Self-photographed, Public Domain.

Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert at the Business & IP Centre London

Maria has worked in the field of intellectual property since she joined the British Library in January 1993. She is currently the British Library Business & IP Centre’s Intellectual Property Expert, where she delivers 1-2-1 business and IP advice clinics, as well as intellectual property workshops and webinars on regular basis.

05 June 2019

European Patent Office’s PATLIB Summit

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Business & IP Centre Hull, part of our National Network, recently visit Porto, Portugal for the first PATLIB Summit. Sue Pleasance, Enterprise and IP Lead Officer attended, along with other representatives of national patent offices of the European Patent Office’s (EPO) member states, their PATLIB centres, and their host organisations, European and international organisations involved in IP, technology transfer and innovation. The Summit gave attendees a chance to learn from each other and plan the way forward for PATLIBs across Europe. But first, what are PATLIBs?

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The EPO supports a network of patent information centres (PATLIB centres) throughout Europe and has evolved from a grouping of national patent libraries, widely distributed in the member states.  PATLIB is an acronym for a PATent LIBrary, however not all PATLIB centres are actually libraries; a number of them are located in national patent offices, universities and chambers of commerce. The main aim of the network is to enable patent information centres to communicate with each other in a feasible and convenient way.

PATLIB Centres provide patent information and, depending on the national system for intellectual property rights, many also provide information on other intellectual property rights like trademarks, designs and models. PATLIB staff provide advice and guidance on searches for IP, some also perform searches for their clients.

Back to the Summit, my journey went well and I arrived stress free thanks to fabulous organisation skills of the team at the EPO and was ready to get involved with the Summit’s activities and meet many friendly people from all over Europe to discuss and debate how we deliver intellectual property support and guidance.

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How stunning the conference venue was Palacia da Bolsa! In particular the Arabian Room where our UK IPO representative Laura Phillips did a great job presenting on how we deliver PATLIB support. Over the two days we attended talks and took part discussions and workshops to discuss, debate and agree on actions needed to strengthen the network and improve and enhance services. Shout out to fellow PATLIB teams’ Mel (Plymouth), Tony (Glasgow) and Ben (Leeds), the latter are also part of the National Network, for great company, lots of laughs and their adventurous spirit!

It wasn’t all work and no play, Grelhador da Boavista was a hidden gem of fresh tasty traditional Portuguese food with HUGE portions, a great atmosphere, humour and quirkiness, which I’ll remember for a long time.  Tasting the local beer, Superboc, was a bit hit and miss, had we known there was a whole lounge dedicated to it at the airport we may have waited!

We were also able to find out more about the history of the port, and what better way than by boat, with a trip up the river Douro from the Estiva Quay, followed by dinner at the Alfandega, with a traditional Fado performance.

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I was glad we stayed in the city centre in the evening following Day 2 of the conference, where we made a trip to the famous exquisite bookshop Livraria Lello and experienced the traditional celebration Queima das Fitas do Porto, (Porto Burning of the Ribbons).

A lovely end to the evening was when Danielle from the Czech Republic spotted a fabulous local restaurant overlooking the river, serving excellent food, which we enjoyed whilst finding out more about each other’s work and lives.

If it sounds like we had a lot of fun – we did! The fantastic hospitality of the EPO and the Porto community encouraged us to make the most of our stay. But we did work hard and I’m not sure how we managed to cram quite so much in!

The outcome of the event was a set of strategic recommendations to the EPO in a document called the Porto Paper. The Porto Paper is still a draft. It will be published on the EPO website as soon as it has been finalised (June 2019).

(EPO accessed 22/5/19 https://www.epo.org/learning-events/events/conferences/patlib2019.html)

Finally I arrived home shattered but with a firm sense of achievement and proud that the UK had contributed well towards the future developments of PATLIBs. It was a privilege to be involved in the summit and how it will benefit Business & IP Centre users from around the country, including Hull. At the Business & IP Centre Hull, we offer free access to databases, market research, journals, directories and reports; a programme of free and low-cost events including workshops on a range of topics such as business planning, social media, market research and intellectual property. Through ERDF funding we are also able to provide free workshops, events, seminars, expert clinics and one to one coaching and mentoring for anyone in Hull who wants to start or grow a business.

Sue Pleasance, Enterprise and IP Lead Officer at the Business & IP Centre Hull

Sue has been the Lead Officer for the PATLIB and Business & IP Centre based in Hull Central Library since 2016. She leads a team of trained staff to provide intellectual property support and guidance, workshops, events and seminars to support potential entrepreneurs and businesses in the area.

03 June 2019

A week in the life of... Keira O'Mara, founder of Mama Designs

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Keira O'Mara is the founder of Mama Designs, launched 10 years ago whilst Keira was on maternity leave after having an idea for a discreet breastfeeding cover and not being able to find one to buy. Keira used her redundancy money to create one and started her business with no experience whilst juggling a baby and a new full-time job. She now has a range of award winning baby products which are sold to major UK retailers, direct to parents and are exported worldwide. They operate as a small business, with a lean team and lots of outsourcing. She also offer small business mentoring and has just launched an online course for small business owners Grow Your Business on a Budget. In the early stages of the business Keira used Business & IP Centre Birmingham for an IP session and has also spoken at an Inspiring Entrepreneur event at Business & IP Centre Liverpool.

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Monday I love that Mondays never fill me with the fear that working for someone else used to, in spite of it being our busiest day. I start the day with some exercise (although a gentler version since I am pregnant with number three). My children are at the age where they can mostly sort themselves out in the morning and with no school run this morning, I started work at 8.30, from my kitchen table. I have a home office but always seem to revert back to the kitchen table! I always start the day checking my business bank account and looking at the previous day’s sales. After responding to some emails and catching up with Vicki, who works for me part-time doing admin, I did a Facebook Live for ‘Mothers Meeting's’ on my Top 5 Instagram Tips, which goes really well in spite of being cut off midway due to Wi-Fi issues and the postman ringing the doorbell halfway through! I even get a new mentoring client as a result, which is an added bonus. I start writing up a blog post and work on editing an email marketing sequence that I am getting set up for subscribers and customers. My work day ends at 15.00 when I collect my youngest from school and after that, work is catching up on any urgent emails and tying up any loose ends.

Tuesday Work starts at 9.00 after the school run. I post on Instagram every morning and usually plan my posts ahead, although sometimes tweak the copy. I then reply to any comments for the next 20 minutes to ensure that my post gets maximum exposure. Check my bank and track orders as normal. Our new colours of Snoodie (our dribble bib) arrive this week from our factory in Turkey, so today I write the listings, collate the best images from a lifestyle shoot I did with my friend’s baby last week and send it all off to our web designer. I spend most of the day watching videos and finalising the additional content for my new business course. The videos were filmed a few weeks ago but this is the first time I have seen them. I also finalise the downloadable planners that will accompany the course, working out how to use the course platform and starting to upload the content and videos. I decided to create an online business course after celebrating our 10th year in business and regularly being asked for my advice and when I was going to write a book or a course. Today is a slightly longer working day as my daughter is at football after school and use this extra time to catch up on emails.

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Wednesday Today starts a bit differently as I have a hospital appointment for my pregnancy, which involves a lot of waiting around but I will still be on email and use this time to listen to a business audio book. I am currently listening to Chillpreneur. I spend the whole morning at the hospital. I then catch up with Lisa who manages our finances and logistics and works Wednesday – Friday. This always ends up being a long conversation and we have lots of planning to do, discussing our factory order schedule and making some plans for the next few months. 

Thursday The day starts as usual, with exercise, Instagram post and tracking sales. Today I catch up with a new factory we are working with. We have some new products they are going to be producing for us and some existing products that they are going to take over production of. There are lots of details we need to confirm with them but I am really excited about the new stuff and working with them! I have a mentoring client tomorrow so I prep for that. This involves going over the information she has sent me, writing down any questions that come up and making some recommendations and advising on potential opportunities. The Snoodies launch today so I write our email newsletter mentioning that and post additional stories for Instagram and Facebook to accompany the main post. I warned the warehouse we use that they may be busier than usual, so they are expecting it.

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Friday On Fridays I plan the Instagram schedule for the week ahead. Instagram is a key part of our business, we have almost 50,000 followers and get a lot of sales this way. Planning ahead makes my life a lot easier, as well as making sure that the feed looks as good as possible visually. I also arrange for Vicki to send out Snoodies to some of the influencers we collaborate with. I add listings to our Amazon account for a new line, our art prints (which I have been meaning to do for ages but never seem to get round to!). I do some more planning for my course launch, which is getting closer and I am equal parts very nervous and very excited! I have a great mentoring session (via FaceTime) and my client is really pleased with the ideas, suggestion and motivation. A lovely end to the week, followed by the fact that Friday school run means it is treat day and I finish early and have some time (and some chocolate!) with the children.

Weekend I have done my fair share of weekend working, but now I try and avoid it and keep the weekends as family time.

29 May 2019

An introduction to intellectual property (IP)

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The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights including patents, designs, trade marks and copyright. The IPO operates and maintains a clear and accessible intellectual property system in the UK, which encourages innovation and helps the economy and society to benefit from knowledge and ideas, as well as helping people get the right type of protection for their creation or invention. Here the IPO outlines the basics of IP and explains how you can discover your IP rights.

Intellectual property (IP) rights grant you the ability to take legal action if others attempt to make, use, import, copy or sell your creation.

The four main types of IP rights are:

  • Copyright
  • Designs
  • Patents
  • Trade marks

Protecting creativity

Work in the creative sector? You’ve probably heard a lot about copyright but may not fully understand how it protects your work.

Copyright is a property right which is intended to reward the making of, and investment in, creative works. Copyright protects literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films, broadcasts and published editions.

In the UK, copyright comes into being automatically when a qualifying work is created; there is no formal registration. The term of protection for most copyright material is the life of the creator, plus 70 years from the date of their death. Please check our website for more information on how long copyright lasts.

Copyright grants the creator the right to authorise or prohibit copying, distribution to the public, rental/lending, public performance, adaptation, and communication to the public.

You can find out more about the rights granted by copyright on our website.

A flair for design

Crafter or designer?

Design refers to the appearance or ‘look’ of products. The look of your design includes the appearance, physical shape, configuration and decoration. This can be 2D patterns or 3D designs.

Registering your design allows you to gain a marketing edge by preventing others from using it without your permission.

Automatic design rights do exist in the UK (UK Unregistered Design Right) and in Europe (Unregistered Community Designs).

Unregistered UK design right automatically protects your work for 10 years from when it was sold, or 15 years from when it was created, whichever is earliest. However, it only protects the shape and configuration of a design and does not include 2-dimensional designs like textiles and wallpaper.

Unregistered designs offer limited protection and can be difficult to enforce. Where disputes arise, you may have to prove the existence of your rights. Unlike registered designs, it will be your responsibility to prove intentional copying.

The IPO has an Instagram account with lots of useful information to help creatives know their rights, protect and champion their products. Follow us @ipforbusiness and use the hashtag #IP4biz.

The ‘lightbulb’ moment

Think you may have invented a market sell-out or something that could even change the world? Or perhaps something simple that just makes everyday life that little bit easier?

A patent protects new inventions and lets you take legal action against anyone who makes, uses, sells or imports your invention without your permission. You can only apply for a patent if you have created something that is inventive, new and useful.

A patent specification is a legal document and requires specialist skills to draft properly. Your chances of obtaining a patent are significantly greater if you use an attorney. You can find out more about why it’s worthwhile here.

The most common mistake made by inventors is revealing their invention before applying for a patent. It is your choice on whether you decide to take your product straight to market or apply for patent protection. However, if you have made your invention public, you could lose the possibility of obtaining a granted patent.

Sometimes, you may need help from a third party to create or distribute your products. Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are created when a business owner is speaking to potential partners such as investors, manufacturers and stockists.

NDAs are important when applying for patent protection. If a third party is helping you to create your product, make sure they sign an NDA, or it could affect your chances of gaining a patent. Read our guidance on non-disclosure agreements here.

Building a brand

Creating a brand that encompasses what you and your business offers is an important aspect of your business plan.

You may want something distinctive and unique that sets you apart in a crowded market. A trade mark protects your company name, logo, or a phrase. It can even protect a shape, colour, sound, aspect of packaging or any combination of these.

The registration of your company name with Companies House doesn’t automatically protect it. You have the legal right to the name, but it doesn’t stop other businesses from trading under very similar names.

The most effective trade marks are those ‘distinctive’ to the goods and services they protect. This allows consumers to identify your goods or service from your competitors. So, if your company name describes the products you sell or the services you offer, there’s a good chance it won’t be distinctive enough to be a registered trade mark!

It is recommended you search our trade marks database before applying to see if a similar trade mark to your brand already exists.

Sharing out the IP

A licence grants a third-party permission to do something that would be an infringement of your IP rights without the licence.

IP can be “licensed-out” or “licensed-in”. You can “license-out” to another company in return for a fee. You can “license-in” if you want to use another company’s IP to develop your own business and products.

Free online learning

The Intellectual Property Office’s has a range of online learning tools to help you better understand your IP rights.

Our IP Health Check free online tool can help you identify what IP you own. Answer a series of questions and receive a tailored confidential report, based on what you have told us.

IP Equip tool is a free online CPD-accredited training tool. It takes your through four short modules and uses case studies to show why intellectual property is important.

More of a visual learner? Our IP Basics videos provide short, simple explanations of the various IP rights. They also cover licensing and franchising, how to avoid infringing IP and what to do if your business is a victim of IP crime.

Don’t forget to sign up to our e-alerts to receive IP advice, events and updates direct to your inbox.

10 May 2019

How to build a brand?

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Michael Murdoch, CEO of The House, one of the Business & IP Centre's workshop partners, gives some top tips to help you build your brand...

Build a brand and sell your story Michael Murdoch workshop image 2019

Why is Branding important?
In today’s modern world it’s more competitive than ever, so brands need to do more to stand out. It’s no longer good enough just to have a great product or service and a talented team, the brand needs to connect on an emotional level too evoking feelings which are often intangible.

Storytelling is key, as it has been since the dawn of man (and woman), as it’s the most effective way to communicate messages, build trust, connect, coerce and convince the listener to ultimately believe. This must be consistent across all touch-points with the audience and honest as authenticity is paramount. Just think about your favourite brand and why you love them? John Lewis, Apple, Airbnb and Innocent often come to mind, but it could be anything.

What are the most common challenges?

  1. Budget is tight. Many start-ups have so many things to pay for and little investment or revenue to play with. But good branding does not need to cost the earth. Focus on the Brand Story, the strategy and thinking behind to style, and the rest will fall into place. If your message is clear the look and feel will be easier, quicker and therefore cheaper to produce. And the best bit is that strategy is about time and thought, so if you truly believe in what you’re doing and you have an experienced guide, you’ll be able to get things in order pretty quickly and affordably.
  2. Form over function. Too many start-ups focus on the styling of the brand before they really understand what they want and need to communicate. This often means that the brand does not quite connect with the audience, despite it looking good. It does not set itself apart from the competition and doesn’t have a strong brand position, so again, think strategically and take time to get this right before the pretty stuff happens!
  3. Start-ups often look for perfection overnight. If funding or sales of a substantial amount are not in place, don’t be afraid to try minimum viable products for your brand. This could be as simple as using online logo generators or working with a freelancer in another country. The key is to make sure this is not the end of the road and that plans for success are made. Start-up life is a journey, it often take 1–2 years to establish a new start-up (and that’s quick) so use this time to experiment and iterate so when the world is really looking, you are ready.

Top tips when building a brand?

Start with your Value Proposition 
The first step of budget friendly brand building is understanding your Value Proposition before designing anything. This is simply the offer you have e.g. your product or service and the customer segment you want to attract. What is your gift and who will receive it? From this, a designed identity and other visuals will be more appropriate and easier to create.

Conduct Market Research 
You’ll want to get things right first time so follow the old rule, measure twice and cut once. Conducting research like online surveys, focus groups (with 10 people and some pizza), one-to-one interviews, start talking with your audience via social media or just simple desktop Google searches, help to line up your ducks in a row so you know the audience and your customer problem to solve inside out!

Get Inspired
You may need a professional designer to complete your project, but by finding examples and understanding what works and what doesn’t, you’ll help speed up the process and hence reduce costs. The better the brief, the more likely it is your brand will be effective and the less time you’ll spend getting there.

Be Brave 
You need to take risks to do great things. This might be as simple as networking to make the right connections, or speaking in public at events to stand out from the crowd. Try not to list too many tasks as incremental improvements win the day…there is no such thing as an overnight success.

Focus on your Wow!
The things you decide to emphasise as your differentiator can depend on many things, including your industry and your work so far. Some examples could include amazing statistics, case studies, the number of happy customers, testimonials; it could also be an impressive innovation or award, or even the expertise of your leadership or staff. Whatever it is, be different. Make it easier for your customer to make the choice over you or your nearest rival…if it doesn’t matter it’s just a 50/50 coin toss.

Michael Murdoch

Michael founded The House creative agency in 2009 and has been a Brand Strategist for nearly 20 years working with emerging and established organisations around the world like NHS, MTV, Diabetes UK, Sanyo, Fairtrade and Nokia to smaller startups like Franklin Scholars, Mixcloud and Olive Branch. Michael has won awards for his work and helps clients find their full potential, taking them step-by-step through their projects in partnership with them. Graduating from courses at Central Saint Martins, UWE and Oxford University, Michael loves working with entrepreneurs and hopes to pass on his skills and expertise on to help them be the top 10% of organisations that succeed.

To view all of our upcoming events, including The House's next workshop, visit our events page

24 April 2019

A Week in the Life of... Hugh Duffie, co-founder of Sandows

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Hugh is one of the co-founders of Sandows, who have been instrumental in introducing cold brew coffee to the UK since launching in 2014. Cold brew is a type of coffee drink, in much the same way as an espresso, cafetière or a flat white, and the process involves infusing ground coffee in cold water overnight. This long, slow method draws out an unexpectedly smooth and refreshing flavour that’s caffeine charged to boot.

Australian-born Hugh moved to the UK at 18 and started working in restaurants, where he trained to be a barista and bartender. He left to specialise in coffee and met Luke Suddards at TAP Coffee in Wardour Street, where he developed the roasting and café management skills that have served him well at Sandows, which the pair started in 2014, initially working from an Islington café’s basement.

Hugh

Sandows ambition is to make great cold brew something you can find everywhere and Hugh sees Sandows as a creative expression of the pair’s vision for great coffee - trying to take care of quality with humility, whilst engaging people with distinctive design and simple explanations.

Sandows produce a range of products from premium glass bottles in the style of whisky flasks that sit in specialist cafés, luxury retailers and members clubs, to cans that sell in more mainstream retailers. Hugh is an alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme and will be a speaker at the upcoming Thinking Outside The Pots talk, so we asked him to tell us about a week in the life of running Sandows…

Most weeks are pretty different and it can be fluid which I like, but here’s an example of the kind of thing I normally do. My morning routine is probably the only really consistent part of my day and though I used to cycle every day, I actually find my (pretty short) commute really helps clear my head and set me up for better focus. I’m very much the kind of person who hits snooze half a dozen times - have to admit I’m not really a morning person, it’s no wonder coffee is a big part of my life. I usually wake up and deal with anything urgent email-wise whilst still in the comfort of my bed. I get up and take a shower and head to the Overground for about a 30 minute door-to-door trip which will usually feature listening to a podcast or some music, working through a long read or firing off a few memes to friends in one of the WhatsApp or Instagram groups I’m in. I just about always stop off at Lanark Coffee on Hackney Road for a chat and a coffee. This year I’ve been trying to keep my intake to just two coffees a day, usually before midday, whereas previously I’ve had virtually no limit and found myself feeling very wired/weird after my 6/7th coffee.

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Monday I get in to our office, part of a small ‘village’ of adapted shipping containers by the canal in Hackney, and set myself up for the day. Recently that’s meant some cereal and a brain function nootropic and then it’s straight into it. Mostly chasing up recent leads, preparing for calls or email pitches for potential new customers, or thinking about marketing and what we need to be executing on this week.

Tuesday I tend to schedule meetings for Tuesday/Wednesday so I can try and get ahead on the Monday and have a bit of room to give sales another push later in the week. At the moment there’s a lot of work trying to balance day-to-day execution with piecing together our long term plan in the form of a pitch deck, aiming to show potential investors that we have a clear plan for growth whilst also demonstrating that we have delivered on plans previously.

Wednesday Likelihood is that I will have a meeting or two booked and given our office is in a shipping container leaving it a bit exposed for conversations, I’ll sometimes arrange to meet elsewhere to avoid disrupting everyone. These meetings could be with mentors, wholesalers, freelancers we work with, investors, potential investors or even sometimes Luke when we need to walk around some of our stockists, take stock of where we’re at visually and talk through our plans as we walk.

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Thursday As we approach the end of the week I’m always checking in on current cash flow, sales for the week and progress towards our monthly goal and usually chasing those leads again from Monday. I don’t like emailing people a load of times and hassling them so I try to keep my tone really jovial and if we’ve met and had a laugh together (always my goal) I’ll throw in a joke or meme to try and elicit a response. Thursdays are a big day for launches and industry events and we straddle both coffee and alcohol industries across our various products (for example our Espresso Martini Mix is stocked by a lot of bars and we work with many alcohol brands to promote it) so often times I’ll find myself representing the brand after the working day finishes, meeting people and explaining what we do and seeking out new opportunities. I guess as a founder your work is so associated with your identity (life) and your lifestyle is so dictated by your work, so for me the answer is to ensure I’m enjoying work and life. That means working with people I get on with, not taking life too seriously and trying to share my enthusiasm for what I do. My whole philosophy is a bit like that question ‘how do you eat an elephant?’ where the answer is ‘one bite at a time’. I just try to move things forward every day and accept that it ebbs and flows and be grateful that I have the opportunity to control my own lifestyle so much and express myself through my work every day.

Friday Fridays we put our heads together as a team and go over the week’s activity, re-align on everything that’s happened and ensure production and sales are in sync. On a monthly basis Luke and I will need to put together an investor update for our lead investors and we present the data (financial performance), talk through successes and failures, team news, share the content that has been shaping our thinking and confirm our plan for the month/s ahead. We finish up with a few drinks and generally wind down with perhaps fun food Friday or some Friday tunes or both if we’re lucky. I’ll usually leave the team once we head our separate ways and meet with friends and have a few drinks. Given my family are in Australia, I look to my best friends to fill that place in my life and so investing in those relationships is really important to me.

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Weekend For a long time (nearly three years) Luke and I worked seven days a week and it was a case of fitting work into every waking hour to push the brand along. We reached the point of burnout and for the most part, Luke and I now avoid work on the weekends to take that time to decompress, gather our thoughts and really establish some balance and get inspired by doing new things. I love going to the cinema or exhibitions at the Design Museum for example, but I can be lazier sometimes and end up just watching Arsenal play and then stay at the pub for the other football games on that day. I love dropping in to our stockists on the weekend and seeing people experiencing our brand, but I guess I acknowledge that building a beverage brand is about quality interactions as much as quantity and that getting that right means patience and stamina over a prolonged period.

23 April 2019

IP Corner: Reach for Gold - Intellectual Property and sports

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Patent application and grants are published every week and it is always interesting to see what is coming through the system and potentially on to the market.

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This years’ World Sports Day is on 6 April and World Intellectual Property Day is on 26 April, so I thought I’d take a look and see how many of the March 2019 patent publications were related to sport. There were 15 relevant patents in total including some interesting ones…

US2019083870A is a published USA application for an ‘In goal ball return or collection device” which details a flat device for soccer (football to you and me!) practice. Rather than covering the whole goal mouth this device is apparently intended to cover the lower part of the goal and to lie at an angle thereby allowing the ball to potentially bounce back to the player or to be easily retrieved. This is intended to save valuable practise time usually spent in retrieving or chasing loose balls.

EP3132778A1 is a European patent application that designates GB for patent protection. The inventors are Spanish and the invention claimed is for a “Wheelchair accessory for playing soccer”. The idea basically consists of a pair of manually-operated levers, one for each hand, which are attached to the wheelchair and have devices at the bottom for retrieving and shooting a conventional ball.

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Amongst the 15 patent specifications published there are also a couple of GB applications GB2566646A, “Method and apparatus for playing a sports game”. The proposed game, consisting of at least two wickets and an inflatable ball, sounds like a derivative of cricket! Then there is GB2566799A “Sports Aid” which is basically an enclosure for sports practice.

It’s going to be a case of wait and see to find out if any of these patents do get granted.

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Patenting innovations relating to sports is not new, the earliest granted patent I could find relating to football boots is GB11854 of 1887. This was granted to a Harry Howe a boot manufacturers’ warehouseman from Leicester, and it was titled “Improvements in and appertaining to boots or shoes used in playing football and the like”.  His idea was to add a roughened, corrugated or grooved surface to the toe of the boot to help ensure that when the ball is booted a ‘sure kick is obtained’.

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However, football isn’t the only sport that I found patent documentation for, there is a great patent from 1894 for a new innovation in clay pigeon shooting. A certain Hugo Fuchs of Vienna, Austria was granted a British patent in 1894 for “An improved pigeon or object to be used as a moving target in shooting sports and practice”. His idea was that the ‘pigeon’ should be made out of paper or cardboard rather than the traditional glass or clay. He maintained that by filling his discs with coloured powder or soot the ‘hit’ would be as visible as a shattering clay or glass pigeon would be and his innovation would be much safer. Personally, I’d rather be hit by paper or even soot than a lump or glass or clay!

Patent searching, if you have an innovation in mind, is a must because if an idea has been patented at anytime, anywhere in the world it cannot be re-patented. So if your new idea happens to be steel toe-capped football boots, sorry that’s already been done!

If you do have an invention in mind it would be worth visiting your local Business & IP Centre, there are 13 in total around the UK details of which can be found here.

You can also download copies of our free intellectual property guides including A brief guide to patents and patent searching or if you wish you can attend one of our free workshops or webinars on intellectual property and intellectual property searching. Just take a look at our workshops and events page.

Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert at the Business & IP Centre London

Maria has worked in the field of intellectual property since she joined the British Library in January 1993. She is currently the British Library Business & IP Centre’s Intellectual Property Expert, where she delivers 1-2-1 business and IP advice clinics, as well as intellectual property workshops and webinars on regular basis.

04 April 2019

Happy returns make for happy customers

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Royal Mail published a report on delivery for online shopping, Delivery Matters. In this guest blog post, they explain how businesses can make their customers happy by making their online shopping, and returns, experience as convenient as possible...

As online shoppers become increasingly savvy, they look for reasons to shop with a particular brand. The perfect example of this is the growing trend of being able to ‘try before you buy’ – already offered by numerous retailers. This is a convenient and flexible way of shopping online and is proving increasingly popular with online shoppers. In fact, 76% of consumers said they would ‘definitely’ or ‘maybe’ purchase more items if they were offered a ‘try before you buy’ option, with shoppers saying they would order an average of three extra items each month.

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With 17% of global retailers already adopting this kind of model, it’s important to consider putting ‘try before you buy’ at the heart of your returns offering – and staying one step ahead of your competitors when it comes to customer satisfaction. By giving people what they want (and expect), it is more likely they will continue to shop with you in the future.

One in three (34%) of those that return items have used ‘try before you buy’ services. 18 – 34-year-old shoppers (49%) are more likely to use a service like this if it was available. Clothing (52%) and footwear (39%) are the categories people are most likely to use this service for, followed by electrical goods (39%). Two in five shoppers (40%) believe they would purchase more items if a retailer offered a ‘try before you buy service’.

Reasons for returns

The average online shopper in the UK sends back an online purchase every month*. Over half (53%) of those that return clothing or footwear said the most common reason to return is because the item didn’t fit or was the wrong size.

The study, part of Royal Mail’s annual Delivery Matters report, reveals women are more likely to return something because the item is not what they expected. Men are more likely to return a non-clothing item because it’s incompatible or not useful for its intended purpose.

Clothing (75%), electrical goods (42%) and computer software/hardware (33%) are the most commonly returned items. Over half of clothing is returned because it didn’t fit or was the wrong size. For electrical goods, the most common reason for returns is because the item was faulty or arrived damaged.

What online shoppers want

According to the study, six in ten (60%) online shoppers will not use a retailer again if they have a difficult returns experience so it’s important to get it right. To keep customers returning to purchase time and again, retailers should make sure their returns experience is a simple and affordable one.

There is a recurring theme when it comes to what online shoppers want when they return items: ease and convenience. People want the option of local, easy access, as well as knowing they won’t have to wait indoors all day for someone to come and pick their parcel up. They also want to use a returns provider they can trust. Royal Mail continues to lead the way on that score, with over three times as many online shoppers trusting them to return their item over their closest competition. Shoppers need to be able to trust that their items will get back to who they bought them from safely to get their refund. With branches up and down the UK, people prefer returning items at the Post Office® more than anywhere else.

Speed of refund after an item has been sent back is also important, with 93% of shoppers believing it’s crucial to receive a notification of a refund after they have returned something. Almost three quarters (73%) of respondents think it’s important for retailers to provide clear returns information on their site and at the point of purchase, as well as wanting marketplace sellers to make returns information easy to find (68%).

Peace of mind and reassurance are key when returning items so it’s important to provide tracking. Not only does tracking allow someone to keep up-to-date on where an item is at any given time, it also provides the much-needed proof of posting and delivery which are vital when someone is expecting a refund.

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Key conclusions

‘Try before you buy’ is a huge trend that appears set to stay. Smart sellers can satisfy savvy shoppers by offering them this convenient, flexible returns option. What’s also clear is that the returns process needs to be as easy as possible with many online buyers not prepared to shop with a retailer again if they have a difficult returns experience.

Factors such as speed of refund remain important, as does clarity of information about a company’s returns policy at the point of purchase. Shoppers now expect more from sellers and increasingly want to be able to return an item how they want, where they want and when they want. If retailers keep up with change and meet customers’ expectations then shoppers will continue to buy from them again and again.

*Taken as an average from the research that revealed online shoppers, on average, returned three packages within a three month period.

The research was independently conducted by Trinity McQueen and based on a sample group of 1,503 UK online shoppers that make returns.

01 April 2019

A week in the life of... Frankie Fox, co-founder and Head of Innovation for The Foraging Fox

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To celebrate the British Library's Food Season, this month's Week in the life of... follows Frankie Fox, the co-founder and Head of Innovation for The Foraging Fox, a multi award winning producer of all natural condiments sold across the UK, Germany, The Netherlands and North America. Frankie is an alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme.

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Monday Starts with feeding the chickens and then the school run, dropping off the kids before racing into London to an office in Shoreditch for a feasibility exercise with an external consultant on some particular NPD (new product development) we have been looking at. This involves looking at the whole of market in our major territories for a class of products where we have gathered data ourselves and from our major importers. We look at the products themselves, whether they can be made within our brand values, potential manufacturers for these products, price point, competition, distribution and most importantly the size of the market, potential market share we could gain. It certainly feels a far cry from where it all began with our Original Beetroot Ketchup which started as a kitchen project with the children to teach them to cook with a surplus of beetroot and apples. We spent three years in the family kitchen developing this product, testing it out on family and friends. During which time I took pictures of all the condiments shelves in all my favourite stores looking for a market opportunity for our all natural flavoured ketchup. Once I was convinced there was an opportunity we worked on branding the branding and finally by booking a small producers stand at a trade show with a box of handmade samples to get proof of concept that there was actually a market before launching the company in earnest. 

There are always emails to catch up on. My co-founder and a member of team are exhibiting at a trade show in New York and so it’s nice to hear how it’s going and I need to catch up with the manufacturers and suppliers on upcoming production runs for our existing product ranges, and calls with the rest of the team on various different ongoing day to day business. However, I need to dash back as it’s parents evening for my youngest and I make it to her school just in time to meet my husband before sitting down with her teacher.

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Tuesday I start the day by dropping the kids at school, early doors as usual and go for a quick run through Hatfield Forest on my way back. It’s hard to fit exercise in around work and family commitments, so I like to make it part of my daily routine as much as possible. Running is time efficient and I like to be outdoors as much as I can as it really helps to clear my mind for the day. On a purely spiritual level, starting your day in an ancient forest puts everything into perspective!

I am working in the kitchen today on NPD (new product development) on adding products to an existing range and ideas for a new range altogether. This means a lot of time spent on research and time spent in the kitchen developing recipes by trial and error. I put music on whilst I work in the kitchen, and get all the ingredients and utensils out and plan what I am going to do. It pays to be really organised at this stage, and I fastidiously note down and to keep track of any changes I make with each version of any recipe. This is the favourite part of my job. At the moment I’m learning about a new type of preservation process, which is absolutely fascinating and I have spent hours on YouTube and looking at and trialing various recipes and ideas. I always feel a huge sense of excitement whenever I initiate a new range idea. The process from product inception to the shelf of a supermarket can be a long drawn out and painstaking process which is very involved and you need to invest a lot of time throughout the process so you need a lot of energy and passion for the product to take it through to market. When I am happy with a kitchen recipe for a product and have done the basic costings and understood price points by doing a feasibility exercise I will source and take the recipe to a manufacturer where we will work on manufacturing costings and their kitchen recipe to replicate my kitchen recipe. We have a confidentiality agreement in place with anyone we work with (read more about Trade Secrets in this Irn Bru case study). This next stage can go on for months, one product had so many countless kitchen version from the factory that weren’t quite right I started to feel so despondent that this product would never reach the shelf. It did, and I am really glad that we were so thorough and patient with this stage of development. When you are happy with their kitchen trial, then it can go on to the factory trial stage, which is a smaller scale version of full scale production the factory itself. This is when you may find you will need to tweak the recipe and method again to suit the machines, cooking and the factory processes. It’s always trial and error at each and every stage with larger volumes at stake but we are always learning. 

I clear the kitchen, fill the fridge and shelves with my samples, file my notes, shower and get into my evening wear as I am attending an awards ceremony tonight. However, my daughter is competing in her first swimming gala after school today so I need to be there for that first as it’s on my way. I look rather overdressed standing at the poolside cheering my daughter and her school on in a bright red cocktail dress and heels - but she was amazing and so were her whole team so I am bursting with pride and have no time to be self-conscious as I have a train to catch! The event is the Chef’s Choice Awards at The Shard in London, it’s a Food Service Catering Awards event to celebrate the best products in the catering industry. We have created a new food service format for our range of All Natural Beetroot Ketchups to reach a new audience of customers - to date our offerings have only been available in a retail glass format.  We decided to enter the awards to support the launch in this market, raise awareness for the products and the brand with wholesalers and food service customers and ultimately boost sales! Our OOH (Out of Home) salesperson is also attending the event with me to ensure we make the most of the event, speak to all the right people and get and convert these leads into sales. It’s a fun evening and we strike up conversations with other suppliers and wholesalers. To our absolute joy we win the Condiment Category and amazement we win the overall Product of the Year! I’m grinning ear to ear on the train home, everyone is asleep when I get home and so I leave the award out on the kitchen table for my husband the kids to see in the morning and we can celebrate over cereal.

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Wednesday Drop kids into school, a quick run and then catch up with my emails and calls the team about the awards ceremony and decide who we need to follow up with and how. We put together a press release with quotes from the judges to send to relevant media contacts and potential leads. Interview with The Grocer magazine for their piece on the win.

Thursday Drop kids early and dash into London to meet the team in White City, the day is spent in and out of internal meetings. My co-founder and I tend to start the day with a management meeting, then we have a whole team meeting which gives us an update on what everyone is working on. Then we have a specific sales and production planning meeting afterwards to discuss sales figures and stock levels in all territories to manage stock and plan productions. 

Friday Back in the Shoreditch office to do an in-depth taste testing session and follow up on the Monday NPD (new product development) meeting. Our monthly Board call to discuss work in progress and priorities. No day is the same and as a founder of a start-up business I have done every role at some point from bookkeeping, packing boxes, trade shows to in-store sampling sessions, so you care passionately about every single detail of the business even if you now have team members doing these functions. I always want to be there to support them in any way I can. It may be Friday but you never really clock off but it’s nice to look forward to spending the weekend in the garden, digging over the vegetable beds with the chickens pecking for worms - chitting potatoes and planting strawberries plants in the polytunnel with the kids and planting new raspberry canes in the fruit cage. Back to where it all started in the garden with the kids. Spring is my favourite time of the year, full of potential and endless possibilities.

11 March 2019

A week in the life of... Angela Steel, founder and CEO of SuperWellness

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Angela is the founder of SuperWellness, a company that specialises in workplace well-being and nutrition. Since she started working with corporate clients in 2014, Angela’s mission has been to make ‘nutrition smart’ workplaces the norm. This means supporting employees to make diet and lifestyle choices which benefit both their mental and physical well-being, but also fit with working life. Angela is an alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme. SuperWellness’s range of services includes a Monthly Plan of eye-opening and engaging communications content, interactive workshops and programmes which deliver measurable results.

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Monday After dealing with the most urgent emails, a long brisk walk to the station and off to my co-working space in Victoria. The commute takes well over an hour so it’s always tempting to stay and work from home but I get much more done when I’m in a buzzy atmosphere.

I focus on project work – a couple of new clients going live next week. One is running an Awareness Day in the City – a chance for us to inspire employees to join a longer term programme of their choice. The other is a global company organising a team meeting in Krakow. We’ll be providing a half-day mindfulness workshop kicking off our SuperMind programme, which the team will subsequently attend via webinar.

Tuesday I start the day early – at my desk by 7am – to prepare an email to our subscriber list. I want to gauge interest in a new subscription based well-being communications package planned for launch in April. Having pressed ‘send’ and with an eye on the responses (always an exciting moment), I get my head into our sales figures and projections for the month to come. I have my weekly call with one of my board advisors at 12pm, which helps me to stay on top of the numbers. With all of the business’s key performance indicators on a single page report, I can see at a glance how we’re doing and where we need to focus our attention. After a bite to eat, it’s off to a local park for some fresh air and a walk with my partner Johnny.

Wednesday I’m excited about my meeting today. I’m visiting a Charity near Canada Water to discuss a corporate partnership. The idea will be to donate 10% of revenue from our new subscription programme to support its mission to tackle food waste and fight hunger. Being into food and nutrition, the idea that 1 in 8 people in the UK go hungry is really difficult to accept. I spend a couple of hours being shown around the London warehouse and meeting the corporate fundraising team to discuss possibilities. I’m impressed by the quality of the food they get to redistribute and the fact that 50% of it is fresh produce. Fantastic!

I make my way back home in time for our 4pm monthly team meeting on Zoom. We have 15 associates around the UK and one of our challenges is to stay connected as a team where everyone works remotely. Most of our nutritionists run their clinical practice with private clients in parallel to their work with SuperWellness. We meet physically as a team every quarter and in between, keep in touch through our monthly online meetings. It’s a chance for everyone to share project updates, including new learnings. We also get to brainstorm solutions to challenges which come up. Our projects can be very bespoke and we have to be creative to fit specific work environments. Last year we delivered programmes on board six cross Channel ferries, which involved a lot of logistical planning.

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Thursday Today I’m meeting with a potential client – a large construction company at the early stages of planning a well-being strategy. One of the most exciting, but also challenging aspects of our industry is that it’s still in its infancy really. More and more employers are considering well-being as a part of their business strategy and seeing the benefits it can bring to the business.

I learn about the company’s challenges and begin to brainstorm some ideas. At this stage the next step is to win buy-in to the overall plan from the board of directors and secure budget for a project next year. I promise to follow up with an outline of a business case to help my contact present her initial plan.

I open an email from one of our clients with fantastic feedback from a recent ‘Ready Steady Smoothie!” competition with their staff. Nice way to end the day.

Friday I begin the day with a 30-minute workout at my local kickboxing gym. It usually takes a bit of motivation to get going, but I find the high intensity exercise amazing for my energy and mood. I can feel the endorphins flowing after this! It sets me up for a day of writing and creating content for one of our workplace posters, called Switch off and Take a Break. I read through the latest studies on the subject, highlight the content I feel will be most insightful and then start writing the tips for the poster. The result will go to the designer next week to create our poster infographic for August.

Weekend Saturday is my day of rest. Johnny and I will often have a day out and I’ll switch off completely from work. I’m trying to keep Sundays off bounds too but it’s not always the case. After relaxing with the Sunday papers and a walk, today I have to organise a shipment of binders ready for the SuperMind programme being run in Krakow in a couple of weeks’ time. I can start next week feeling all is under control – well for now at least...

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