Innovation and enterprise blog

27 January 2020

A week in the life of… Siobhan Thomas, founder of What’s Your Skirt

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Siobhan Thomas graduated from the University of Huddersfield 10 years ago from BA (Hons) Fashion with Marketing, Manufacturing and Promotion. This was where her creativity was harnessed and birthed in fashion. Once she graduated, she went on to building her fashion and marketing career and worked for Mamas and Papas as well as some other local designers and companies. In 2018, Siobhan decided to go for her own dreams and launch her brand What’s Your Skirt?, a collection of beautifully crafted skirts for the individual woman. Since launching at Liverpool Fashion Week, Siobhan has gone on to receiving multiple awards including Business of the Year 2019 and Best Fashion Designer at some incredibly prestigious events. 

What's Your Skirt? The Afrika Skirt
The Afrika Skirt

Siobhan used BIPC Leeds, in Leeds Central Library, which provided her with basic business acumen and allowed her access to reports such as Mintel for market research. Siobhan also received free of charge guidance from the BIPC staff, as well as an appointment with the local solicitors the BIPC was working with. Due to the advice from these sessions Siobhan was able to ask about her trademark and successfully got her brand name protected. In addition, Siobhan attended numerous free courses and workshops that helped with areas like marketing, business planning, intellectual property and securing finance.

Siobhan tells us what her week looks like in the day in the life of What’s Your Skirt.

Monday Research, inspiration and fabric sourcing day. I love Mondays, I always think it’s a fresh start to a new week! My alarm sounds at 5.30 every morning and I go for a morning workout at my local gym. After my class, I return home and enjoy my healthy plant-based protein shake and get ready for work. I get to the What’s Your Skirt Studio for 8.00 and I start my day of creativity.

Sometimes I even go for a walk around Roundhay Park lake to gather my thoughts and get inspired. The simple things in nature can sometimes spark a wonderful theme for my next collection. I create mood-boards, research colour palettes and moods for the next season ahead. I love looking at magazines that are unrelated to fashion, for example interior magazines, I love to see how I can create a collection through creativity in another field. I then go to the local mills and browse the never-ending fabric supplies that surround me, I get to choose the next season fabrics at a competitive price due to the strong relationships I have with the mills. I go back to the studio and start to pin my fabric samples to a mood-board, and I begin creating my collection in more depth. I look at the texture, the fabric qualities, the silhouettes I am going for that season and my core inspiration.

What's Your Skirt? on runway

Tuesday Design development/collections day. Tuesdays are cool just because I am usually getting into the swing of the week by today. Now I have my inspiration, I get to designing! My super favourite part! I draw some illustration styles using my layout pad and pantone colours and I begin to construct some initial design ideas, I try to let my imagination run wild at this point as I can always tame it later on in the process. Sometimes these start off a little extravagant and eventually mellows out to be wearable. I get my favourite music on and I get in my creative bubble. I love being in my zone as my best work is executed. I am constantly touching and feeling the fabrics, seeing how it drapes and I design to the fabric behaviour. By the end of the day I usually have six strong outfits that I can work with ready for the next day of pattern cutting.

Wednesday Pattern cutting and draping day. A day of execution! This is where the maths skills come in, I absolutely enjoy this process and bringing my drawings to life. I get all my favourite pattern cutting books out and begin to draft my blocks, I then edit them to imitate my designs and start to trace them off. When I feel like I have mastered the flat pattern cutting I move on the drapery, which I really enjoy. I start to drape straight on to the dress stand and I begin manipulating the fabric to my design. I find this process therapeutic and it’s always nice to see the piece 3D.

What's Your Skirt

Thursday Sample sewing day. Today, I get to working on my samples. I firstly cut out my pattern pieces and lay them out on calico so I can see a draft version of the garment. Once I am happy with this, I cut it out of the actual fabric and get sewing. Step by step, I ensure the pockets are inserted and finished with a neat top stitch, I ensure it is perfect and the quality of the garment is at a high standard. If I have any details that require more attention, I tend to sew a small sample to see what it looks like, I usually feel like this is a day of achievement as all my work for the week comes together. I tend to work late in the studio on Thursdays as I like to get a set amount of samples finished by the end of the day.

Friday Marketing/photoshoot and social media day. Ending the week with a marketing day is so cool! It’s great to gather all the little photos I have taken all week and inspiration and share with the world what we are doing as a brand. By now, I am organising photoshoots for look books and recruiting models to start talking some photographs in the studio and looking for a snappy marketing angle to launch our new collection in. I also have quite a few meetings with a friends who are photographers, videographers, models, MUAs and hairstylists, this is so I can give them my vision on how I see the collections being. Then they go away and come up with a few ideas based on the collection theme.

What's Your Skirt? model in skirt

Saturday Fittings and client appointments day. Our busiest day! From 8.00 – 18.00, the day is usually packed with client fittings and orders. It’s usually the best day to fit clients as they tend not to be at work on the weekends and have the time to come into the studio. I have a few members of my team who help with this too, which really creates a buzz in the office on days like today! Lots of happy clients and lots of creative clothing. I simply love it!

Sunday Business admin, planning and rest day. Sundays are for resting and planning for the week ahead. This is usually a day of real evaluation of the week before, seeing what goals I have smashed and which ones I have yet to complete. And I look at setting new goals for the following week. This is a crucial day for me as it means I can get my mind back in to plan of action and propel forward into what I want to achieve.

24 January 2020

New business services around the Business & IP Centre National Network

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If you aren’t based in London you can still access many of the Business & IP Centre’s resources around the UK as part of our National Network. Over 3,700 activities were delivered in 2019 and over 13,500 entrepreneurs helped outside of the Capital.

Our Centres have expanded their services in 2019 and have some exciting plans for 2020…

BIPC Birmingham

You will be able to attend new workshops and networking events at BIPC Birmingham in partnership with University of Birmingham Business School, Make it Your Business and X-Forces.

From 2020 there will be a regular series of workshops and one-to-one business advice clinics. The activities are scheduled for the 2nd Wednesday, 3rd Thursday and 4th Friday of every month.

BIPC Brighton & Hove

A new pilot Centre for 2019 and will be launching fully in 2020.

BIPC Cambridge & Peterborough

If you are a local business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur in Cambridge, you will be able to go along to regular Coffee Mornings in 2020, which offer a relaxed and friendly space to meet each other and explore what the BIPC can offer.

BIPC Glasgow

Our first Centre outside of England, BIPC Glasgow has expanded their existing offer to develop new partnerships to create an Experts in Residence programme, which includes Business Gateway, Business Advisors in Residence, Jobs & Business Glasgow, Business Advisors in Residence, SnapDragon IP: Entrepreneur in Residence, Creation IP: IP Attorneys in Residence and Gilson Gray: Legal Advisers in Residence.

A new project will launch in 2020, Making Digital Work for Micro-business, funded by the JP Morgan Power-Up fund.

The Mitchell Library

BIPC Hull

If you are looking for a one-stop business hub, look no further. Hull Central Library has rapidly expanded their business offer in 2019, bringing the Business & IP Centre, new Makerspace, new Business Lounge and an on-site café all under the same roof.

They have a busy 2020 ahead as well after securing ESIF funding for a community-led local development project to provide targeted business support to communities in the most deprived areas of the city. The team has also secured ERDF funding for the Innovate Humber project, which aims to encourage more businesses in the Humber area to participate in research and development.

BIPC Leeds

Are you a regular attendee of our Inspiring Entrepreneur events in Leeds? The team have developed a new format for their live screenings, which allows more time for networking, and features talks and a panel discussion with local speakers. That’s not all, the team have also developed several new workshops on topics including Etsy and Innovation.

In 2020, building on their partnership with the Santander Work Café, BIPC Leeds will be working with Liz Jowett to deliver one-to-one advice sessions on business planning and banking.

Leeds Central Library

BIPC Liverpool

After hosting their first Start-up conference in partnership with the Women’s Organisation in 2019, they will be holding another on Wednesday 26 February 2020.

Liverpool’s Entrepreneur in Residence, Gary Millar, is celebrating his fifth anniversary at BIPC Liverpool. In this time, he and his team of volunteer specialist mentors have advised over 1,600 individuals starting or growing a business. Gary Millar is Deputy Mayor of Liverpool & Mayoral Lead For Business & International Relations.

Gary Millar

After growing his own IT and marketing businesses, he is now co-owner of Parr Street Studios (hotel, recording studios, bars and offices).

When he launched his weekly business clinic Gary explained, “I have a passion for business and a unique understanding of what entrepreneurs and businesses can go through. My role is to listen, inspire, motivate and steer people to hopefully the right kind of support.

“It’s been a great year for business in Liverpool and we have been excited to see so many bright, enthusiastic entrepreneurs coming to see us at the library’s Business & IP Centre, in search of the boost they may need to get their business grow and under way. Interestingly they don’t just come from Liverpool but as far afield as Yorkshire and Wales! Thank you to them all for taking that bold step in reaching out for help.”

BIPC Manchester

Are you a social enterprise in Manchester? BIPC Manchester will house a second branch of the Human Lending Library®, a programme where social entrepreneurs looking for business advice can ‘borrow’ one of Expert Impact’s experts, for free, to help them solve their challenges and scale fast.

Manchester will also be launching a new lunchtime networking session on the last Thursday of every month, hosted by start-up coach Patrick Lauroul.

BIPC Newcastle

Could self-employment be for you? BIPC Newcastle has developed closer relationships with Skills Hub, a City Council project providing employability and skills support and also based in Newcastle City Library. The BIPC team, Skills Hub and other local Start-up support agencies are developing advice sessions for individuals looking at self-employment as a way back into work.

BIPC Norfolk

BIPC Norfolk has expanded their services to King’s Lynn and Thetford libraries, with Great Yarmouth launching this month. As well as expanding their locations, they have also extended their partnership programme to include the DWP Self Employment Team, the Princes’ Trust Enterprise Programme, Teachers Learning Network, People From Abroad Team (Norfolk County Council), Norfolk Enterprise Festival and Pinnacle People as well as existing partners - Menta Business advisors, New Anglia Growth Hub, Leathes Prior (legal advisors), Larking Gowen (accountancy), UEA Alumni, Economic development Team (NCC), Hethel Innovation and the Norfolk Chambers of Commerce.

BIPC Northamptonshire

The BIPC has expanded its offer of regular workshops and experts in residence one-to-ones to Kettering Library as well as Northamptonshire Central Library. Graphic designer appointments and business finance advice will be coming soon.

BIPC Nottingham

There are some big changes for Nottingham and new internal images of the proposed new Central Library, including the best children’s library in the country, have been revealed by Nottingham City Council, with the public being offered the chance to offer their views on the plans.

BIPC Nottingham is hoping to include a Business & IP Centre in the proposed new library. More details including a video flythrough are available here.

BIPC Sheffield

Do you need techniques on mindfulness to help manage wellbeing issues which come from being an entrepreneur? A new workshop has been added to their programme, Mindfulness for Entrepreneurs.

BIPC Worcestershire

A new pilot Centre for 2019 and will be launching fully in 2020.

06 December 2019

The 12 Days of the BIPC

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It’s fair to say that 2019 has been a jam-packed one for the BIPC. We wanted to have a look back at some of the highlights this year has provided for us and so without further ado, we present to you the 12 Days of BIPC and first off, our true love (by which we mean our BIPC community) gave to us….

A brand new series of blogs

In January, we started our Week in the Life Of... blogs, taking a look into the weekly tasks of entrepreneurs, staff and others involved in offering business advice services. Since then, we've heard…

🌳 how Jan Kattein Architects are involved in the British Library's Story Garden

🏠 that for Merilee, founder of Under the Doormat, exercise helps to set a positive outlook for the week

🐶 the importance of dog walks to The Foldline’s co-founder Rachel's week

👥 the difficulties in managing a team spread around the country with Superwellness

🏊 how sometimes running your own business means you just have to go to your daughter's swimming gala in a cocktail dress with The Foraging Fox

switching off from work with Sandows

👶 running a business whilst pregnant with Mama Designs

🚆 the amount of travelling involved for a member of the IPO’s Business Outreach Team

🎥 some days are glamourous and involved being filmed for a UK media company with KeriKit

🍸 and finally, how to balance your home and work life with Conker Spirit

In the second month, we got…

A brand new BIPC

In February, we celebrated the launch of our Cambridgeshire and Peterborough BIPC, our 11th BIPC in the UK. The new centre is a hub for entrepreneurs, bringing them together to network, attend events and access a wealth of resources like databases, market research and other business info. On the day, Julie Deane OBE, founder of Cambridge Satchel Co and Entrepreneur in Residence at BIPC London, gave a speech and highlighted the importance the Centre would have on local entrepreneurs: “It’s easy to be put off in the early days of setting up your business. You can’t know everything from the start, but you do need a vision and the will to achieve it. I believe this resource will help entrepreneurs on that journey!’

Cambridge launch

In the third month, our treat was….

Our sold out Start-up Stars

On the topic of 'How I Disrupted My Market', with a panel of trailblazing entrepreneurs including CompliMed, In A Wish & 33Shake, alumni from the Innovating for Growth: Scale up programme, chaired by motivational speaker and coach Rasheed Ogunlaru. Our audience learnt out how the panel of businesses challenged the status quo and shook up their sector.

On the fourth highlight day, our beautiful National Network gave to us….

A brand new BIPC (again!)

Another month, another launch at the Mitchell Library for BIPC Glasgow. The first BIPC in Scotland, the 12th as part of our National Network, and a partnership between the British Library, Glasgow Life, the National Library of Scotland and Santander. Dr John Scally, National Librarian at the National Library of Scotland, said of the launch: “Creativity and innovation among entrepreneurs and start-ups rely on the most up-to-date information and advice available. We have vast business and intellectual property resources in our collections and want businesses throughout Scotland to know that help and expertise is there. We are pleased to partner with the British Library and the Mitchell Library to open this service in Glasgow. By our combined efforts we will help local businesses thrive.”

Glasgow launch

Our fifth day brings us to…

Our Start-ups in London Libraries launch

For our latest programme, Start-ups in London Libraries which brings start-up support to 10 London high streets, we had an amazing launch event in City Hall at the beginning of May, where the Deputy Mayor of Business, Rajesh Agrawal, announced that he was going to be the Champion of Champions for the project and threw his support behind the plan. He said “This initiative will deliver vital support to our burgeoning small business community while providing a huge boost for the capital’s libraries.”

Fast forward to now and a total of more than 850 businesses have attended Start-ups in London Libraries workshops and seen our borough support teams for help getting their business off the ground. And it’s onwards and upwards from here!

Start-ups in London Libraries launch

Which leads us nicely onto the sixth day of the BIPC…

Our new Start-ups in London Libraries look and feel

In June, after our Start-ups in London Libraries launch, we released our brand new campaign for the project, featuring some potentially familiar faces – our London success stories (or BIPs). From cats with cake to coffee with a conscious, these brilliant businesses cover the wide range of companies we’re hoping will also come out of the project, and it provided a great opportunity for us to showcase just some of our BIPC community who were already sitting in specific boroughs, including Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, Cyclehoop, Change Please, Sabina Motasem and HR Sports Academy. And as you’ll see, Start-ups in London Libraries wasn’t the only thing getting a makeover this year…

Facebook-timeline-1200-x-628-all

On the seventh day we’re remembering…

How we cemented our reputation with stats in our economic evaluation report (and celebrated it in Westminster!)

July saw us head to the House of Lords to launch our Democratising Entrepreneurship report, which looked at libraries as engines of economic growth, highlighting that the BIPC had helped create 12,288 new businesses, 7,843 jobs and £78m GVA. Out of those we helped start a new business, 22% were from the most deprived areas, 55% were women and 29% were aged 35 and under. We are committed to continue offering accessible business support across our National Network and in London, to help you plan, start and grow your business.

House of Lords Event - Jen Lam

The eighth day of the BIPC brings us..

More makeovers!

We continued to spruce up the BIPC with our new marketing materials, featuring talented entrepreneurs who received business support at the BIPC and also from our network of national hubs. We’re so delighted to have been able to show off the tangible results of the BIPC business support this year in our new campaign and capture the range of people who have been able to start up or scale up in part through our services. Included in our community and photographed for our marketing materials were: Annie from Campbell Medical Illustrations, Gil from ChattyFeet, Amanda from I Can Make Shoes, Abigail and Chloe from Buttercrumble, Joe from Krio Kanteen, Natalie from Acacia and Marcela from Sacpot. We can’t wait to keep growing our business community up and down the country and look forward to adding more faces to these in 2020.

New BIPC brand

On the ninth day was when we started to realise that 12 is a lot of highlights to pack into one blog, but luckily, we had plenty of exciting events to see us through the last couple of months of 2019… so for our ninth day…

We got inspired

In September, we were thrilled to host another stellar Inspiring Entrepreneurs event with a wider focus on people who are at the forefront of the UK’s creative industries. With our incomparable moderator, Night Czar, Amy Lamé and a panel consisting of Jamal Edwards, Irene Agbontaen and Rick Lowe, no one could leave the auditorium without feeling inspired and energised.

Inspiring Entrepreneurs Cultural Changemakers

On the tenth day, we find ourselves at…

Our biggest event of the year

Maybe our biggest day of the year was Start-up Day which took place in October. There are too many highlights to mention but include panel discussions on starting up on a shoestring and profit with a purpose, a brilliant presentation and candid chat with the charity, Mind, and Julie Deane OBE about looking after your mental health while getting started, and an epic keynote from Steph McGovern, where she discussed embracing your authenticity and finding business potential in recessions and times of economic hardship. It was a truly inspiring day and we can't wait to hear about the progress of the 400 entrepreneurs who stepped through the doors! We'll be back with Start-up Day 2020 before you know it.

Steph McGovern - Start-up Day

On our penultimate day we received…

The chance to discuss the BIPC in the Anything but Silent podcast

In November, we were featured in the British Library podcast ‘Anything but Silent’, with our Innovating for Growth alumna and Start-ups in London Libraries’ ambassador, Mickela Hall-Ramsay from HR Sports Academy, and were able to discuss and celebrate one of our favourite topics, community in the world of business. It's worth a listen all year round!

Which brings us to, our 12th day…

A touch of luxury

Our final 2019 Inspiring Entrepreneurs, Leaders in Luxe, took place earlier this month, where we saw our panel – Frieda Gormley from House of Hackney, Clare Hornby from Me and Em, Jennifer Chamandi Boghossian from Jennifer Chamandi, Rupert Holloway from Conker Spirit and Darren Sital Singh from The Jackal, moderated by Walpole’s Helen Brocklebank - discuss the future of British luxury, how they built their brand and overcame challenges along the way. You can watch the catch up discussion on our YouTube channel, link in bio.

Inspiring Entrepreneurs - Leaders in Luxe

And that is it for 2019! What an exciting year and we have particularly loved seeing our support spread to more places and people than ever before.

Stay tuned for even more in 2020…. See you then.

25 September 2019

Start-up Day: What’s going on around the Network

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Start-up Day 2019

It’s not only the British Library hosting Start-up Day 2019, this year we have over 40 public libraries around the country holding their own Start-up Days. The day aims to support start-ups and small business owners with talks, workshops and interactive sessions designed to take the first steps towards turning a business idea into a successful enterprise.

On average, our National Network helps create an average of 15 new businesses every working day[1]. Most of these were started at home, with 40% of them beginning in a home office and almost a third from the kitchen table. These new businesses are far exceeding national averages for success rates – 90% of them are still trading after three years, compared to UK-wide rates of 60%.

Here you can find a snapshot of the highlights going on around the country and discover what your local Business & IP Centre will be doing for the day…

Start-up Day Birmingham

If you’re in or near Birmingham, they will be running activities including:

  • Market research using IBISWorld
  • Brexit & business with Enterprise Europe Network
  • Why your IP is valuable with Forresters

Start-up Day Brighton & Hove

Our new pilot centre will be live streaming some of the British Library talks and panels and introducing the new BIPC.

Start-up Day Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

A wide variety of drop in sessions throughout the day at Cambridge Central Library with organisations and businesses including:

  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Prince’s Trust
  • Santander
  • Growth Hub

They also have free headshots with Elton Cilliers, a start-up photographer himself, as well as talks on decluttering for business, fraud and cyber-crime as well as live streaming some of the talks from the British Library.

In Peterborough, they will be holding one-to-ones on accountancy, legal advice and intellectual property, amongst other workshops.

Start-up Day Devon

Taking place in both Exeter and Barnstaple, there will be a full programme with workshops and talks on:

Exeter

  • IBISWorld
  • Introduction to intellectual property
  • FabLab tours
  • Marketing videos on a budget with BitPod
  • How to avoid legal mistakes with Cartridges Law

Barnstaple

  • Branding with South West Growth Hub
  • Bookkeeping with Mark Ponsonby Blue Ink Bookkeeping
  • Panel on the challenges of starting up
  • IBISWorld

Start-up Day Glasgow

BIPC Glasgow is our only Centre in Scotland and will be running a day of workshops and talks, such as:

  • Finance with Santander
  • Lifecycles of a company
  • Trade mark starter pack

Throughout the day there will be option to watch the live stream from the British Library as well as talk to relevant businesses and organisations at their trade stands, including:

  • NLS
  • Prince’s Trust
  • Santander
  • Codeworks
  • Gilson Gray
  • People Plus
  • Business Gateway
  • Jobs & Business Glasgow
  • Trading Standards

Start-up Day Hull

For those thinking of starting a business in Hull, you can attend workshops and talks on:

  • What you need to do in the first 90 days to increase your chance of business success
  • IBISWorld
  • Developing a social enterprise
  • Market research with Mintel
Hull Start-up Day 2018
Hull Start-up Day 2018

Start-up Day Leeds

As well as some of the talks being streamed from the British Library, BIPC Leeds will be running talks and workshops on:

  • Getting inside customers’ heads with Ad:Venture
  • Global trends with Mintel
  • Personal branding with Stepp Digital
  • How to combine profit with purpose with Agency for Good

There will also be a Start-up Stars panel, with local entrepreneurs about how they started their business.

Start-up Day Liverpool

For those in and around Liverpool you can get tips on marketing your small business and accounting, as well as hearing from local entrepreneurs, such as Owen Drew Luxury Candles.

Start-up Stars Liverpool Start-up Day 2018
Liverpool Start-up Day 2018

Start-up Day Manchester

Start-up Day is not only taking place in Manchester Central Library, but throughout the region in Ashton-Under-Lyme Library, Blackpool Central Library, Bolton Central Library, Eccles Library, Oldham Library & Lifelong Learning Centre, Preston Library and Stockport Library. You can find networking and coffee mornings, speed mentoring as well as talks on:

  • Preparing your business plan with Santander
  • Marketing with Tidal Wave Consulting
  • How to be a healthy and confident entrepreneur with Amina Waldron
  • How to tell your story with Steve Rawling
  • 10 mistakes I made in year one with a local panel of entrepreneurs

For a detailed programme in your local library, please contact the library directly for their full schedule of events.

Manchester Three Rivers Gin - Machester
Manchester Start-up Day 2018 with Three Rivers Gin

Start-up Day Newcastle

Join BIPC Newcastle for workshops on setting targets and goals, branding and IP, as well as a coffee morning with their experts in residence.

Start-up Day Norfolk

Whether you’re in Norwich, Kings Lynn, Thetford or Great Yarmouth, there will be talks for you. Each Library will have a networking coffee morning and streaming of British Library events. There will be more talks in Norwich, including topics such as getting your product to market, creative product development and start-up funding.

Start-up Day Northamptonshire

A full day of talks and networking will be taking place which includes how to manage your Portfolio Career and maximising the benefits of networking amongst others.

Start-up Day Nottingham

BIPC Nottingham will be hosting two presentations as well as speed mentoring and a networking coffee morning during the day.

Start-up Day Sheffield

A variety of business-related talks, which include:

  • Tips when starting a business with Business Sheffield
  • Researching your business with IBISWorld
  • A start-up journey with local entrepreneur Katie Bain
  • Using social media to boost your business
  • Social enterprise and investment
  • The Sheffield tech scene with Digital Llama

Start-up Day Worcestershire

Our new pilot centre will be running business support clinics all day with Enterprising Worcestershire as well as hosting talks on:

  • Digital marketing and social media with Quick by Design
  • Crowdfunding with Be The Change Café
  • Business plans with Blue Orchid
  • How to assess your big idea with Blue Orchid

For more information on Start-up Day or to book your place in any of our Business & IP Centres, click here to visit our event page.

 

[1] Economic Impact Survey 2019. Analysis from January 2016 – December 2018.

Choosing revenue over retirement - starting a business in your 60s

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Bryher is the founder of Autodotbiography. In honour of Book Lovers' Day, Bryher tells us about her book-based business and the inspiration that made her start a brand new business up at the age of 60. 

I know that at the age of 60 most people think their careers are over. I spent 25 happy years at the BBC working on all kinds of factual programmes. I was Editor of 'That’s Life!' and later Editor-in-Chief of BBC Online during the very early days of website development.

So why, at this late stage of my life have I started a business for the first time? I have put my bank account, my home, life-savings and my future on the line? Is it because there is insanity in my family, and I’ve inherited it?  Not as far as I know. It’s all down to my mother’s untimely death.

When my mother died 20 years ago I was devastated.  We were extremely close, she was my best friend, my wise and trusted advisor and more than that, she was great fun to be with. With her sudden death our wonderful relationship died, and so did her memories.  They say that when a person dies a library burns and I think that is so true. There were so many questions I wanted to ask about her life but it was too late.

As her executor I had to rummage through her life to find the documents needed to sort out probate.  I came across drawers full of photographs of people who must have meant something to her but who were now anonymous.  I had no idea who they were and never would. There was no-one to ask.

She had told me very little about her childhood – I knew it had been tough and that she clashed with her mother.  Then I found a story written by her.  It was on yellowing paper and typed on a very old-fashioned typewriter.  It told of jumble sales held at the Methodist Hall where her father was the caretaker.  She described how she would sneak into the hall before it opened and try on hats with magnificent feathers, or teeter on high heels, only to tear them off and put them back when the doors opened and the sale began.  I loved reading it.

I realised that while the rich and famous have their lives recorded, this wasn’t possible for everyone.  Of course, there are ghostwriters to help people tell their story but they tend to cost thousands of pounds. A blank piece of paper or screen is very daunting. Just knowing where to start can be difficult.

I wanted it to be easy, and affordable, for anyone to write their life story and have a beautiful hardback book at the end of the process.  It took 12 years of devising and writing and spending our life savings and putting our house on the line – my husband of 44 years, Paul, has been magnificent in supporting me.

Bryher 1

So, hundreds of thousands of words later and all my savings, I launched www.autodotbiography.com , a unique online system that makes it easy for anyone, no matter how good or bad at writing, to create a beautifully written, lavishly illustrated hardback book of their life story for their family.  All the author has to do is answer simple questions - selecting from pre-written answers, if they are not a confident writer, or writing in their own words if they are.  To illustrate their stories they can upload photographs and documents, and then our automated system turns their words and pictures into a beautiful book.  Basically, it is a virtual ghost writer and a virtual book designer.

By profession I have been a television producer, so it might have been expected that I would produce videos of people’s stories and there are companies that do that. My reason for producing a book is that it is intended to be a family heirloom and that means it has to last hundreds of years.  An autodotbiography is a hardback book with very high-quality paper, designed to last.  As a programme maker and an internet entrepreneur I have watched many video and photographic formats come and go and who knows how we will be accessing our data in 100 years. More likely than not it will be impossible to get at these precious memories because the operating system or app no longer operates. But an autodotbiography will still be sitting on a bookshelf for future generations to enjoy.

Bryher 3

There are so many things to say about running my own business. It has been terrifying, amazing, frustrating and a tremendous adventure. I have learned to do so many things in the course of running the business. For instance, I never dreamed I would become a cruise ship speaker!  But lecturing and running workshops on cruise ships is a terrific way to market autodotbiography, as well as seeing the world with some delightful people who have wonderful life stories to share with their families.

I am thrilled to report that at the ripe old age of 62 I won an award from PRIME (Prince of Wales Initiative for Mature Enterprise) Best New Digital Business.  And I have wonderful comments from the authors who have completed their books and their fascinated families that makes it all worthwhile. In a world when physical books are becoming outnumbered by digital formats, it is wonderful to see the importance people still place on creating beautiful books and I love that I have been able to build a business out of this. 

To find out more about Authodotbiography, visit https://www.autodotbiography.com/.

22 July 2019

PRECIOUS Nights at Manchester Library

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Business & IP Centre Manchester became the first venue outside of London to host PRECIOUS Nights, an evening aimed at professional women of colour. 

PRECIOUS Nights 2

The founder of PRECIOUS Awards, Foluke Akinlose MBE FRSA, is a Mancunian at heart, so it was extra special being able to host the event in her city.

Foluke explained, "It was hugely exciting to take PRECIOUS Nights on the road and even more exciting for me personally to host the first one in Manchester, my home town.

“It was also a wonderful opportunity to showcase the work of three Manchester based entrepreneurs contributing so successfully to the GDP of the city and beyond. We had a lovely audience, they were really welcoming and engaged which led to a very open and honest conversation about being a women of colour in business in modern Britain. Huge thanks Manchester Business & IP Centre for hosting us so warmly. We cannot wait to go back!"

As well as hearing Foluke's story, the rest of the panel included:

Roselene Thomas: Director and founder of Thomas UK Consulting Services Ltd, a company that provides IT software testing services with headquarters in Manchester, UK and offices in India.  

Dijonn Taylor: Founder of two award-winning businesses. Starting with a desire to empower and reward children at all levels of education through experiencing a traditional graduation ceremony, in 1997 she staged the first ever cap and gown graduation ceremony in the UK at a Manchester Primary School. Soon after her business Young Graduate was born.

Her second business venture Savvy Guest was created to facilitate pre-career meetups between adults and employees for pre-career chats. Dijonn realised people were experiencing barriers when trying to gain access to employers for a conversation to gain realistic career tips and insight into job roles and the industry.

Lisa Maynard Atem: Social media strategist with a proven track record at the world’s most famous luxurious department store, Harrods, where she worked with numerous luxury brands including CHANEL, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana and GUCCI.

Lisa built and developed a global social portfolio that now boasts over 2.5 million followers across key social media platforms - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Harrods is now the most followed luxury department store in Europe on Instagram and one of the most followed in the world, with over 1.1 million followers.

It was hosted by transformational counsellor, blogger and the founder of Self-Central, Lisa Bent.

Audiences at PRECIOUS Nights can hear from previous PRECIOUS Awards finalists and winners about their business journey, get actionable tips, be inspired and build networks with new contacts. The PRECIOUS Awards were founded in 2007 to celebrate and applaud the professional achievements of women of colour in the UK. The organization has a dynamic and passionate following, gained over twelve years of bringing brilliant women into the spotlight and celebrating the 'Best of British' by recognising and rewarding exceptional determination, innovation and entrepreneurial skills across multiple sectors and inspiring women of colour to succeed in business and professional life.

Jonathan Ebbs, Service Development Specialist at Business & IP Centre Manchester said, “The evening was full of powerful, inspiring stories including lots of shared tips and anecdotes from the audience. It was one of the buzziest events Business & IP Centre Manchester has seen, with lots of laughter but also a real passion and desire to help each other to succeed”.

Precious panel

For more information about PRECIOUS and to see upcoming events, visit their website. You can discover everything Business & IP Centre Manchester has to offer here.

19 July 2019

How the Breakthrough Business Model Canvas can help your start-up

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Business & IP Centre workshop partner, Neil Lewis, explores how the Breakthrough Business Model Canvas give start-ups the stamina and vision to succeed.

The Breakthrough Canvas v3.0 A4

Question: What’s the secret to building a successful start-up?

Answer: A powerful sense of purpose that provides the ability and stamina to keep going through both the good times and the tough times whilst always providing an attractive draw to supporters, resources and potential customers.

Hence, you’d expect a start-up business model to prioritise ‘purpose’ in the earliest stage of planning, but this key feature is lacking in the standard business model canvas.

The original Business Model Canvas remains rooted in a logical left-brained deductive process that fails to build unique and exciting business models. Nor does it capture the purpose, the energy or the passion of the founders that stand behind their start-ups.

That is why we completely rebuilt the canvas as the Breakthrough Business Model Canvas and place ‘purpose’ as the heart of this new innovative model.

The Breakthrough Canvas 3-0

Why does Purpose matter?

Two key reasons: Vision and stamina

Firstly, as a start-up or scale-up you are making promises about what you *will* deliver and what you *can* deliver in the future. You need a variety of people; customers, partners, investors, supporters… to come alongside you and ‘buy into’ your vision.

Even if you already have a functioning product, your supporters still have to ‘buy your future vision. And to be convincing, you have to show why your team is built for this future solution, why it is in your DNA, why it is your purpose.

Secondly, by creating your start-up or scale-up out of your sense of purpose, you are telling your supporters that you have the stamina to follow through — that you are determined to make it work and that you have the energy and passion to overcome the barriers and challenges that we all know you will face.

And this outward expression of your inner drive that so effectively engages with start-up and scale-up supporters, does not come from better business model engineering but by discovering your purpose and passion and learning to express that purpose with greater clarity and increased impact.

As the original business model canvas fails to capture this raw emotional connection, we lose sight of a crucial part of what makes your business attractive, what makes it unique and why it should be supported and championed.

You might say the purpose of The Breakthrough Canvas is to ensure your startup or scaleup remains ‘unique’!

“There are already lots of copycat businesses out there — so be different, be unique, be you and be uncopiable, unmatchable!”

And, because The Breakthrough Canvas is emotionally powerful for your team, they too will also have a powerful motive to take action and to inspire others to become supporters — customers, team members, investors and so on and so forth.

Pivot in — not Pivot out!

Pivot

How the Breakthrough Business Model Canvas can help you and your team will depend on the questions you are asking and the challenges that you face.

However, a typical conundrum that start-ups face is whether to pivot or not. In this example, The Breakthrough Canvas has helped entrepreneurs switch from ‘pivoting out’ to ‘pivoting in’. For instance, a media team found that their sector — gig reviews and student media — was awash with people willing to write for free.

Their question began as — “how do we change our business to find a sustainable economic model? Do we switch to writing generic marketing copy or website blogs because they pay more money?”

Following a session using The Breakthrough Business Model Canvas and refocusing on what this team really loved to do, we discovered a new business model — working alongside the student media editorial teams at their high-pressure publication dates to provide last minute reviews, editorials and editing.

This switch of focus happened when we changed the question from ‘who will pay us for our words’ to ‘what are we exceptionally good at (because it’s our purpose — our ‘why’) and who works in that space that we can add value to’.

By asking the ‘purpose’ question first and following through with questions about customer needs and motivations, this start-up pivoted inwards and deeper, rather than pivoting outwards and into the headwinds of a lot of competition where they would have been ‘good’ but not standout exceptional.

What next?

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There are regular workshops at the Business & IP Centre London on The Breakthrough Business Model Canvas which can help you uncover your purpose and super-charge your start-up’s growth, visit our Events and Workshops page to find out when the next one is. Alternatively, you can search online for a coach who can take you through the canvas to help you uncover deeper and more powerful answers.

Neil Lewis, founder of Media Modo

Neil delivers coaching, tools and workshops to help you discover your start-up purpose, gain lift-off and magnify growth. He is a regular workshop leader at the Business & IP Centres in London and Manchester.

15 July 2019

First Aid and the Law – a quick and easy guide for SMEs

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First Aid for Life was founded by Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni, Emma Hammett, who is now a mentor on the Innovating for Growth: Mentoring programme. First Aid for Life is a fully regulated first aid training business with experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals, who tailor their training to the needs of the organization. They also have online courses, suitable for all businesses. Here Emma talks about first aid for SMEs…

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As SME owners, we are ultimately responsible for all aspects of our businesses. Complying with health and safety and first aid legislation can be confusing and somewhat daunting.

Consequently we have produced a clear guide to the most important elements of the First Aid at Work The Health and Safety Regulations 1981, outlining the key legal requirements and responsibilities that all businesses have to comply with, whether as sole traders or employers, to ensure they remain within the law.

Legal duty

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require all employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and suitably trained personnel. This is to ensure employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work.

It doesn’t matter whether the injury or illness is caused by the work itself, what’s important is that the worker receives immediate and appropriate attention and that an ambulance is called when necessary. First aid is of critical importance in saving lives and preventing minor injuries becoming major ones.

Complying with the regulations to the best of your ability is both a legal imperative and demonstrates a duty of care for your staff, clients and customers.

How many first aiders do we need?

Businesses need to ensure that there is adequate provision of appropriately trained personnel to provide first aid cover for all working hours on all sites, based on individual businesses risk assessments (including cover for absence due to holidays, off-site trips, sickness and any other reason). Take a look at Appendix 3 of the latest HSE guidance for more information. The following is a brief overview:

  • As a sole trader you still need to make appropriate provision for first aid and ensure that there is a suitably stocked first aid kit, you are competent to use it and it is sensible to consider potential risks to your customers and clients too.
  • For an employer with up to 20 employees in a low-risk environment, it is sufficient to have an Appointed Person qualification or other appropriate training to enable them to competently help in an emergency. This training can be practical or online.
  • For a business with up to 50 employees in a low-risk environment they should arrange for first aiders to attend regulated Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) training, tailored to the needs of employees and those they serve. This regulated training can be taken as practical training or enhanced blended learning, with up to a third of the theoretical elements online prior to the practical training.
  • For larger businesses and those with a higher risk profile, it is necessary for first aiders to undertake a relevant three day First Aid at Work course. This too can be undertaken as blended learning, with one day pre-learning online and two days in the classroom. Re-qualification courses for those with an in-date FAW certificate, are two days. Certificates are valid for three years.

It is vital that all businesses ensure staff have

  1. undertaken suitable training
  2. have an appropriate and in-date first-aid qualification
  3. undertake regular refreshers to ensure the skills remain current and they remain competent to perform their first aid role.

Risk assessment for the workplace

All businesses (whether sole traders or employers) must undertake a full assessment of first-aid needs appropriate to the circumstances (hazards and risks), number of employees and nature of the business, for each workplace. For smaller businesses, this does not necessarily need to be a written document.

Where work involves higher level hazards such as chemicals or dangerous machinery, or special hazards such as hydrofluoric acid or confined spaces, first aid requirements will be greater and specialist training will be needed.

Employers may then need to consider additional equipment, inform local emergency services, etc.

Adult look listen and feel

Risk assessment of workforce

Some workers may have additional specific health and safety risks. Young workers, trainees, pregnant workers and employees with disabilities or pre-existing medical conditions, where known (e.g. asthma, diabetes, allergies, epilepsy or a history of heart disease), should be incorporated in the risk assessment, whilst ensuring full compliance with confidentiality and data protection.

First-aid provision for non-employees

Employers are not required by Health and Safety law to provide first aid for anyone other than their own employees. However, organisations, providing services for others are strongly recommended to include non-employees in their assessment of first-aid needs and make provision for them as an integral part of their duty of care. This may require first aiders to receive additional training above the legal minimum requirement so that they are able to act competently, for example additional training in paediatric first aid if relevant to your customer base – such as a family restaurant.

First Aid for Life

Records

All employers have duties under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) to report certain work-related injuries, cases of ill health and dangerous occurrences. The HSE will pass details onto the relevant enforcing authority. RIDDOR applies to all work activities but not all incidents are reportable.

It is also advised that employers have an accident report book in which they record all incidents, this must be stored in line with the Data Protection Act.

Additional training 

Good first aid training businesses should assist you to ascertain your first aid requirements and help you organise the most appropriate training for your organisation, tailoring and adding in extra elements if required.

HSE strongly recommends annual refresher training (practical or online) during any three-year FAW/EFAW certification period.

Employers should also encourage first-aiders to regularly review their first aid course manuals or top up with quality online training and allocate them time to do this.

Defibrillators (AEDs)

There is no legal requirement for businesses to provide a defibrillator. However, the recovery statistics are compelling; if someone has a cardiac arrest in the community the odds of them surviving are only about 6%. If a defibrillator is readily available, they are in a shockable rhythm and the AED is deployed within three minutes – the odds jump to 74%. Hence, many businesses decide purchasing an AED is a critically important element of first aid provision.

If you invest in a defibrillator it is necessary to ensure staff receive appropriate training to use it. This training should be incorporated into the routine first aid training for your team at no additional cost.

12 July 2019

IP Corner: The inventions of Leonardo da Vinci

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Sitting on the train reading the news on my mobile phone today it struck me how far the humble telephone has come since the day it was first invented by Alexander Graham Bell. The mobile phone still does what Bell intended, it allows two people to talk to each other at a distance, but over the years improvements have been made to Bell’s invention so that mobile phones are now telephones and so much more. And this is true of practically everything we use today.

Take someone like Leonardo da Vinci, we currently have an exhibition of his drawings, diagrams and handwritten notes here at the British Library (Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion) and whilst many people may know him as a great Renaissance painter, perhaps most famous for La Giocconda better known as the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci was also a great visionary with ideas such as:  

  • a flying machine
  • an underwater breathing apparatus
  • a diving bell
  • an armoured car
  • a revolving crane
  • a parachute
  • a pulley
  • water-powered mills and engines
  • single-span bridges

Let’s take a look at a few of Leonardo da Vinci’s ideas and see how inventors brought variations of the ideas into being, whilst not necessarily being the first to patent!

A flying machine

Leonardo - Mumford 1
Edwin Mumford's patent GB3214 of 1905

 

Leonardo da Vinci created a design for a machine that is sometimes described as an "aerial screw", unfortunately, Leonardo’s drawings do not indicate that he came up with a way to stop the machine once it had taken flight. Like all inventions though, Leonardo’s “aerial screw” was taken and improved upon by people such as British inventor, Edwin Mumford. A naval architect from Dumbarton, who came up with an invention titled ‘Improvements in or connected to Aerodromes or flying machines’ and received patent GB3214 of 1905 for his trouble.

Leonardo - Mumford
Edwin Mumford's patent GB3214 of 1905

An underwater breathing apparatus

The first underwater breathing apparatus to be patented was the Rouquayrol regulator, a device intended to regulate the flow of compressed air. This was invented in 1860 (1860 44655) by Frenchman Benoit Rouquayrol, a mining engineer from Aveyron in France. Originally the invention was intended to assist miners to escape flooded mines, but Rouquayrol adapted his invention in 1864 (1864 63606) and patented it under the title ‘moyens propres à protéger les plongeurs’ or ‘means to protect divers’.

A diving bell

A British inventor by the name of John Stapleton invented ‘Apparatus for working under water’ in 1693 under patent GB318. Stapleton’s idea was for a device that allowed a person enclosed in it to walk under water. Unfortunately the patent doesn’t have any diagrams so we will have to use our imagination to visualise the apparatus in actual use. However, it might have looked like this:

Diving bell
Diving bell, Marinmuseum (Naval museum), Karlskrona, Sweden ©Henrik Sendlebach 2015

An armoured car

Leonardo da Vinci's armoured car invention was regarded as a forerunner of the modern tank. Covered in sheets of metal, the armoured car was intended to be capable of moving in any direction and was to be kitted out with a large number of weapons. It even had a turret on top to aid steering of the vehicle and aiming correctly when firing the weapons. In truth, the armoured car as designed by Leonardo would never have worked as it was far too heavy for humans to move and far too small for animals to be used to manoeuvre it.

Car
An armoured tank designed by Leonardo da Vinci at the Château d'Amboise (this work has been released into the public domain by its author, AYArktos. This applies worldwide)

In 1898 Frederick Simms an engineer from London was granted a patent, GB7387 of 1898, for his ‘Motor driven car for use in warfare’.

Leonardo -warfare
Frederick Simms' patent GB7387 of 1898

The problem with armoured cars, as was discovered during the First World War, was that the wheels of the vehicle sank into the mud of the battlefields. The solution was to add caterpillar tracks to the vehicles so that it was capable of moving over any terrain, but this didn’t happen until later.

Although when others later tried to reproduce the ideas in Leonardo’s drawings they often found that they didn’t work as they should and needed modifications. Had there been a patent system in place in Leonardo’s day, the fact that his ideas worked in theory would have been enough to get him a patent as there is no requirement of the inventor to supply a prototype or other proof that their idea works in reality. This often leads to claims that the patent, once granted, should be declared invalid and, of course, if the inventor could not get his or her invention to work then there would be no chance for them to commercialise it.

Today users of the Business & IP Centre can speak to our partners who specialise in prototyping to get an expert opinion on whether their idea has legs or not, or they can take advantage of joining our Inventors’ Club which meets on the final Monday of every month.

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.

08 July 2019

Scotland’s first Business & IP Centre launches in Glasgow

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April saw the launch of Scotland’s first Business & IP Centre outside of England, in partnership with Glasgow Life, the National Library of Scotland and Santander. Business & IP Centre Glasgow take us behind the scenes of the launch event…

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Dr John Scally, CEO National Library of Scotland & National Librarian, Dr Bridget McConnell, CEO Glasgow Life and Roly Keating, Chief Exec British Library

The run up to the launch was not without its challenges! Co-ordinating the diaries of the heads of service from Glasgow Life, the National Library of Scotland and the British Library was no easy feat  - so we were delighted to welcome Dr Bridget McConnell (CEO Glasgow Life), Dr John Scally (CEO National Library of Scotland and National Librarian) and Roly Keating (CEO British Library) to the Mitchell Library on Friday 26 April 2019, fittingly on the same day as World IP Day, to sign the collaboration agreement to officially launch Scotland’s first Business & IP Centre in Glasgow.

Glasgow’s Centre offers local businesses and entrepreneurs access to intellectual property and business information, workshops, one-to-one advice sessions and inspiring events. Our latest evaluation showed we helped to create over 340 new businesses in the last three years with our Business @ The Mitchell service and during our pilot Business & IP Centre phase.[1]. Business & IP Centre Glasgow is delivered in partnership with the National Library of Scotland. A strategic partnership which effectively benefits Glasgow’s business community through enhanced access to business resources available from The Mitchell Library and the National Library of Scotland’s Kelvin Hall campus. Under the Business & IP Centre brand we have been successful in attracting additional delivery partners including our first Entrepreneur in Residence, Rachel Jones (CEO of Snapdragon IP, Director of Totseat). We are also proud to be accessible and welcoming, which has encouraged a variety of users, including 68% women and 45% under 35s, with 46% of entrepreneurs describing themselves as having a social and environmental aim[2].

At the launch event, our partners and local entrepreneurs heard from our panel of speakers Dr Bridget McConnell (CEO Glasgow Life), Dr John Scally (CEO National Library of Scotland and National Librarian), Roly Keating (CEO British Library), Sue Douthwaite (MD Santander Business) and local entrepreneur Kevin Cowan (x10 Solutions), who outlined his experience of using the business information resources and services at The Mitchell to grow his business.

Annie
Annie Campbell, founder of Campbell Medical Illustrations

Another entrepreneur who has benefitted from the Centre is Annie Campbell, founder of Campbell Medical Illustrations, which was established in May 2018. After attending the introductory workshop on how to research her market and intellectual property, she had the reassurance to take her business forward, “The tools and free resources available at the Business & IP Centre Glasgow are second to none and the staff are great. I have a new sense of confidence and motivation.

To celebrate World Intellectual Property Day we finished the launch event with an IP workshop delivered by Business & IP Centre Glasgow’s business information librarian, Tony Lyon.

Everyone at Business & IP Centre Glasgow had a fantastic time at the launch. It was great to experience the genuine enthusiasm and support for the Centre from our partners, entrepreneurs and business support organisations. Joining the network has been a positive move for us and we are looking forward to our journey as part of the Business & IP Centre National Network family as it continues to grow. It’s great to see nationally, across all Business & IP Centres that an additional 7,843 jobs have been created from the 12,288 businesses who have started up with Business & IP Centres[3].

Find out more about the services on offer click here, or follow Business & IP Centre Glasgow on Twitter.

Ruth Hunter, Partnership and Outreach Manager, Mitchell Library

[1] ERS economic impact survey of BIPC users, March 2019

[2] ERS economic impact survey of BIPC users, March 2019

[3] ERS economic impact survey of BIPC users, March 2019