09 December 2021
According to Mintel research (which you can access for free in many BIPCs around the UK), 25% of consumers say they are shopping more with local businesses due to Covid-19*. This isn’t just via the traditional bricks and mortar stores, but online as well, with 44% of consumers shopping more online during the pandemic, as detailed in their COVID-19 Retail and E-commerce: A Year On in the UK report. So, we’re bringing you a selection of small businesses who have used the BIPC services around the UK, to give you some inspiration for gifts, not only for Christmas, but year round.
Treats for everyone
One business who received support from BIPC Glasgow, Cubby Salve, founded by Margaret (or Mimi to her cubbies), makes gentle, small-batch, skincare. Each Salve & Body Bar is made with natural ingredients and is blended and hand poured by Margaret in Cubby’s Salve Kitchen.
Cost: Gift sets from £28.99
Where to buy? Cubby Salve
For those with green fingers
Sacpots are tough yet lightweight ethical plant pots designed to be shaped by you. Sacpots are rot-proof, water resistant, and can be placed inside or outside, available in hundreds of colour mixes. The elastic neck lowers water consumption and the insulating fabric accommodates root growth with full stretch indicating it’s time to pot on. Dispatched with a liner in a post box friendly envelope, your washable Sacpots will store flat after use. Handmade by Marcela Livingston in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Marcela received IP guidance to protect her idea and help with general market research with BIPC Leeds through the free access to its databases.
Where to buy? Sacpot
Pott(er)y about ceramics
Elena creates handmade functional and decorative ceramics at Sunken Studio and in her own studio in Leeds. Products include handmade mugs and bowls can be purchased via Instagram. Elena likes to play with surface patterns and geometries and decorate her creations with bright colours and uses natural elements she finds in her garden such as leaves to imprint and enrich surfaces. She is inspired by her surroundings and loves finding details and harmony in the shapes and colours of everyday life. Elena also finds inspiration from the places of her childhood, waves and rocks by the Sardinian sea. Elena used BIPC Leeds' ERDF funded Start-up Leeds programme to take her business to the next level, which included attending weekly workshops.
Cost: Various (bowl, pictured, £30)
Where to buy? Instagram
For the bookworms
Afrori Books has the biggest selection of books by Black authors in the United Kingdom. Covering every genre that you are looking for with thousands of books in store and online. They have a simple mission: Support Black authors, create diverse bookshelves and be a voice for justice. Founder, Carolynn, had a one-to-one with BIPC Sussex to finding funding opportunities and to access their free databases, including COBRA.
Where to buy? Afrori Books
For the chocoholics
Lucocoa Chocolate, is London's first bean to bar chocolate making company based in North London. You won’t find any refined sugar or artificial sweeteners in these bars, instead Lucocoa opts for the healthier alternatives of coconut sugar and lucuma while also sourcing the best flavoured cocoa beans from around the world. Amarachi, founder of Lucocoa, used Innovating for Growth experts' advice to help scale her business as demand for her product grew rapidly.
Cost: Food and Drink hamper £60
Where to buy: Lucocoa
Get mistletoe ready
Our Circular Economy Start-Up Day panellist, FRUU, is a pioneering cosmetics company that specialises in turning fruit by-products into sustainable cosmetics. Started from the spare room of founders Terence Chung and Kelly Yee in 2017, FRUU developed as an initiative to add value to the waste produced in the agricultural waste stream, reduce the use of resource intensive materials, whilst making sustainability an accessible lifestyle. All products are designed, manufactured and produced from their workshop in London and FRUU is currently stocked in 1000+ stores in the UK, EU, Australia and South Korea. Terence also took part in Innovating for Growth to access professional expertise and advice on critical business areas, strategy planning, marketing and intellectual property.
Cost: Gift boxes start at £2
Where to buy: FRUU
Another from our Start-Up Day Circular Economy panel, Natasha from Urban Cordial started her business by foraging for ingredients in her allotment to turn them into cordials. Over a third of global food does not reach our plates, often because of the appearance of the item, even though it is perfectly safe to eat. Natasha, being aware of this issue, contacted local farms to source their surplus food produce and to date, Urban Cordial has helped to save over 100 tonnes of fruit from landfill. Urban Cordial’s production process is also zero waste with all fruit pulp going to the local farms to become animal feed.
Cost: Get the full range for £48
Where to buy: Urban Cordial
For those cosy nights in
A collection of single origin hot chocolates made with tablets and flakes of real chocolate; starting with White and then in varying cocoa percentages from Venezuela 58%, Organic Peru 70%, Academy of Chocolate Gold winning Haiti 75% up to a 100% pure cocoa! Everything, but the White, is registered with the Vegan Society so you can make it with your favourite milk.
Cost: Prices vary; use BLGIFT at checkout to get free shipping on all orders over £10.00 until the end of December!
Where to buy? Kokoa Collection
Handpicked luxury for the home and garden
At Sophie Conran they know that giving a personal gift to a loved one is the ultimate treat. Their collection has something unique to suit every special person in your life. From Sophie’s licensed ranges, exclusive collections and hand picked products, they have curated an inspirational shop for the whole home and garden.
Where to buy: Sophie Conran
I’m dreaming of an Italian Christmas…
Primo Aperitivo encapsulates the very best of Italy making the Italian Aperitivo easy to enjoy in a sharing format. In addition to the most famous Italian Aperitivo, the Negroni cocktails, Primo Aperitivo is the first brand to release the Americano and Sbagliato cocktails, carbonated upon bottling, which create the first ever range of classic Italian Aperitivo cocktails in a ready to serve format. Primo is committed to serve the best and most authentic cocktails sustainably: each cocktail is produced and bottled using 100% renewable energy and every ingredient is produced at the distillery to reduce carbon footprint and wastage.
Where to buy: Primo Aperitivo
Precious stones for a precious person
Innovating for Growth business, Tomasz Donocik, designs and manufactures bespoke and high jewellery sold worldwide in stores such as Saks Avenue (New York), Isetan Men (Japan) and Tsum (Moscow). If you are looking for something extra special, they also offer a bespoke tailor made service where clients can turn their dreams into modern day heirlooms.
Cost: Prices start at £250
Where to buy: Tomasz Donocik
For the creatives
Stitch & Story is a craft kits company based in London, revamping knitting and crochet as simple, modern and aspirational skills. They empower people to start their own creative projects and tell their own stories using chunky yarns, easy-to-follow instructions and online video tutorials. Stitch & Story believe in the power to create, personalise and achieve something meaningful by bringing out the artisan in everyone. Co-founder, Jennifer Lam, took part in our Innovating for Growth programme and with the help of IP experts; she has launched her business in international markets.
Cost: Various gift offers
Where to buy: Stitch & Story
Fashionable butchers for a Christmas lunch
A small but growing butchery located in Peckham and Beckenham, Flock & Herd aim to provide the very best possible quality and range of produce, combined with their service and experience. This Christmas they have carefully selected the best festive treats from Appledore Free Range Turkey to a perfectly dry aged Ayshire Rib of Beef, whether it’s a small lunch for two or a family feast there are plenty of tasty and delicious delights for you to enjoy.
Cost: Various + £30 deposit payable on the phone
Where to buy: Flock & Herd
For those with a sweet tooth
If you're tired of board games and looking for a fun family activity to do on Christmas day, Sweet Paper Creations have just what you need! The business supported by the Start-ups in London Libraries project in Waltham Forest make and sell piñatas, made from recycled materials, for any occasion, you can even commission your own bespoke character! The profits from their shop help to deliver their “Make It and Break It” workshops, which provide a creative outlet for those suffering from mental health issues, stress, bereavement.
Cost: Various (Snowman, pictured, £30)
Where to buy: Sweet Paper Creations
Visit Delmora's online shop for the perfect gift to add a touch of Christmas sparkle to any outfit. Delmora took part in the Start-ups in London Libraries project in the borough of Bexley, they offer a variety of beautiful jewellery items and accessories to help you turn a 'good look' into a 'great look'.
Where to buy: Delmora
Make a splash
Haus of 420 have just what you need to unwind after the big day of festivities! Handcrafted using pure and organic CBD, essential oils and detoxifying natural spa mineral salts. It offers you consistency, relief, balance and calm resulting in the best nights sleep you’ve probably had in a while. Each bath bomb contains 50mg of CBD and 100% peace. Haus of 420 received local support in Lewisham from the Start-ups in London Libraries project.
Where to buy: Haus of 420
Spread the Christmas cheer
MerryCherie offer a beautiful range of positive wellbeing cards for you to share with your friends and family over the festive season. They are proud to be as environmentally friendly as possible, the cards are wrapped in recycled brown paper and safely and securely packaged in hardbacked/padded envelopes for postage. The Start-ups in London Libraries local support in Lewisham helped Sheree-Marie to start her business MerryCherie.
Cost: (Gingerbread card, pictured, £2.95)
Where to buy: MerryCherie
Handmade with care
Crafty North Londoner is a group of London based artisans producing non-mass produced handmade products, with sustainable and ethical practices at the forefront of their activities. The business supported by Start-ups in London Libraries in Haringey offer beautifully created products so you can make sure the gift you give is the most unique one under the tree.
Cost: Various (Mini Necklace Kit, pictured, £24+)
Where to buy: NorioKnots
04 November 2021
With 61% of Mintel’s Sustainability Barometer respondents saying they were meal planning to prevent food waste and 58% are buying fewer clothes, sustainability and going green are at the top of people’s agendas. Inventors and entrepreneurs around the world are finding new, innovative, environmentally friendly ways to do things and help nurture our planet. This year’s Start-up Day will feature more than 45 speakers who have sustainability at the heart of what they do, all available to watch online, wherever you are and for free. Until then, let’s hear from some of our other BIPs, that’s bright and inspiring people to you and me, who have led the eco revolution.
From initial purchases, processes, marketing and right down to their uniform, Becca and Charlotte are making sure that running a business doesn’t have to cost the earth. The two co-founded North Sky Yurts, based in Yorkshire, which offers a unique venue for weddings, parties, or corporate events, surrounded by nature.
For Becca, having a sustainable business has always been important, ‘for years I’d dreamed of owning my own business. I knew I wanted it to be in glamping, be outdoors, and be something that also contributed something good to the world.’ They do this by planting a tree for every booking and the tent furnishings used are sourced responsibly or second hand where possible.
Attending events and one-to-ones at the Business & IP Centre Leeds helped Becca and Charlotte with their marketing, writing a business plan and access funding. ‘The free advice was so valuable, and it was so great to meet other people wanting to start businesses. It also gave me the confidence that I had a credible idea and could do something with it. Having like-minded people and cheerleaders around your business is vital and working with other small businesses to recommend each other will really help your business along. Make sure you talk about your business in every conversation you have, you never know who that person might know that could help grow your business.’
Another business, who took part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-up programme earlier in the year, wanted to change an industry from the inside. Amarachi who founded Lucocoa in 2015, after teaching herself how to make chocolate in her home, learned that the bean-to-bar quality chocolate could be much better than that available in the mass market, even than perceived luxury brands.
‘I started Lucocoa Chocolate to change how unsustainable the chocolate industry is. Chocolate is one of those things that we eat so much of and know little about – dark chocolate isn’t supposed to be bitter, milk chocolate isn’t supposed to be that sweet and white chocolate is actually chocolate.
Large chocolate companies exploit cocoa farmers, resulting in serious consequences. Farmers are unable to invest in technology or equipment to help them grow the best beans or meet the corporation's demands. This can lead to them to exploiting their workers and using child or slave labour. It is important that farmers are paid a fair price to help stop these harmful practices and it is our commitment to do that.’
Since 2015, Amarachi has rapidly driven the business to production capacity, having secured keystone customers and thriving online sales. ‘Innovating for Growth has been so useful to me, I have spent a long time trying to work out answers to certain questions alone and this course gave me access to experts that could answer the questions I had and give ideas on how to scale the business.’
If you live locally to Southwark, you may recognise our next business, Bottle Farm, who took part in the Start-ups in London Libraries programme. With everyone spending more time inside their houses over the last two years, Bottle Farm is now more relevant than ever. Co-founders Charlie Francis, Daniel Taylor and Emil Schneider, really put sustainability at the heart of their business, they manufacture in the UK and offset 100% of their carbon footprint by funding forestry and decarbonisation projects. In addition to this, the Bottle Farm kit is made from over 95% recycled material. The Bottle Stands and Grow Baskets are made using waste material from the factory floor.
'We are the kit that turns any used plastic bottle into a beautiful indoor farm. Grow delicious vegetables, fresh herbs and even houseplants on your window. Good for you, good for the planet.
The Start-ups in London Libraries programme has been really useful for us. Dean's specialised crowdfunding expertise was invaluable when we were developing a plan for our Kickstarter campaign. Some of the strategies he suggested were hugely effective. The marketing workshops were also great.'
With help from Dean, the SiLL Business Champion for Southwark, Bottle Farm were able to raise £30,000 through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, so keep an eye out for big things coming from them.
If you want to find out more about how you can be eco-concious in your business decisions from the start, join us for our biggest free event of the year, Start-up Day. You can also access Mintel reports and over £5m worth of other online resources for free at BIPCs around the UK. Turn your brilliant idea into a business.
Start-up Day is in partnership with Santander
13 October 2021
Our annual flagship event, Start-up Day is back again. Our free day of online panel discussions, talks and training is back on Thursday 11 November and will feature more than 50 speakers all helping aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners to not only start-up, but start-up sustainably.
Over the years, we’ve had thousands of people attend our events both online and in person around the UK. We’re catching up with some to hear what they’ve done since joining us.
Sara-Jayne Slocombe attended BIPC Manchester’s Start-up Day in 2019 and was self-employed supporting other businesses with their annual reports and admin. This then developed into project work and Amethyst Raccoon was born. Hearing from other people who had been in her shoes, who were now the ones giving the talks was one element of the day Sara-Jayne connected with.
‘The biggest takeaway from Start-up Day was appreciating how much and what is involved in starting up a service-based business, and learning that it is completely do-able and can be dealt with in bite-sized chunks.’
Since October 2019, Sara-Jayne’s business has gone from strength to strength, despite the pandemic. ‘If anything, I’ve had more business. For me, the main effect was being flexible with payments to support clients who had been impacted by Covid. Looking ahead, I hope to pick up more clients, finish my booking keeping qualification and connect with industry leaders.’
Speaking to those who are thinking about starting their own business, Sara-Jayne says, "Get really clear on what you want to do, why you want to do it, and who you want to do it for."
Norwich-based magician, David Fung, started his business with the help of BIPC Norfolk in 2018. ‘I first attended Start-up Day and gained many tools and much knowledge near the beginning of my journey. I later signed up for an accounting one-to-one session, which answered many of my questions and put my mind at rest.’
Start-up Day helped David get more knowledge and understanding of the ‘business fundamentals – there’s so much to learn if you’ve never done this before. In addition, the BIPC has given support in local networking and increasing publicity, and are really accessible if I have questions or need other support.’
David’s advice for others looking to start their own business, “Plan first, then just do it. You can learn by doing. I remember attending Start-up Day and asking a business mentor “What’s the next step after this workshop? Is there a part two?” and she replied “The next step is to do it. Start your business.” Take small steps; before you know it, you’ll be running a business.’
Start-up Day can also provide networking opportunities and allow people to share their skills to support other entrepreneurs. Northamptonshire-based business, Clock and Compass Coaching, founder by Daniel O’Connor, made many connections during BIPC Northamptonshire’s Start-up Day in 2019. ‘One of the people I met went on to design my logo and website, I met the person who runs local networking events and from a workshop on copywriting, I then used that copywriter for my website. There was one other person there I met through networking on the day who became my mentor for a year. Lots of great workshops and lots of great connections which have led on to helping me really boost my business.’
Jessica Runyard, founder of Runyard Editorial Services, studied English Literature at university as she knew she wanted to go into the editorial world. However, living in Devon meant the opportunities were few and far between. She set up freelance and is helping self-publishing authors. Jessica also worked with businesses, helping with their websites. She offers a wide range of services around editing for the local area as well as being a freelancer where she has also worked with people overseas.
Jessica attended BIPC Devon's Start-up Day and found the discussions about networking very helpful, the importance of networking but not over networking. Jessica feels like if she could’ve networked more this year than she could’ve been making a bigger profit by now.
"The most memorable thing about Start-up Day 2019 was the talk on accountancy and business banking – things that I knew very little about but were very interesting. After the talk I knew where to look and who to contact, which was very helpful."
She also took away from the Start-up Day some key things for starting a business that she never knew, for example, when she needed someone to do her accountancy. She learnt how long she could stay a sole trader, when to be registering for VAT – all very important things for when starting a business which she didn’t know about before attending Start-up Day.
Jessica’s advice for others starting a business; “Be confident. Imposter syndrome isn’t a thing, you may feel like an imposter but, everyone feels like an imposter, just do it. The more you sit there and say you can’t do it, you will never start if you come up with an excuse."
Start-up Day is in partnership with Santander
29 September 2021
As businesses across the country closed their doors in March of 2020, it was unclear just how long these doors would remain closed. Small businesses found themselves facing a frightening and confusing time, having to pivot and adjust to the continually changing landscape. In many cases, however, this pause in time allowed some to reflect on their career goals and even prompted them to launch their own businesses. We spoke to four such businesses, who either pivoted or started up during the pandemic and explored how they were able to grow despite unpredictable circumstances.
For Carolynn Bain, the pandemic and the civil rights uprising that started to unfold in the summer of 2020 highlighted the importance and need for her to start up her Brighton based business, Afrori Books. Afrori Books is an online bookshop that specialises in books by black authors, their mission statement is simple; to support black authors, create diverse bookshelves and be a voice for justice.
As a National Network business, we were able to assist Carolynn by providing local information and resources to help her grow during this time, specifically ways to source funding to expand the business into a physical shop via our Business & IP Centre Brighton & Hove.
"Starting a business during the pandemic is an unusual thing to do. However, I think what had a bigger impact on us was starting a business during a pandemic and during a civil rights uprising in terms of Black Lives Matter – they can’t be separated for us. Many people were at home, reading books and for the first time ever really the world was sitting still, watching these things unfold before them. That had a massive impact on us and, in a positive sense, bought customers to us who previously maybe would not have considered looking at books by black authors. As we go forward, we are in the middle of crowd funding as we are looking to open a physical shop – working in partnership with a charity in Brighton who have given us a shop space. That has also come off the back of the civil rights movement, as they want to see Brighton change and become a safe space for black authors and black people living in the city. It’s all interconnected."
Another National Network business, who recently took part in our Innovating for Growth programme, that has seen growth during the pandemic is The Woodlife Project. The Norfolk based business, founded by Hazel Russell manufactures beautiful, innovative, eco-friendly wooden products for the family home with a focus on meal times. The Woodlife Project, who got support from BIPC Norfolk, mostly sell online on their own website and wholesale through a variety of different retailers, most notably during the pandemic they are now available on John Lewis and, like Afrori Books, will be looking to have in store product space soon too. "Our proudest moment in business so far has been getting into John Lewis, as they were one of our ideal retailers from the offset. We are online at the moment - in the nursery section with our bear, fox and rabbit plates. If all goes well we will be in store soon."
Jennifer Lam also took part in our Innovating for Growth programme, she is the co-founder and CEO of Stitch and Story based in London, which is an online crafting company on a mission to make crafting simple and easy to learn. During the numerous lock-downs, confined to their homes, people were getting back in touch with their creative side which bode well for this crafting business and allowed them to grow despite the uncertain circumstances.
"We’re here to inspire a new generation of crafters with our DIY kits, yarns and materials. During the pandemic Stitch and Story grew enormously. I think we were one of the lucky companies who were able to grow because everybody was in lockdown, looking for a new skill or hobby to pick up at home. Stitch and Story provided many customers with a new skill in knitting and crocheting and so we expanded very quickly online predominantly, albeit it was very stressful!"
One of the biggest changes to Stitch and Story was the team; they more than doubled the team during the pandemic from seven to 22. "We had to recruit everyone virtually at the time and it was stressful as we had no experience in doing that before - the BIPC really helped in providing us resources for this."
Start-ups in London Libraries business, Delmora, founded by Judy Chicangana-Matthews, offers a variety of beautiful jewellery items and accessories for women. Judy launched her first product at the end of February, weeks before Covid hit. "The impact was huge. In the beginning, people were buying the essentials such as food and toilet paper, so jewellery was considered a luxury. Nowadays, many people are concerned about their jobs and how that is going to impact their finances.
Covid also affects my KPIs in terms of delivery. I use the service Royal Mail 24, and I have had severe delays on the delivery of the parcels. To compensate my customers, sometimes I offer discounts as a part of the customer service. This practice has seriously affected my margins, so surviving has been very difficult."
Thus, the need to pivot and test out new business models to grow her business came about. By adding a loyalty program to her business, she was able to ensure repeat purchases and a loyal customer base. "My response has been offering discounts to my customers and creating programs to increase the brand’s recognition. For example, I offer the Delmora Club discount to all my customers in which the members have exclusive access to special discounts and pre-launch of our collections. We also recently created the program named Delmora Brand Champion that aims to get more positive reviews around our online presence."
Despite the devastating effects of the pandemic, we are pleased to see small businesses surviving, thriving and growing through it - it has highlighted the importance of small businesses, which are innovative, provide jobs and support local communities. In turn, there has been an increase in public support for local small businesses, to help ensure they remained profitable - a trend we hope continues long after the pandemic has ended.
Although restrictions have been lifted across the UK and many of us are returning to normal life, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt around the world. Our Reset. Restart programme launched to help businesses pivot and adapt to the changing climate throughout the pandemic and will continue to support many beyond that. We have caught up with businesses who attended these free webinars to see how the programme influenced their business operations and what changes they have made since.
One start up that benefitted from the programme is INTARIS founded by Oliver Hickmet; a full-service video marketing agency combining the power of digital film with analytics led strategy. Starting a business can be very lonely, and even more so during a global pandemic. For many, our webinars provide an opportunity to build and connect with a network of entrepreneurs from various backgrounds and expertise. “Reset. Restart was an invaluable way to stay connected during lockdown and learn from others sharing experiences and the dynamic conversations that always arose in the sessions. The presentations always had something interesting you did not know before and it was a perfect way to start the day with a hot cuppa.”
For some business owners, as well as networking opportunities, the support and advice offered by Reset. Restart gave them the confidence and push to grow their business. This was the case for Keira Simpson, owner and founder of Daisy Days Virtual Assistant. She provides PA and administration support to small businesses, helping them to save time so they can focus on their core business operations. It was through one of the small businesses that she was assisting at the time, that she discovered the BIPC. “My client wanted me to research the BIPC and to find out what support and services they could offer to help with the set-up of her Community Interest Company (CIC). This is why I love what I do, I get an insight to so many networks, and I get to experience the fabulous support and services that they offer.”
Keira began by attending BIPC Sussex’s free Reset. Restart webinar – Tools for the Job. This gave her an insight into what digital platforms and software was available to grow her business. Like Oliver, it also provided an opportunity for her to connect with other start-ups and share her knowledge and tips, building her confidence in her business. “I gained an insight to other platforms and gained confidence in how I can support my business. The people that I have had the pleasure in talking to from the BIPC, whether that be from the webinars they offer or via email with a question that has arisen, have been so helpful and supportive. They also offer ideas and information - like speaking to a representative from the centre for advice on your business, to other topics which will steer you in the right direction.”
Julia Alcamo and Dan Hodgson founded documentary production company, Happenstance Films in February 2020, weeks before the world went into lockdown. Although this was a difficult time for the creative industries, it was also a time for Julia and Dan to rethink their goals and strategies.
“The last year has been tough because of the pandemic. Many of the initial plans we made fell through and our hopes of starting out strong were quickly squashed. But, it gave us crucial time to doubly rethink our approach to this new way of making branded content: how would we convince the marketing departments? How could we position ourselves to be ready? What did we really want to do differently?”
While their business idea has remained the same, Julia and Dan were able to tap into the wide range of databases and expert advice from our delivery partners that guided them to the clients their business should aim to target. “To hear others care about how we would get out there and find the right clients was amazing! Since, we have used the databases to create a potential client ‘hit list’, a roster of local small and medium-sized businesses who work in specific sectors who we then prepare pitches for. The services have helped us directly with our growth in so far as they identify potential clients and allow us to gain clarity. It’s been crucial in feeling like we have the necessary inside knowledge to be a player in the local economy. Just having that sense is very empowering for a small business. It's also been really great to feel the support from the team and a have a place to go should we have further questions on business development, local resources or tapping into the community most efficiently.”
Although Reset. Restart began as a way to support businesses, like Happenstance, through the pandemic; many entrepreneurs who have used the service started their business as conditions highlighted by the pandemic pushed them to.
This is the case for Roxy van der Post, a Dutch-born documentary filmmaker and lifestyle photographer who began Myosotis Film & Photography in the summer of 2020. For her, the ongoing pandemic emphasised the many social, racial, and climate injustices that were difficult to ignore. The corporate world was no longer a world in which Roxy felt her values and ambitions were shared, so she forged a new path and now works with purpose-led people, social enterprises and charities to amplify their voices through the collaborative practice of visual storytelling.
After settling in Brighton in February 2021 and having no prior knowledge of Brighton or its business community, the Reset. Restart sessions run by BIPC Sussex were a fantastic introduction to the city and its ambitious entrepreneurs. The informal nature of the Reset. Restart workshops meant Roxy could easily engage with likeminded business-owners and quickly grow her network. “All sessions included interviews with entrepreneurs whose fascinating stories of business growth provided much inspiration and motivation, an informative presentation on topics ranging from finding your ideal customer to pricing models and how to establish valuable connections, and room for open, but facilitated discussions, all expertly woven together by Lucy Paine of alwayspossible.” It was through these events that Roxy was introduced to Business Model Canvas, which “was an absolute game-changer that provided more clarity and confidence than any other business plan.”
Following on from the Reset. Restart sessions, Roxy booked an online one-to-one information clinic with BIPC Information Specialist, Gemma Miller. “There is a wealth of information out there and it can be rather intimidating to explore these extensive databases and conduct benchmark research, but Gemma was very helpful and reassuring, she showed me some of the best options as a filmmaker and photographer. As a sole business owner, I valued the opportunity to talk this through with someone outside of my network. The next step is becoming a member of the library and visiting in person, which - as a bookworm and meticulous researcher – I am very much looking forward to!”
Another business that was born during the lockdown period of the pandemic is Nicola Austin’s Life of Libra. Life of Libra is a Professional Organising and Decluttering business, which began in January 2021.
“Before the pandemic, I was juggling school runs, a long work commute, after school clubs and the everyday pressures of life. I knew how full, cluttered and unbalanced our homes and lives can sometimes feel. The pandemic allowed me valuable time and space to think, read and reflect on my strengths, on what I enjoyed doing and what I wanted to do going forward. After attending a training course run by APDO, (the Associated of Professional Declutterers and Organisers), I decided this was the industry I wanted to work in and joined the organisation. I founded Life of Libra soon after.’
It was through a fellow Professional Organiser at APDO that Nicola became aware of the Reset. Restart programme and she signed up for several of our free webinars. “The sessions were practical, insightful and current. They really impacted my thoughts and actions, especially the sessions on Mindset, Digital Productivity Tools, Business Model, and Products and Services. I reviewed my business case using the Business Model Canvas, re-evaluated my customer segments using the Empathy Map Canvas and considered how best to validate my market research. I learnt about net profit, cash flow and operating costs. I was introduced to Brightbooks, Process Street and Airtable, all free software products that I am now using in the day-to-day running of my business.”
Like Roxy, Nicola then arranged a one-to-one information clinic at the BIPC Brighton & Hove, BIPC Sussex’s regional Centre, where she was given recommendations of networks and people to talk to, suggestions about information resources she could access and websites she could refer to through the library. “I had no idea what to expect, but again found myself impressed. I spent an hour talking to two excellent Information Specialists about my business, my ideas for growth and the challenges I was facing.”
One Dareham-based business, Crescent Research, used BIPC Norfolk and MENTA’s Reset. Restart programme to help generate new business ideas, look at digital marketing tools and strategies, as well as building customer relationships and re-adjusting and re-assessing their cost base.
Tracey, founder of the business, which helps locate missing heirs and reunites individuals with unclaimed assets, also attended networking sessions, which has allowed her to meet other entrepreneurs and hear about their business journeys. “Getting to know others who have also started the new business journey has been beneficial and it’s great to see how everyone is progressing at different stages of their journey, sharing tips, ideas and resources.”
The programme also allowed Tracey to look at the different areas of her business using the Business Model Canvas and focus on the areas which needed more time, resource and thought.
Another Norfolk-based business, bear, founded by Bryony Fayers, which sells sustainable and responsibly sourced products for the family used Reset. Restart for one-to-one sessions with MENTA just as she was starting her business. “The team has been ever so accommodating and understanding about how different people are approaching setting up a new business and for me, it’s been chaotic. The one-to-one sessions have been incredible. The session was warm and relaxed, and so, so useful.”
Lottie Katie Russell, founder of L K Designs, a graphic design and illustration studio, also used BIPC Norfolk’s Reset. Restart networking sessions, “They were so informative and filled with a diverse group of like-minded people in very different fields. They were monthly meetings with a guest speaker at each to discuss different topics that we hadn’t necessarily thought about before. This helped me to drive forward with my small business and put into practice a lot of the skills I had learnt to create my website, social media pages and Etsy shop.”
Another business which benefitted from discussing their ideas with like-minded people was BIPC Worcestershire’s Wise Owl Tuition Kidderminster founder, Danielle Hickey. “The small groups that we worked in enabled us to have more specific discussion that was relevant to our individual business. Feedback on our ideas from the trainers and other participants proved equally valuable. It was most beneficial to be taken seriously as small business owners, but to be supported and be amongst others who were at a similar stage in their young businesses too.”
“The support has enabled me to focus on the next steps for growth of my business, and how to achieve them. It also encouraged me to consider my valuable difference as a business, and what I specifically contribute to the market. I made a timeline business plan in pictorial format to hang on my office wall and have achieved the first three steps of it six months ahead of schedule. The opening of another office suite downstairs and taking on two associate tutors to cope with demand - before I have even started to advertise! I was afraid to look to expand, due to my lack of experience in business. Rob and Phil helped me during my one-to-one to develop the confidence to commit to my ideas.”
20 August 2021
What does your business do?
It’s a simple enough question. And one you presumably answer on a regular basis. Customers need to know, current and potential employees want to understand, and potential partners or investors are keen to get under the skin of your venture. Indeed, how you answer this simple question can therefore secure sales, inspire staff and ensure the very future of your operation. No pressure then...
Yet despite this importance, “What do you do?” is a question that too often inspires an inadequate answer. And that’s usually because we fail to recognise the intentions of the person asking; we fail to think about what people want and need to know.
It’s best illustrated with an example.
Let’s imagine a personal trainer, Jo. If she meets someone at a party, they might ask her “Jo, tell me, what do you do?” And after she predictably responds with ‘Oh, I’m a personal trainer’, there’s a space to fill. And a number of ways to fill it.
Jo could say, “So what do I do? Well it’s lots of gym sessions obviously. I feel like I’m always sweating! But my clients are lovely and it’s a really fun job. And it’s basically impossible not to stay in shape, so I think I will have another vol-au-vent”.
Or Jo could say, “So what do I do? Well I hope I help people feel better about themselves, normally when they’ve struggled to lose weight - which is where I was a few years ago. It’s mostly 1-2-1, but I do online classes too so I can be accessible for everyone whatever their situation which I think is important”.
Which of those is more compelling? Which tells you more about Jo? Which gets you on the hook to find out more? Which version of Jo would you be likely to recommend and hire?
It’s the second one, obviously. But why does it work? Simply, because it recognises the core elements that make a good brand story. It understands a problem, presents a solution, contains a motivation and touches on elements of differentiation. It even shows a good understanding of the audience and why they would be interested in her services in the first place. It comes from empathy, and it understands the value that she adds to her clients.
And when anyone asks what your business does, you need to do exactly the same.
To make it easier for businesses to do that, we created Story Cube. It’s a simple framework that helps every business understand the story they need to tell by answering six simple questions: What problem do you solve? What solution do you provide? Why does your organisation exist? What sets it apart? How do you reach your customers? And, what obstacles could trip you up on the way? The combination of your answers are the basis for a compelling brand story you can use to sell to clients, inspire staff and encourage partners to work with you.
On the last Friday of every month we run a webinar that goes into more detail about Story Cube in order to help your business tell a compelling story and, ultimately, grow. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, what experience you have or what you want to achieve, the Story Cube framework can help you get to grips with what you need to communicate.
Blog by Robbie Dale, creative director at The House London
08 June 2021
Fast forward, and just over a year later and we’re bringing business inspiration and support to more people than ever before by growing the Network from 14 to over 100 libraries. Offering insights and access to free resources, training and events – both online and in-person – BIPCs in regional and local libraries around the UK, can help you imagine, start or develop your business.
Business & IP Centres can open up the path to entrepreneurship for anyone with an idea. While each Centre is equipped with a core set of resources, such as up-to-date market research and business databases, they are brought to life by a tailored and highly individual programme of events, workshops and one-to-ones, delivered in collaboration with local business leaders, role model entrepreneurs and community partners.
This support has been invaluable for over 26,000 business owners supported by the BIPC during the COVID-19 pandemic. In our recent annual survey, almost a quarter of users agreed that the service had helped them gain confidence and resilience to steer their business through the challenges of the past year. Over 3,600 business owners attended events as part of Reset. Restart, an emergency online programme launched last year to provide new skills and resilience to all SMEs affected.
Whether you’re just setting out, need advice on protecting your intellectual property, or simply have a brilliant idea you want to discuss, we’re here to guide you. To find out more about how you can join a thriving business community in your local library, visit our National Network page and find your closest BIPC.
01 June 2021
Sustainability is at the core of Tracey’s handmade beauty business. Beautiful Ethical is a company that offers natural and luxurious wellbeing gift boxes as a way for people to treat themselves or someone they love to positive self-care.
After losing her job during the pandemic, Tracey launched Beautiful Ethical to promote self-care, positivity, and mindfulness with an ethical focus. Read on to find out how she ensures sustainability remains at the centre of her business…
“I love animals and nature, so choosing cruelty free beauty products and making eco-friendly choices are a part of my everyday life and central to the Beautiful Ethical ethos.
Since people like David Attenborough have highlighted the environmental impact we are having on our planet, I think that protecting the environment and living a more sustainable life has become something we’re all more aware of and people are now considering how they can make a difference. For me, starting a business that puts sustainability at its core was always a no-brainer.
All our products are cruelty free, vegan and handmade by small brands in the UK – helping us to keep our carbon footprint down and support the local economy. Our products contain natural ingredients and are made by hand, plus everything is made in small batches to ensure that waste is kept to a minimum. In addition to this, we also:
- Look for products that use sustainable ingredients, such as soy or rapeseed in our candles and wax melts
- Use eco-friendly packaging so that everything can be recycled, or is biodegradable or compostable
- Use an environmentally friendly printing company
- Offset our carbon footprint through Ecologi – an organisation that funds climate-positive projects around the world, including tree planting.”
Tracey has used Business & IP Centre Leeds' services to access free resources and attend webinars and one-to-one sessions which have helped with "friendly, straightforward and practical advice in areas such as designing a website, social media and marketing”.
Find out more about Beautiful Ethical over on their website.
19 March 2021
Not everyone can afford a professional photographer, especially when you are starting a new business and having to spin a number of plates including and not limited to marketing, research and finance... But these days almost everyone has a great camera in their pocket or bag. Today’s smartphones are all pretty good with a good quality lens (or maybe multiple lenses) and software that makes some great photography decisions for you.
I’m Sam Lane and I have been taking photos since I was around 10 years old. I have over 30 years of experience in Marketing Communications working for some amazing brands including Microsoft and I set up a Limited company in 2013 covering both Commercial and Social photography projects. Commercial clients include the British Library, Network Rail and High Speed 1 (that owns and operates St Pancras International station); I have had the pleasure of photographing the Queen, Sir Elton John and John Legend as well as over 85 weddings including two in Australia and one in the US!
So I know what it is like to work in a business and not finding enough time to work on the business. A few years ago the Business & IP Centre ran a(nother) fantastic Start Up Day and invited me to do a session on smartphone photography. This evolved into two-hour workshop – face to face when we are allowed, but now perfectly manageable via Zoom – which gives some practical tips and tricks about how to take better photos using your smartphone, whatever make or model; whatever your skill level; and whatever your business needs.
This workshop is aimed at start-ups, small business owners and entrepreneurs who have brilliant ideas but maybe not the money to pay for professional, outsourced help.
We start by looking at ways of optimising your camera phone settings and identifying some features that are going to be helpful as you take more photos – switching on the camera grid being one great example.
We touch on how to actually take a photo, and moving you from taking a snap to taking a more considered photo.
And really getting to grips with storytelling as “a picture speaks a 1000 words”.
We also look at the importance of planning to make sure that you don’t waste your valuable time. Imagine you are paying someone else to take pictures for you – they’d need to know where, when and what you want the photo of, but also why and how they are going to be used…
We focus (you see what I did there?) on what makes a good photo with the key photographic principles of Lighting and Composition. Ever heard of the Rule of thirds for example?
Even as a professional I know that life is too short to spend time editing so I will give you some tips on making simple edits, mainly using the in-camera editing tools, that help take your images from good to great.
We touch on saving, sharing and storing the images and then focus back on YOU.
My favourite part of the workshop (apart from seeing and hearing your “lightbulb moments” – AE/AF Lock to mention just one) is then finding out about your businesses, looking at your website images and social channels and getting peer group insight from other attendees about what looks good and / or could be improved.
I’ve been amazed - and humbled - at the talent I have seen. People who are thinking about it or just starting out; and those already running small businesses and even growing them - from belly dancers and fitness instructors to tango shoes and pet accessory manufacturers – all with unique challenges but the one common factor – the desire for great photos.
From my experience of running the workshops, we all learn something, especially me!
I look forward to seeing new and inspiring people and hope to meet people face to face at the BIPC later in 2021!
You can find Sam's workshops listed on our Events page: https://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre/workshops-and-events
09 March 2021
This World IP Day we, at the Business & IP Centre, are shining the light on women inventors to celebrate this year's theme of Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity. We heard from the curator from our historical patent collection, Steven Campion, on just some of his favourite inventions patented by women in 2021 for International Women's Day. Now he's added a couple more to the list, who despite not receiving a patent for their remarkable work, have left an indelible mark in the field of innovation and paved the way for future generations of female inventors.
'I decided to add them as they are rightfully considered to be pioneers in their respective fields, which is all the more remarkable considering they worked during a time when it really was a man’s world. Their inclusion also serves as a nice reminder that not all innovations or breakthroughs are patentable, and not all innovators seek to protect their work with a patent.
Although women have always found solutions to the problems around them, social and historical factors mean little of this was recorded. Women inventors would have had fewer resources and faced discriminatory barriers at every step of their journey – often having their contributions downplayed or overlooked entirely.
Therefore just 62 out of the 14,359 patents granted in England between 1617 and 1852 were awarded to women. In fact before 1965, the proportion of women in the UK patent system was generally between 2% and 3%. The proportion has since risen at an accelerating pace, having reached 6.8% in 1998, and then almost doubling to reach 12.7% in 2017. As the number of women working within the STEM sector increases, we can hopefully look forward to this number rising further.
Before we begin, a quick caveat. Earlier patents may exist for some of the inventions given in this list but the following women are widely considered the inventor of their ‘thing’ because it worked (earlier versions didn't in some cases), or it was popular, or it is recognisable to the form as it exists today, and so on.
Trying to do justice to the life and work of Marie Curie (née Sklodowska) in just a few hundred words is almost impossible. She is one of the most famous women of the 20th century, being the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win a Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two scientific fields (Physics and Chemistry).
Curie and her husband and research partner, Pierre, discovered polonium and radium, developed a technique for isolating radium in its pure form, and coined the term 'radioactivity'. Notably, Curie chose not to patent radium, or any of its medical applications, to ensure it could reach its full potential in benefiting the world.
During World War One, Curie also developed mobile X-ray vans known as petites Curies, which saved countless lives on the battlefield. She and her daughter, Irène, trained around 150 women to become radiology assistants for the vans.
Marie Curie is also the name of the UK’s leading end of life charity (and owners of some great charity shops – I’d recommend the one in Highbury). But how did this come about?
In 1930, Curie gave a North London hospital permission to use her name. Staffed entirely by women, the pioneering Marie Curie Hospital treated female cancer patients using radiology. The hospital was destroyed during an air raid in 1944, but the committee overseeing the rebuild decided to separate it from the newly formed NHS, creating instead (with permission from Curie’s daughter Eve) the charity now known as Marie Curie.
Marie Curie has inspired countless women into STEM careers, and will surely continue to do so for generations to come.
Grace Hopper (née Murray) was teaching mathematics when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour thrust America into the Second World War. Wanting to do her bit, Hopper joined the newly formed women's branch of the United States Naval Reserve – despite being told she was too old and small.
Hopper was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard University, where she was one of the first programmers of one of the world’s first electromechanical computers – the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, more commonly known as the Mark I. The manual she wrote for the machine is considered to be the world’s first computer user manual.
Opinion is split on this, but Hopper may have been the first person to describe a computer problem as a ‘bug’, and the fixing of said problem as ‘debugging’. These terms were used very literally by Hopper, when the problem she encountered was discovered to have been caused by a dead moth inside the machine.
After the war, she joined the Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation where she helped to develop the UNIVAC I – the first commercial electronic computer. Here she developed the world’s first compiler, which translated mathematical code into code that could be understood by a computer. The first step in allowing data processors to write programs in English, and the beginning of COBOL, one of the major languages used today in data processing.
This is just a small taste of Grace Hopper’s many achievements. Today she is rightfully remembered as one of the most important figures in the history of computing, and a true STEM pioneer.
Mary Anderson – windscreen wiper
A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here.
Mary Anderson visited New York City in the winter of 1903. This was the year before the subway opened and the streetcar was a popular way to get around town. During her trip it snowed heavily, forcing the streetcar drivers to frequently stop to clear the snow and ice from their windscreens. When this became unmanageable, they would instead drive with their head sticking out of an open window.
Delays and open windows of course meant discomfort for the passengers, especially someone like Anderson who was not used to the chill of a New York winter.
Knowing there had to be a solution, Anderson began work as soon as she returned to Alabama. Her finished prototype was a radially swinging rubber blade which would wipe the windscreen clear of obstruction. Fairly similar to the modern-day windscreen wiper, except Anderson’s invention was manually operated by a handle inside by the driver (in 1917 another female inventor, Charlotte Bridgwood, was granted a patent for the first electrically powered windscreen wiper).
On the 10th November 1903, U.S. patent no. 743,801 was granted to Anderson for her ‘window-cleaning device’. Unfortunately not many people saw the worth in her invention, saying it would be a dangerous distraction to the driver. Cars were also not particularly common and Ford’s Model T was still 5 years away. Anderson therefore made no money from her patent and it eventually lapsed.
As driving became more commonplace, the windscreen wiper was eventually adapted for automotive use, today being an important safety device that is a legal requirement in most countries.
Mary Walton – pollution reducing devices
A copy of U.S. patent no. 221,880 can be seen here; the historic IP collection at the library contains a paper copy of the GB version of the patent (GB 3,512 of 1879).
A copy of U.S. patent no. 237,422 can be seen here.
Elevated trains were installed throughout the larger U.S. cities in the second half of the 19th century, unfortunately bringing a large amount of air and noise pollution for those living nearby. Mary Walton, who lived beside the tracks in Brooklyn, worked to solve both problems, earning herself a place in history as a STEM female pioneer.
In 1879 she was granted U.S. patent no. 221,880 for ‘Improvement in locomotive and other chimneys’. Her invention reduced air pollution by diverting chimney smoke through water tanks. This process dissolved and trapped the pollutants in the water, which would later be flushed into the sewer system.
Next, she realised that wooden elements of the track were amplifying the noise of the trains. Using a model railway she built in her basement, she came up with a working solution – encasing specific sections of the track in weatherproof wooden boxes filled with sand. This successfully absorbed the majority of the vibrations; greatly reducing the noise levels. Before Anderson, many noted engineers and inventors tried and failed to find a solution, including Thomas Edison.
After successful trials, Walton was granted U.S. patent no. 237,422 in 1881. She sold the patent rights to New York City’s Metropolitan Railroad, and before long the system was in place throughout America.
Josephine Cochrane - first commercially successful dishwashing machine
A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here; the historic IP collection at the library contains a paper copy of the GB version of the patent (GB 9,895 of 1887).
Josephine Cochrane, a 19th century socialite, often hosted grand dinner parties at her mansion in Illinois. She was fortunate enough to have servants to wash up afterwards, but Cochrane was unhappy to discover the occasional chip in her heirloom china. She therefore decided to wash the dishes herself, though soon became bored of the task.
So bored in fact, that Cochrane designed a machine to take over. Her machine used water pressure to clean dishes held in place by wire racks – a system recognisable to anyone with a modern dishwasher.
The first few male engineers she hired predictably insisted on changing her design. They were convinced they knew better than an untrained woman, but their changes never worked. Eventually her design was built and U.S. patent no. 335,139 was granted for her ‘Dish washing machine’ in 1886.
At the time the machine was too expensive for most homeowners and required more hot water than the typical home could generate. But after winning a top prize at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, orders poured in from hotels, restaurants, and hospitals.
In 1898 Cochrane started her own company which she managed until her death in 1913. In 1926 the company was acquired by Hobart, which went on to produce the first successful home dishwashers under the KitchenAid brand in the 1940s.
Today half of all UK households have a dishwasher thanks to the pioneering work of Josephine Cochrane – presumably the other half wishes they had room for one.
Margaret Knight - machine for making flat-bottomed paper bags
A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here.
In 1867 Margaret Knight started work at a paper bag factory. At the time, mass produced paper bags had envelope style bottoms, which were both weak and narrow. Flat-bottomed bags were stronger and made packing easier, but there was no machine that could make these. Instead a production line of 30 women were employed to cut, fold, and glue these together. Flat-bottomed bags were therefore expensive and uncommon.
Knight was an inventor at heart. At the age of just 12 she had invented a loom safety device that was used extensively by the cotton industry (but unfortunately not patented). She therefore soon developed a machine that could manufacture flat-bottomed bags from start to finish – something male inventors had been trying and failing to do for years. In 1871 Knight applied for a patent, but was rejected as a similar machine was recently patented by Charles Annan.
Before her application, Knight had visited several machine shops in order to create an iron prototype. At one of these, Annan saw the plans and decided to steal the invention. Knight filed a patent interference lawsuit, with a mass of documentation and witness testimony on her side. Annan could only really state that no woman could design such a machine. Knight of course won, and U.S. patent no. 116,842 was granted for her ‘Improvement in paper-bag machines’ in 1871.
Knight would continue to innovate, being awarded many more patents over the course of her lifetime.
Melitta Bentz – the coffee filter
The industrial property right was granted with registration on page 1145 of the 8th July 1908 edition of the patent gazette of the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin – see image.
Like many of us, Melitta Bentz enjoyed starting her morning with a cup of coffee. What she didn’t enjoy was the bitter tasting coffee grounds still left floating in her cup.
At the time, coffee was usually brewed by pouring ground coffee into hot water and then waiting for the grounds to settle to the bottom. Sieves and cloth bags would help, but they either let too many coffee grounds through, or would be so narrow that the coffee would be cold by the time it was filtered.
One day Bentz had a flash of inspiration. She drilled holes into the bottom of a brass pot, which she then sat on top of a cup. Next, she placed a piece of blotting paper from her son’s school exercise book into the bottom of the pot, adding freshly ground coffee on top. Bentz then poured hot water into the pot and watched as clean, filtered coffee dripped into the cup below – she had invented pour-over coffee and the coffee filter.
In 1908 Bentz was granted utility model 343,556 for her ‘Coffee filter with a domed underside, recessed bottom and inclined flow holes’ from the patent office in Berlin. The same year she founded the company ‘Melitta’ and began to sell her pot and filter paper. In the 1930s Melitta would go on to create the cone shaped filter and today, the still family owned business, produces over 50 million filters a day.
Despite the ease of modern coffee brewing methods, pour over coffee has remained popular amongst coffee lovers, who appreciate the high level of control it provides.
Elizabeth Magie – the landlord’s game
A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here.
For the longest time it was an accepted fact that Monopoly was invented by Charles Darrow in 1933. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a decade long trademark infringement lawsuit revealed the actual truth – Monopoly was heavily based on another board game patented decades earlier by a progressive woman called Elizabeth Magie.
Magie was granted U.S. patent no. 748,626 in 1904 for her board game ‘The Landlord's Game’. It was designed to illustrate the anti-monopolist theories of 19th century economist Henry George, and as such it came with two rule sets – one monopolist, the other anti-monopolist. The idea being players would see the latter was the morally correct choice.
Failing to find a publisher, Magie self-published the game in 1906. It sold poorly, but a local economics professor picked up a copy and played it with his students. At the time it was not uncommon to create handmade versions of published games, and that’s exactly what several of these students did, and it’s exactly what several friends of these students did, and so on.
As the homemade versions spread, the game would change a little here and there. New house rules would be added and the street names would be updated to reflect local towns. Ironically, people thought it was more fun to own land, charge rent, and bankrupt friends and family, and so the anti-monopolist rules were left permanently to one-side.
Fast forward to 1932, and Charles Darrow is introduced to a home-made version of the game. He immediately creates his own copy and starts to sell it under the name ‘Monopoly’. It does well and he sells the board game rights, becoming the first millionaire game designer in history. By contrast, Magie is said to have earned only $500 from her board game.
Hedy Lamarr – frequency-hopping
A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here.
Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood icon who was promoted as ‘the most beautiful woman in film’. She was so startlingly beautiful in fact, that her brilliant mind was largely overlooked her entire life. It wasn’t until her later years, and sadly really only after her death that the world would learn of her part in the development of the wireless technologies we take for granted today.
It was World War Two, and Lamarr had heard that German U-boats were easily jamming the signals that guided the radio-controlled Allied torpedoes. She hit on a brilliant solution – if the signal hopped from frequency to frequency rapidly, then it would be near impossible to detect and jam.
She asked a composer called George Antheil to help realise her invention, and together they created a system that used paper piano rolls, perforated with a complex and random pattern, to make a signal hop rapidly between 88 frequencies – the same number of keys on a piano.
U.S. patent no. 2,292,387 was granted for their ‘Secret communication system’ in 1942, however the Navy declined taking their idea forward. It is thought the invention was not taken seriously as it was created by an actor who was world famous for her beauty.
However during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, about three years after the patent had expired, the technology was adapted and in use. Fast forward many more years and frequency-hopping would be foundational to modern wireless technologies, such as GPS, Bluetooth, and secure Wi-Fi.'
For more on intellectual property and female founders, you can visit at the Business & IP Centre resources at bl.uk/bipc.
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