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.
18 February 2021
Business experts will tell you that to be successful in a crowded market you need to have a great idea, an idea that stands out from the competition. Many great ideas are born out of a personal aspiration to solve a problem, a problem that affects a group of consumers and represents a gap in the market waiting to be filled.
In 2016, Nicola Lespeare set out to do just that. She launched Nicola Lespeare Greeting Cards “to solve the problem regarding the lack of visible representation and availability of Black characters in greeting cards in the UK”.
"The UK is a multicultural society, yet the vast majority of greeting card shelves fail to reflect this.”
Her vision was to “initiate change and increase diversity in the greeting cards industry”. Every year, Nicola would search retail stores, looking for the ideal birthday card for her sister. “I asked sales advisors which aisle the Black greetings cards were located and the response was always the same, ‘we don’t sell them’.”
Having rediscovered her passion for drawing, Nicola embarked on amplifying the prominence of Black character cards and creating lasting change in the greeting cards market.
“My sister deserved a card that she would resonate with – an illustration that looked like her, instead of a generic card with pictures of flowers, teddies and cupcakes, so I decided to create my own! I purchased a set of coloured pencils and sketched an illustration of a Black girl with radiant skin and a fabulous afro, surrounded by a bunch of vibrant balloons. My sister loved her surprise and was so excited to receive a birthday card that reflected her deep skin tone and afro hair. Seeing her eyes light up with joy made me want to recreate the same happy experience for others.”
Nicola had identified a gap in the UK greeting cards market and consumers in the Black community who shared her struggle to find relatable, stylish cards. Armed with pencils and a great idea, she was ready to launch her brand.
“Nicola Lespeare Greeting Cards is an aspirational brand specialising in distinctive, illustrated designs inspired by fabulous afros and deep skin tones. Representation is key to instilling self-worth, building confidence and creating a sense of belonging. Receiving a card that you identify with, whatever your age, is a special feeling, a Nicola Lespeare Greeting Card instantly makes you smile because the giver has considered a card that reflects you!
“The response has been brilliant, customers and card recipients leave feedback and respond to our newsletters with comments such as ‘This card looks like me!’, ‘Great to see positive images’ and ‘Representation matters!’
“Being new to starting a business, I found the British Library’s webinar, Introduction to Copyright for Business, valuable when registering my logo and the Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Cultural Changemakers was a highly insightful event. An informative one-to-one business session with an advisor at the Business & IP Centre Nottingham facilitated mentor support through a Nottingham business programme, this enabled me to align my priorities with my brand vision.
“The Metro, You Magazine and The Strategist have featured my cards in online articles which has increased our circle of brand supporters and social media presence. Nicola Lespeare Greeting Cards recently joined online greeting card retailer Moonpig as well.
“This is a really exciting milestone because it means enabling a wider audience to celebrate with Black greeting cards and choose touching sentiments that reflect the important people in their lives.’’
10 February 2021
Around the Business & IP Centre National Network, Reset. Restart webinars have been supporting entrepreneurs to pivot and adapt to the ever-changing business climate. We’ve caught up with businesses from around the UK who have made changes to their businesses since attending the programme's webinars.
Some business owners struggle with various aspects of running a business, planning, forecasting, research. Mario Spiridonov, founder of Santa Sofia coffee took part in our Reset. Restart programme to help with just those things.
Mario incorporated Santa Sofia in December 2019, with a B2B business plan. When COVID-19 struck and disrupted his plans, he turned to the BIPC’s Reset. Restart webinars to help learn about and research different markets.
“When the hospitality industry was in lockdown, I was in shock, as I had stock worth of £5,000 which had a shelf-life of less than a year and I wasn’t eligible for any of the government support grants. After browsing Eventbrite, I signed up for the BIPC Leeds’ webinars to learn more about marketing, forecasting finances and networking. One webinar in particular, with Helen from Collective Stories on getting your products in the retail market was an amazing experience. I learnt so much and Helen was so passionate. I had a follow up one-to-one session with her, which really inspired me.
I then signed up to a finance webinar with Gareth Allen coaching and really learnt the importance of forecasting, again, I immediately signed up for a one-to-one session and he helped me navigate my finances in a better way. He helped me understand the importance of expecting expenditure and money coming into my business finances. As a follow-up, I’ve also been supported with great market research, which is unbelievable. I just can’t explain in words how grateful I am for all the support I have had from BIPC.
The three main takeaways from the programme have been: Planning is important, networking is key, do your research and never stop learning about your market and finances. Since attending the webinars, I have started doing my forecast on a weekly basis, preparing presentations ahead of approaching clients and learning more about different aspects of my market.
At the start of lockdown, I wasn’t eligible for any grant money and having invested with my own capital money, three months before, was such a stressful time. However, I have since managed to secure a bounce back loan, which is great. Now I can start again from scratch."
For The Shortlisted founder, Silvia Pingitore, the pandemic opened up some opportunities both for her entertainment and music magazine, but also in terms of business support.
“It’s difficult to see and celebrate opportunities for you when this means somebody else losing their job. As a journalist, I have been able to interview many more people than usual in the music industry during 2020 because tours were cancelled and artists were suddenly available. Was I happy to interview all these big stars? Of course I was. But I won’t forget at what cost this was made possible.
I had previously taken part in so many amazing BIPC webinars, one-to-ones, panels and events prior to joining Reset. Restart that I was 100% sure this programme was going to be great too. Fluff and pointlessness are the worst things when it comes to online business events. It’s very easy to emerge from webinars extremely annoyed and confused, but this will never happen with BIPC programmes. They have structure, quality, plenty of practical examples and sense of purpose, in addition to bring together a great community of like-minded entrepreneurs.
Since attending the webinars, I learned to let things go. When you’re doing everything by yourself in business, it’s easy to get lost into three million different things, and if you absolutely want to do perfectly in every of the 50 jobs you’re performing, you’re going to burn out very soon. There are things that can be learned, other can be outsourced after you’ve learned how and what to outsource, but certain things just need to be scrapped. Less is more, and putting this principle into practice is the biggest change I’ve made to my business since attending the webinars… it sounds weird, but I basically learned to procrastinate!”
One business which is putting its best foot forward is Esentzia, who produce luxury men’s home slippers. The slippers are designed to be comfortable with added health technology in the insole. Brigitte, who founded the company, manufactures the product in the UK using only biodegradable and recyclable materials.
The Reset. Restart programme came at the right time for Brigitte, who is at the start of her business journey, who used the webinars to learn about business models, market research, marketing, finance and more. “It has also helped me to clear my mind and to focus on my business. I feel more confident in knowing where to find information and who I should address when I need help. Finally, I feel part of a group, part of a community that helps me to launch my dream, I feel to be in a positive environment to succeed.”
Alongside the main programme, Brigitte also attended the smaller group Q&As which helped cement all the elements from the main webinars to take into consideration and to keep in mind “what people value”. From these follow-up sessions Brigitte received additional practical support, with spreadsheets to help her create her financial forecast and the idea to use offcuts from mattress production as a recycled material in her product.
It’s not just Brigitte who is looking for ways to make her product more sustainable, BIPC Leeds’ entrepreneur, Omar Bahadur, founded Faraday after graduating from Bradford University. Faraday is natural raspberry rose flavoured water with similar caffeine to your typical energy drink without the artificial ingredients, high sugar content or carbonation. Sustainability is also at the fore of the business as it’s served in an aluminium bottle that’s resealable and reusable.
Whilst working on his business as a side hustle to his full-time job, Omar invested everything he earnt into his idea. “Since our limited first run of 2,000 bottles in July 2020, Faraday is now stocked in a total of 10 independent stores in Bradford and Leeds, as well as making sales on our website offering free UK delivery on our cases of 12.”
“Faraday’s first offering has been subjected to two years of R&D since inception in November 2018 prior to commercialisation. We are in a proof of concept phase collating feedback on our pricing, recipe and packaging. We landed a Bounce Back loan last year and this will be used to scale-up before seeking angel investment next year.”
Before the pandemic Omar used BIPC Leeds, in Leeds Central Library, for workshops, access the free market data and IP clinics. During the lockdown, Omar, with the help of BIPC staff has continued to access data remotely and attend Reset. Restart webinars on dealing with retailers along with one-to-ones with the delivery partner. “The webinar highlighted the importance of storytelling, and on a deeper level the DNA behind the brand as opposed to simply focusing on the product. This prompted me to work on developing this, for example, what are the three things I want Faraday to stand for in the minds of consumers? Natural, sustainable and inspiring. This then dictates everything we do from packaging design through to recipe and choice of words on the website as opposed to vice versa.”
Omar has also made sure his intellectual property for his product is protected and has taken out UK and US trademarks and a patent for the resealable bottle, which is a novelty with aluminium. This allows the product to be cheaper and more sustainable than using a traditional glass or plastic alternative.
Customer feedback is key to Omar’s plan, “we’re keen to implement the feedback from our customers across all areas. This also includes packing less into a case, strengthening our online presence via our website and Amazon, as well as tweaking the flavouring. Increasing our retail presence is likewise on the agenda. The pandemic has been beneficial for us in the sense that we landed the loan last year, without this I don’t think Faraday would exist today.”
It’s not just Omar who has been thinking about how his brand is seen by consumers. Susan Widlake, founder of Mill House Millinery, used BIPC Cambridgeshire & Peterborough’s Reset. Restart webinars to revisit the messaging to her customers in order to address her appreciation to her local community, which she’ll reflect on her website.
Susan had always had a passion for hats and after travelling the world as an IT auditor, decided to leave the corporate world behind her, return to the UK and turn her passion into a business.
“I now make hats at my home studio, a windmill, just outside Saffron Walden on the Cambridgeshire/Essex border. My hats are named after places and locations that have captured my imagination. I love to incorporate local silk, woven in Sudbury in Suffolk in my designs, and my millinery wire comes from twenty miles away in Essex. A case of inspired globally, created locally.
“Everything I make is unique, from wedding hats to show stopping creations made for racegoers and millinery competitions. I’m particularly proud that one of my pieces was selected from hundreds of entries to be exhibited at London Hat Week in 2020.”
2020 was a challenging year for Susan, with no weddings or events, it could have easily forced her business to stop, however Susan quickly pivoted to online fairs to showcase her designs and started sewing face masks. The thought of her local community was at the forefront of her designs with her Etsy shop stocking prints relating to the local area with crocuses and windmills. These struck a chord with the local tourist information office who saw her designs on Twitter and now stock Susan’s face masks and have put in multiple repeat orders.
She didn’t stop there. “Some ladies in a business network I belong to, Thrive Collective, asked if I’d consider making some sequin face masks for Christmas. I was a little dubious, as wanted them to be both comfortable and washable, so made some samples and got them to market test them. When they were road testing them, people were asking them where they came from, and I was referred to a local boutique, Blue in Saffron Walden. They asked if I could make some for them, and they were then featured on ITV’s Lorraine. These sales totally turned my business around, and have given me a huge amount of local and national exposure.”
Before Reset. Restart, Susan used BIPC’s webinars to help with her online presence. In the space of a few weeks after attending a Getting your business online webinar, “I’d stopped procrastinating, and purchased a domain name, and set up social media accounts”.
“Alongside Reset. Restart, I’ve been attending a millinery business course, and all of the topics have really reinforced the learnings I’ve been getting on the course.” Susan’s best piece of business advice is ‘done is better than perfect’, “I had to accept that in the real world getting your font choice and size doesn’t have to be perfect, and doing something is far better than nothing. My Etsy shop went live with just six product listings.”
Another business owner who attended our Reset. Restart programme is Lea Fletcher. In February 2020, Lea started a small business as a sole trader, offering business support services. “This started as a friend who had a business needed support and asked me to help out. I used the opportunity to set up Girl Friday Business Support Services. As my friend was an essential service business with key workers, I was required to work during the first COVID-19 lockdown period. My contract came to an end and I was offered other contracts by other businesses. I also applied to Anglia Ruskin University to complete a Master's in Project Management in order to provide additional services from my Girl Friday business and expand the range of services too.
“Unfortunately, I was in an abusive relationship and I had to leave home for my safety and go and stay in a Refuge. Whilst I have been living in the Refuge I have not been able to work, however, my current situation and the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown gave me the idea to focus on undertaking a project to help domestic abuse victims and survivors.”
Lea wanted to create a safety application that could be located discretely within existing commercial websites and an online community platform, in collaboration with other service providers, agencies and businesses etc. “The aim is to provide essential information, access to resources, and necessary products and services to help assist current victims and survivors with their ongoing recovery journey. I am very passionate about this having gone through my own experience and now have a back story I can utilize to help others. I am currently researching this project and entering the first stages of establishing the concept.”
The Reset. Restart programme has supported Lea since it started in November 2020. “I have been attending lots of workshops and one-to-one sessions. They have proved to be very helpful and informative. I have attended all the workshops so far, but the one I enjoyed the most was my one-to-one session with a business advisor who helped to give me clarity with my ideas. The workshops came at a crucial time for me and have assisted to give structure to my business and also explore possible pitfalls that I could avoid, amongst other things.”
Lea’s new business to support her first project is called Adhoc Project Management. “I am currently going through the process of setting up and applying for funding in order to undertake my project to help victims and survivors of domestic abuse.”
If you'd like to see what webinars are taking place with your local BIPC, or from London, visit our Reset. Restart webpage.
09 February 2021
Rasheed Ogunlaru is the life and business coach at the Business & IP Centre, joining as a partner 14 years ago. Rasheed runs several of our popular workshops, particularly those with a focus on networking and building a values-led business that speaks to your customer. Currently working as a life coach, leadership and business coach and a motivational speaker, Rasheed has worked with clients including entrepreneurs, entertainers and organisations such as the NHS and is also the author of the book Soul Trader – Putting the Heart Back into Your Business.
I have worked with the Business & IP Centre for around 14 years helping aspiring and entrepreneurs boost their skills, confidence, network, impact and life balance. I’m known for my ‘Become who you are’ approach to coaching and development which helps people find greater peace and progress from within. Prior to coaching, my career began in media & public relations and as a singer songwriter.
About Rasheed’s workshops
Networking for Success - Express
This is an inspiring and practical online event to help you network strategically, effectively, authentically and nerve-free in person and online.
It covers the fundamentals of networking, looking at why it’s essential and the psychology of it including:
- Working a room, including being authentic, body language and the do’s and don’ts
- Being clear, crisp and concise in what you say
- Tips of networking remotely and online in new changing world
- Networking practice, questions and answers and discussion.
It’s aimed anyone who finds networking daunting or overwhelming but knows its importance in terms of advancing their career or improving their communication skills.
The session blends a ‘how to network’ seminar with an online networking event so you learn to network effectively and make new connections at the same time. It will help you build your clarity, confidence and to develop a networking strategy online and in person.
Soul Trader – Your Life, Your Business
My second core workshop for the BIPC is aimed at aspiring, start-up or emerging sole traders, freelancers and small business owners, and focuses on helping you start/grow a business that you and your customers will love. This event will help reduce the financial and emotional costs of starting and growing a business and will help you follow your heart, skills, mission and passion and build a business in balance with your life by forging rich relationships. It’s also a great opportunity to network with other like-minded people.
It covers this in 7 steps:
- Clarity: Know your mission, talent, values & brand; let this passion propel you.
- Customers: See life through customers’ eyes to win custom, profit and loyalty.
- Courage: Unleash your inspiration / wisdom and adopt an athlete’s attitude.
- Co-operation: Punch over your weight; collaborate. Use / build your network.
- Conversations: Learn to connect, create and c
- Creativity: Know when to work, rest, be at your best and (re)gain life balance.
- Compassion: Live by heart; be transformational not transactional
+Change: anticipate, embrace and shape change.
You can expect to go on a journey to really get to the core of who you are, what you’re about and how to build your business in a way that’s authentic to you and your customers
You will leave the session inspired, organised, with greater customer insight and with a clear simple plan of your next actions. This session will also boost your confidence and give you tips on staying energised, centred, authentic, creative and stress free.
Plus… there’s more
I also currently run the BIPC’s Reset. Restart your Connections Coffee Hour. This is part of the Reset. Restart programme which is designed to help businesses bounce back from COVID-19. The Coffee Hour gives you the space to pause, reflect, make new connections, gain some ideas and inspiration and think ahead.
I also support on the Innovating for Growth programme for the Business & IP Centre, running the Getting Ready for Growth welcome workshop on the Innovating for Growth Scale Up Programme – so if you’re on the journey of building your business and apply for and are successful in joining the programme, I will be one of the first touchpoints.
I also chair the Innovating for Growth Start Up Stars events where growing business owners share their stories. They are great events to get inspired, get valuable business tips and network with other aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs.
25 January 2021
Meenesh is the co-founder of Wholey Moly, alongside his wife, Parul. They started their mission to prove that an afternoon snack didn’t have to be a rash, overly sugared vending machine decision by creating delicious cookies made from the best ingredients and free from refined sugar. After taking part in the Innovating for Growth Mentoring scheme in 2017, their cookies were snapped up by some of the finest food retailers in the UK such as Selfridges, Whole Foods and Daylesford. They are new moving towards launching globally and have been using this period of lockdown to focus on improving their digital strategy and recouping retail costs through online rather than in-person sales.
‘We have been on a rollercoaster this year with our little cookie company taking its next steps to become what we imagined. Myself and my wife Parul, have had to keep on our toes since starting our business, especially now with a little cookie monster of our own to take care of.
We successfully applied for the government bounce back loan and we decided to use this to move our strategy from retail to more online focused. We knew it was a completely different kettle of fish and decided to take on some help for this and so we hired an E-commerce Growth Manager to help us create a more digital led strategy to get our name out there online.
During this madness we have been doing our best to connect with retail suppliers and stockists ready for the re-opening of stores and have been getting some great results. It is refreshing to see the support retailers and external organisations have in the underdogs/ family run businesses. So hopefully the public will be able to taste our cookies in shops and cafes near you soon.
Here’s a look at what a week can look like, but I have to be honest it rarely flows to plan, it all depends on what projects we have going on for example at the end of 2020 we had a rebrand of the business and launched a new webshop so for 3 months it was all about branding, website development and digital marketing.
Friday It is probably better to start with Friday afternoon as that is when I plan my following week.
I have a 3 month plan which I try to break down each week, it doesn’t always go to plan but it ensures I’m moving in the right direction. The weekly plan means I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing come Monday Morning.
Monday My day typically starts around 6am when I squeeze in a bit of exercise – but I have to be honest it’s not always the case. From 7-9am is a daily battle of getting our son who is 3 years old up, fed and packed off to nursery.
My working day then starts at around 9am.
Mondays I cover operations. This means looking at stock levels, forecasting ahead and scheduling new production runs. I also try to catch up on any industry news, reading The Grocer/LinkedIn etc.
Tuesday I keep a minimum of 2 full days for sales, I follow up on any sales leads from prior weeks and work on new business development.
This can mean anything from calls, site visits (although not so much under the current climate) and preparing presentations.
Wednesday I find that meetings can be quite disruptive for productivity so try and schedule my meetings all on the same day – usually Wednesday!
The calls vary massively including funding, sales, industry calls, networking and being pitched at from suppliers.
It can be quite a full on day so I try and get out for a walk on some calls.
Thursday Back to sales! Here I follow up from anything on Tuesday but I also spend time with our e-commerce manager and Amazon person looking at our online sales and how we can better optimise it.
We are new to e-commerce so there’s a lot to learn and I find it quite fun to tinker with the various marketing levers.
Friday I leave Friday to catch up on all back office things, most notably finances – paying bills, issuing invoices, doing cashflows.
I tend to clear out my inbox and then look at my 3 month plan and start to plan the following week.
Since lockdown I really miss those water cooler conversations so I’ve started to book in calls with my peers just to have a chin wag on Fridays, which is a great way to finish off the week.
Make sure to check out our new website and if you would like to try any cookies here’s a discount code for our fellow British Library businesses BRITLIB20.
01 December 2020
As 2020 draws to a close, we are taking the opportunity to celebrate and support small businesses. And what better opportunity than gift-giving during the festive period? We've rounded up just a selection of businesses who have taken part in Innovating for Growth, Start-ups in London Libraries or used our National Network who may just be able to help you find the perfect gift for that hard to buy for person!
Healthy, glowing skin and a moment of calm. Pamoja® is a conscious skincare brand based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Sarah Taylor, a trained skincare formulator, has created a simple daily skincare routine designed to help multitasking women step back from the stress of a busy, modern lifestyle and care for their skin with premium natural and ethically sourced ingredients, beautiful textures and aromas that leave you feeling radiant and relaxed. Certified cruelty free. Vegan. Palm oil free.
Cost: From £10
Where to buy: Pamoja
This is your life
Turn your past into a Christmas present. Autodotbiography is an online system that makes it easy for anyone, no matter how good or bad at writing, to create a beautifully written and lavishly illustrated hardback book of their life story for their family. Basically, it is a virtual ghost writer and virtual book designer, all the author has to do is answer simple questions about their life and add photographs and documents and autodotbiography turns their words and pictures into a beautiful book. A perfect present that becomes a family heirloom.
Cost: £250 (for a year's access to the online system and one hardback book)
Where to buy: Autodotbiography.
Evolve Beauty products are lovingly handmade in small batches at their studio in Hertfordshire, England to ensure the freshness of the precious antioxidants in the natural oils, butters and extracts. Our products are vegan, cruelty free and eco-friendly.
Evolve's glamorous, golden Bio-Retinol Gold Mask delivers the benefits of retinol without the irritation, and it does this by containing a natural, retinol-like plant extract from Bidens Pilosa that works on the skin to deliver the same rejuvenation benefits and cellular renewal but without the added irritation that some retinol based products can cause. It also contains Rosehip Oil and Argan Oil making it rich in omega 3 and 6 which help to nourish and moisturise, leaving you with glowing skin. The golden shimmers come from sustainably sourced mineral Mica, so it makes for an extremely luxurious face mask!
Where to buy: Evolve
Keep warm, dry and cosy
So very British, my dear! Heating & Plumbing London creates British lifestyle accessories to keep you warm, dry and cosy. Heating & Plumbing love being tongue-in-cheek with everything they do, including their name!
Cost: Various but get 15% off sitewide with code: SoVeryBritishLibrary (valid until Thursday 31 December 2020)
Where to buy: Heating & Plumbing London
On 3 May 2016, an evacuation put 80,000 residents onto Fort McMurray, a sole access road without notice. What followed was a new form of hyper energised anthropogenic fire that burnt uncontrollably through their settlement and industry over three days. These pictures were made along that road as the region recovered six months afterward. On The Line is made from recycled coffee cups and EU Ecolable Certified paper from the Scandinavian Boreal Forest and the ink is 100% plant based by Park Communications, London. Photographs and words by Alan McFetridge. Available at Whitechapel Gallery, The Photographer’s Gallery and Clair De Rouen Books in London.
Cost: Book, £16.50. Framed limited edition prints, from £750
Where to buy: Alan McFetridge
Children's gift bundles
Lemon Ribbon is an inspirational contemporary youth brand sparkling with energy and originality. Based around a series of characters, they have used their background of designing for international childrenswear retailers to create a world of cheerful education encompassing both an online world and physical products such as toys, books, accessories and other educational products. Their online shop sells exclusive toy and backpack bundles, comprising of zipped backpack, pencil case and small plush toy, that make ideal Christmas presents for children aged 4 - 7. The bundles arrive wrapped in tissue paper and can include a personalised gift note.
Cost: £40 + get a free pack of cards with code: BLCARDS (valid until 24.12.20, not valid in conjunction with any other offer)
Where to buy: Lemon Ribbon
Toe-gether at Christmas
Socks are guaranteed to appear as gifts on Christmas Day for someone, luckily for you, we have something a little bit different... ChattyFeet, a funny gift brand that inspires people to get silly with illustrated sock characters, paper models, mugs, enamel pins and more.
Cost: Adult socks from £8
Where to buy: ChattyFeet
For the foodie
Based on age old traditions, The Slow Vinegar Company makes small batches of finely crafted vinegars from scratch. By using a traditional double fermentation process, produce is transformed slowly into unique tasting wine vinegar. All their vinegars are aged and matured to allow further depth and complexity of flavour to develop.
The Slow Vinegar Company uses seasonal fruits, roots, berries and blossoms; grown, foraged or picked from local farms to make their delicious range of 12 exciting flavours. All of their vinegars are raw, unpasteurised, vegan friendly, gluten and preservative free, and packed full of natural goodness. Perfect for all of those festive dishes!
Cost: From £4
Where to buy: The Slow Vinegar Company
For the crafter
Treat a friend or a crafty loved one to a Fold Line gift voucher and give them the gift of choice! If you’re not sure about their handmade style, a e-gift voucher will let them choose from hundreds of sewing patterns on the Fold Line's online shop.
Cost: Gift vouchers can come in the amount of your choice
Where to buy: The Fold Line
And for the craft beer lovers...
indiebeer has a great range of Christmas gift products on their website, including subscription services to last your beer-loving friend the whole year. An ideal present to wrap up under the tree would be their personalised beer box. You choose your budget and the indiebeer team will put together a box of beers for you based on our personal recommendations, whatever your budget. All boxes include a beer menu with descriptions of each beer and a gift note can be included if required.
Cost: Budgets from £20
Where to buy: indiebeer
Let it 'stow
Kitchen Canvas is part of our Waltham Forest Start-ups in London Libraries' community and they are representing all things Walthamstow which this delectable hamper. The purchase of one hamper allows you to support 10 local businesses. Let someone else do the hard work of curating your gifts for you with this beautiful box of goodies.
Where to buy: Kitchen Canvas
A mug of cheer
Victoria Eggs creates playful homewares and gifts, all of which are proudly made in Britain. Her Santa's Sleigh Mug is a beautiful stocking filler gift. With an image of Santa flying his sleigh over a snowy picturesque English town as people below go about their last minute preparations unaware of the magic happening above them, this fine bone china mug is certain to make you smile whilst enjoying your cuppa on Christmas morning. This mug is hand decorated in Britain and printed onto fine bone china.
Cost: £12. Customers can get 10% off all orders over £35 by entering the code BL2020.
Where to buy: Victoria Eggs
Couture combating climate change
Tammam is a sustainable couture fashion studio now offering an exclusive collection of ready-to-wear and accessories to support textile artisans in India. These beautiful scarves are available in organic cotton or peace silk and production of them has helped artisans survive lockdown. The scarves have been woven in the climate stripes (Professor Ed Hawkins, university of Reading) - the scale which depicts the rise of global temperatures over the last 170 years. Not only are these scarves 100% biodegradable, fair trade and carbon neutral in production (all the weaving has been created by hand on traditional looms, using human power), they also hold a message - a reminder of the very real issue of climate change. They're a little piece of couture luxury, delivered.
Cost: £30 to £180 with delivery included
Where to buy: Tammam Climate Stripes Couture Collection
Gift them some get up and go
HAVEN sells coffee with the aim of raising awareness for refugee communities across the UK, from promoting refugee artists to organising events both visual and performing art, as well as providing barista training to those refugees who are looking to build a new professional life for themselves. They have rolled out a range of festive gifts this year including packages that include bags of coffee and branded totes and T-shirts. Or how about a monthly coffee subscription?
Cost: From £22
Where to buy: HAVEN Coffee
And we all know Christmas isn't just for the humans. Treat your furry friend with an upgraded stay at Longcroft’s award winning group of cat hotels.
Kitties can celebrate in style by beginning the big day with a carefully chosen hamper full of toys and goodies. Guests that are allowed will also enjoy a hand prepared breakfast with choices from the hotel’s ‘A La Cat’ Menu. Because Longcroft hotels are located within the hotel owners home gardens they can have a welcome break from the kitchen and enjoy cuddles and play sessions with their guests. The afternoon can be spent relaxing from the comfort of their suites whilst sinking into the finest pillows for a cat nap. Every hotel owner is hand picked and trained by Longcroft founder Abi Purser and her team of experts including Head Vet Chris.
Cost: From £18 per day
Where to buy: Longcroft Luxury Cat Hotel Group
Don't get tied up in knots
Norio Knots offer eco-friendly woven cotton statement necklaces and accessories, and was born after one throwaway purchase too many. This is sustainable fashion, built to last. Each Norio Knots piece is made from 100% recycled cotton, and made to order. They are also a finalist in Kirstie's Handmade Christmas and, as far as we're concerned, if it's good enough for Kirstie....
Cost: From £7
Where to buy: Norio Knots
For the fitness fanatic
Start-ups in London Libraries business, BOXD, have a special edition Healthy Christmas box on offer throughout December which includes a month's supply of their protein based health shakes, as well as some extra goodies to help you glow throughout the Winter months.
Where to buy: Christmas BOXD
And for those who love to kick back on two wheels
The Sormano Cycling Gilet is an essential garment for cycling lovers. The gilet is super light and compact to store in pockets with its own in-built pouch. The Gilet is made in Italy by Cyclists for Cyclists. Extra features included zipped hidden pocket for valuable and reflective tab to increase safety during the hours of darkness.
Where to buy: SaddleDrunk
Spread some sweetness
Bushwood Bees have colonies of bees on the roof of the East London Mosque and create delectable honey-based products. Show someone how much you care by sending them a lovely gift box of raw, pure honey and a lovely lavender hand made bar of honey soap. You can add a personalised message to make it extra special.
Cost: £15 collected or delivery for an extra £2.95
Where to buy: Bushwood Bees
All that glitters
Buy high quality but affordable jewellery for your friends and family this year. Delmora, part of our Start-ups in London Libraries community in Bexley, sells pendants in a wide variety of different shapes and finishes.
Cost: From £8.90
Where to buy: Delmora Etsy
Make mealtimes fun
Looking for a fun way to serve Christmas dinner, or is it difficult to get the little ones to eat their greens? The Wood Life Project's reindeer plate is made in the UK from sustainably grown and harvested wood from the UK. Free personalisation and P&P.
Cost: £35 (mult-buy discounts available)
Where to buy: The Wood Life Project
All wrapped up
Grace, the founder of Anike Titilai designs handcrafted jewellery created using semi-precious crystals, including obsidian and yellow jade with gold vermeil accents to finish. Bespoke pieces can also be made to suit customer requirements so contact Grace if there is anything that you would like but cannot find on our website. The range includes waistbeads, ankle bracelets, bracelets, necklaces and rings.
Cost: From £40
Where to buy: Anike Titilai
Put your best foot forward
Finale is an award winning family run shoe shop in Corbridge, Northumberland. Run by mother and daughter duo Lynn and Faye Clark, who source fabulous boots, shoes, handbags and accessories from around the globe for their shop and website, its shopping how it should be with excellent customer service and great product knowledge.
Cost: Various. Gift vouchers available from £10
Where to buy: Finale
Inspired by growing up in the 1970s and 80s, Louise started Obble Bobble for her daughter, Phoebe, and her crazy, long hair. Obble Bobble hair bobbles are made by hand in Northamptonshire. Not only are they retro cool, they are designed to be super strong yet gentle on hair.
Where to buy: Etsy
30 September 2020
What does the future of business look like? In normal times many things can be uncertain, but with a pandemic almost everything is - demand might have increased, operations closed, plans paused, or business models changed entirely.
We know that businesses need as much support as possible and we’re here to help. Our newly launched free Reset. Restart programme helps you to understand your business, give you the tools to plan for future success and prepare for change in the short-term. The BIPC is here to help you take the power back and become more resilient, sustainable and agile.
To tie in with the launch of our new programme, we are featuring just a small selection of businesses who have come through the Business & IP Centre’s doors throughout the years and who have successfully adapted during the COVID-19 crisis.
“I manufacture a small range of alcoholic drinks from things that I grow or forage. So, by a year-long process of cold infusion I make fruit liqueurs, sloe gin, damson gin, etc. I also make two distilled gins, for which I grow some of the botanicals. On top of this, I run a small weekend cocktail bar, which showcases the products I make... A bit like a brewery tap room, the building I rent acts as manufacturing unit, bottle shop and bar. I also sell my products wholesale to local delis, bars and direct to the public through my website. There are lots of different strands to the business which I think was my saving grace when COVID-19 came along!
Due to the pandemic, we had to close the bar, which can be up to 90% of our income in some months. Very quickly I saw that alcohol was considered essential shopping (phew!). So I set up myself as an off-license with a table moved out into our doorway – we opened the day after lockdown. We had a lot of people come and buy direct from us – being an outside activity I think people felt safe.
The established online business went crazy. I offered free delivery to a fairly wide area of East London, which I did on my bike. I also created some new products, a hand sanitiser, two bottled cocktails which had previously been favourites in the bar and a bar in a box, where people could buy gin, tonic, snacks and have it delivered to their door. The new products and the free delivery were both taken up well by customers. And so we stayed connected to our customers and got by pretty well throughout the months of closure.”
Another business who has continued to flourish throughout the pandemic by capitalising on the benefits of an online offering is I Can Make Shoes. Its founder, Amanda Overs, explains how she’s managed to keep her head, or should it be feet, above water.
“During one of my mentoring sessions with Innovating for Growth delivery partner, Fluxx, they helped me realise the importance of starting an online community, which I went on to do. This community has steadily been growing and when COVID struck (which, in theory, should have put me out of business). I spoke to this community and heard what they wanted, which was online courses. I quickly pivoted my business, filmed and released my online course in two weeks and have since made over £100,000 of online course sales in under six months. It's kept my business open, my staff employed and opened up a whole new revenue stream.”
For Becky and Mother’s Ruin, it was also a good time to reflect on the business. “An opportunity to ask myself if I were to do it all again would I do anything differently? We had to incorporate COVID-19 secure regulations into the re-opening of the bar on Saturday 4 July, but it has also actually enabled me to do things I had wanted to do i.e. Table service, a smaller more sustainable menu, better use of staff resources, a lower impact business with lower overheads – all good.
Plus, I had been quite old school in my approach to the business, never borrowed any money and have no debts. I have always run the business in a way that has felt personally sustainable – and not having to worry about servicing a debt is great.
One thing the Innovating for Growth programme taught me when I thought I was looking to scale-up (as I thought this was the way that businesses inevitably must progress), was a clearer understanding of what I didn’t want. Which is a difficult but extremely useful lesson! Not to be confused with feeling like a failure because you don’t fit with what appears to be the standard of success...”
Another business, who previously used BIPC Norfolk for support on intellectual property, has also used this as a time to reflect and refocus their business. Hazel Russell, co-founder of The Wood Life Project, had onboarded over 20 retailers when they launched to wholesale in September 2019 and she partnered with Not on the High Street and Joules a couple of months later. By January 2020, they were looking to increase this number to 45 after a successful trade show. However, when COVID-19 struck, retailer orders stopped and conversations were put on hold.
Hazel explains, “This enabled us to focus our efforts on our online sales, via our own website, as well as Not on the High Street and Joules. We worked on our SEO/CRO, blogs, and used social media platforms to drive sales and grow brand awareness. As a result of this, our sales far surpassed those experienced last Christmas.”
Hazel continues, “The rise in sales can of course be explained by the change in consumer habits in the lockdown period; shoppers were no longer hitting the high street to find gifts for loved ones, they did this from the comfort and safety of their homes instead.”
Much like Becky and Mother’s Ruin, The Wood Life Project were also able to work on their sustainability, “During this period, we spent time preparing for becoming Grown in Britain (GiB) certified, and successfully gained accreditation in June. We also gained our Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation in July.”
Hazel is now looking forward and is currently working on a new range of products to complement their existing product range. These include seasonal children’s products especially for Christmas as well as some products for adults and the hospitality trade. They are also now back in discussions with the large retailers too. Watch this space for The Wood Life Project products in a retailer near you soon!
New products and innovations are continuing to pave the way for businesses to continue trading and move forward. Innovating for Growth alumna, Central Vision Opticians, founded by Bhavin Shah has done just that. Bhavin explains “We’ve had to adapt the business as a result of coronavirus and I believe it has had a positive effect. We were already a multi-award winning practice and I’ve always been looking at ways to innovate and offer more to our patients. As a result, safety now became a very important priority in a way that we’d never considered before. Not just for our patients but for my staff and myself. I re-mapped our entire customer journey from the point of first contact, to when patients entered the premises, how the examination was conducted to trying spectacles. After identifying all of the potential risk points with my staff, we planned and found ways to make everything as safe as possible.
I had been planning to invest in new technology that would allow us to examine our patients’ eyes in more depth, so we could identify problems more quickly and accurately. This technology also had the benefit that we could examine patients without getting as close as before, which meant that it would be safer as well as more thorough.
We also noticed a few common symptoms that patients were experiencing as a result of lockdown and working from home. Many children have become more short-sighted because of reduced outdoor time, excessive screen use and close-up work. We had already been successfully working on innovative programmes to help reduce the rate of this type of deterioration, so we were able to help many children who became short-sighted (myopic). We also noted a surge in patients who were experiencing symptoms of eyestrain as a result of working from home and additional VDU/screen time. We created blog posts and information guides to help alleviate the symptoms from home where possible and invited those with lingering eyestrain to attend the practice for a specialised assessment to solve their problems.
I believe that the crisis has helped to focus the way we help our patients and has increased the value we can offer in keeping their eyes safer and healthier with better vision than ever before.”
For Becky and Mother’s Ruin, there continues to be positivity, “It is hard to know what the future will bring for us. What the crisis has taught me is that the business does have a good resilient core, and that we can only live in the moment and try and respond creatively to changes as they happen. So I ask myself, is everything OK today? This week? And if so, I think that is all I can hope for, and I am grateful! I think being a tiny multi-stranded business makes all this possible.”
If you are looking to Reset. Restart your mind set, business model, market opportunities, customer offer, social and environmental impact, products and services, marketing, finances, funding options or digital productivity, visit our free programme page to find out more and to sign up to our webinars.
24 September 2020
Hazel is the co-founder of The Wood Life Project, alongside her husband Jimmy. The Wood Life Project manufacture beautiful, innovative, eco-friendly, practical products for the family home, with a focus on mealtimes. The product range consists of children's tableware, pet bowls and a range of boards for grown-ups. All products are manufactured in the UK and use sustainably grown and harvested wood from the UK.
Since launching to wholesale in September 2019, they now work with 50 retailers, sell via their own website, as well as through Not on the High Street and John Lewis.
Hazel and Jimmy first sought support from Business & IP Centre Norfolk, at Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, for help with Intellectual Property. They then went on to get further support from a Menta Business Advisor. They contributed to the BIPC report, Democratising Entrepreneurship, and were invited to the launch event at the House of Lords, hosted by Lord Bilimoria.
Life in a product business start-up with multiple sales streams means that no two days are ever the same. I have to wear many different hats; head of sales, head of finance, customer service, supply-chain manager to name but a few.
So today my day has consisted of:
5.30 Alarm. 6k run and upper body weight session. Exercising first thing is a non-negotiable for me as it helps me start the day in a positive way, where I feel great and have time to myself. This morning I listened to an audiobook, Oversubscribed by Daniel Priestley.
6.30 Get myself showered and dressed.
7.00 Get the boys breakfast and ready for school.
7.30 We leave for the drive to school. Back home by 8.30.
8.30 A quick clear up of the house (from the carnage that is left from the children!) and then I sit down at my desk to begin work.
9.00 Following up on the leads from virtual trade shows we have been exhibiting at, a new experience as we would normally be at a trade show in person as I write this. I have really missed meeting all the lovely retailers in person and the buzz that comes with exhibiting at a show. Is this the future of events like this?
9.30 Answering emails, engaging on social media and invoicing.
10.00 Time for a Zoom meeting with our local Innovation Centre. We are investigating ways of improving our supply chain, in particular logistics. We are passionate about ensuring our supply chain is transparent and as ethical and sustainable as possible. We are striving towards eco-excellence and will not stand still on our journey. We are also looking into what grants may be available to us, so a really useful session.
11.00 Packaging review for new product range. We are about to launch a range of boards for grown-ups and some Christmas-themed tableware for children. We are working with a graphic designer and have a lot of packaging copy to approve.
13.00 Check in with our manufacturer. We have recently become FSC and Grown in Britain certified, and we had a big delivery of certified material arrive with the manufacturer. There are new procedures in place to ensure all material is segregated correctly and recorded throughout the processing of the material, so a quick call to ensure all procedures had been followed correctly was a must. We are also beginning development on some children’s cutlery, to complement our children’s tableware range, so we discussed a number of manufacturing methods to come up with the best designs which are also efficient on the machines.
14.00 Packaging up orders, including gift-wrapping and gift tag writing (I love this part of the day as some messages are so funny and sometimes very random!). Today was a fairly quiet day for orders… The calm before the storm of the Christmas period!
14.30 Post Office run for all of the day’s orders. Luckily, we have a very patient post-mistress!
15.00 School run. I love picking the boys up from school and hearing all about their day. They have adapted really well after having nigh on six months off school and have had their first full-week back at school.
16.00 Back home and time to prepare the family meal.
17.00 Family mealtime. A really important part of the day for us as a family. We love having this time to connect with each other.
18.00 Family time.
19.00 Bedtime for the children.
20.00 Sometimes I will log back on and finish off any work, but mostly I try to relax with my husband and switch off.
15 September 2020
This month's blog follows Peter Hill, who in 2018 appeared on BBC's Dragons' Den and won an offer of investment for his inventions, Pedaldish: The Lunchbox for Pets and Katfone: The Ultrasonic Whistle for Cats. Peter used BIPC Birmingham to get advice on registering his trade mark. Since then, Peter has gradually reduced his day job hours and this week he's got a big decision to make...
As well as the product side of my business, I’ve developed a series of lectures, team games and skills workshops to guide people through the core skills needed to start a new business. This summer, I have a decision to make: do I sell my inventions and focus on public speaking? This is the week I made my decision.
Monday 10.00. Wake up. As a night owl, I’m rarely asleep before 01.00. A product order came through, last week, for 210 Pedaldishes and 500 Katfones. I said I’d ship the order this week, without having double checked that I’ve got the stock ready, and the clock’s ticking. I might have to spend today assembling Pedaldishes from parts, to make up the order.
13.00. The warehouse guys are being amazing. We’re just six products short, so with a quick bit of assembly and a quality check, the shipment is ready to go.
16.00. I email the warehouse the shipping documents and confirm with the customer the order will be with them on Thursday.
17.00. I log off the computer feeling I’ve forgotten something. I haven’t, but being a one-man band, I’m always asking myself whether I’ve missed anything.
19.00. The weather is getting hotter. I go for a country walk and make plans for next weekend. Coronavirus restrictions have lifted in Wales and I’ve made plans to go camping.
Daily score: Usefulness: 75%, Enjoyment: 30%
Tuesday 11.00. I still have a part-time job at the local council. My trade is as a community worker. This is less glamourous than being an inventor and entrepreneur but it has a guaranteed income, and is much more interesting than handling stock shipments. I’m now working from home; Skype is my only means of interaction with my colleagues. It’s a rubbish substitute for real contact.
Daily score : Usefulness: 50% Enjoyment: 60%
Wednesday 16.00. The Library of Birmingham's BIPC has asked if I’d be interested in doing some more business presentations. The most enjoyable parts of my business have been conducting lectures, team games and skills workshops. Since winning investment on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, I’ve been in demand as the most minor level celebrity you can imagine. I spend today designing a new business team game around eggs. The teams have to buy materials to protect an egg, which is then thrown out of the window. The team who protect their egg, and spend the least amount of money win; this is great for teaching planning and budget management, but I need to think about health and safety.
Daily score: Usefulness: 65% Enjoyment 70%
Thursday 15.30. I get confirmation the shipment, I sent on Monday, has arrived. I quickly cut and paste an invoice and email it. My thoughts turn to the weekend ahead and my greatest passion: the outdoors.
18.00. One of the great things about being in business, is that you network and hear about new ideas and products. This February, I found out about a product called Tent Box. It’s a solid frame pop-up tent which fits onto a roof-rack. With one fitted on top of my car I now have an instant place to sleep in isolation, even if the campsites are not open.
22.00. The car is packed and my kayak strapped down on the roof.
Daily score: Usefulness: 40% Enjoyment 40%
Friday 6.00. I discover there is a 6am, as well as a 6pm! I’ll tell someone when I’m more awake; for now the beaches, rivers and hills of North Wales are calling.
14.00. I park on a pathway on the edge of a deserted tidal estuary, Snowden in the distance. Checking the tide times, I can see how far the water will come tonight. As long as I park up at high tide, I’ll have 12 hours without the risk of being carried away. Having been in self-isolation since March, I’m finally in true isolation. My phone is turned off. And my thoughts switch on.
16.00. I’m walking along a deserted sandy beach. I invented my last business team building game here, maybe I’ll find inspiration again. After walking in the surf for two miles, passing one person, I’ve come up with an idea for my egg dropping team building game; what if I tell the participants, the week before, what the game is? The really astute ones can go online and look up the best ways to protect an egg and maybe even practice. This will show how valuable prior knowledge and experience is when approaching a business task. I begin to wonder if I sent an invoice for the last order of Pedaldishes and Katfones? My inspiration, like the sun, is falling.
20.00. I’m sat by a river with a coffee made in the local pub. Dyslexia means that I rarely read books, but since the invention of Audible.com, I can listen to the world’s finest literature. Today, I’m listening to the autobiography of comedian Eddie Izzard. I gave up hosting my own stand-up comedy show to invent products. Maybe I should combine the two and focus just on business presentation.
23.30. With the high tide come and gone, I pop open my roof top tent, modified since purchase with every gadget and comfort, and drift asleep on the four-inch memory foam mattress to the sound of the waves.
Daily score: Usefulness: 35% Enjoyment 85%
Saturday 8.30. Worried that I might be breaking some obscure by-law, I wake up quickly, compress down my tent and watch the rising sun. Today I can walk, kayak and swim, with my phone switched off and no one to speak to.
18.00. With a day spent on the beach and trekking into the hills, I wonder if I should focus my efforts on being a business speaker 100%; it feels like the right direction.
21.00. I may have miscalculated the tide. With the water rising I’m in danger of being flooded. Always have a plan B: I can retreat to higher ground. The tide licks the car wheels, and finding them not to its taste, retreats. Time to relax again and watch the sky turn every shade of blue to black.
Daily score: Usefulness: 5% Enjoyment: 90%
Sunday 16.00 With the risk of rain forecast, I make my way home, via a night-stay in Shropshire at my parents’ house. I walk through the pine woods and cross the place where I first thought up the name Katfone. A wholesaler has emailed me an offer to buy the brand, and the remaining stock. My designer wants to run with Pedaldish. Maybe it’s time to move on.
Daily score: Usefulness: 20% Enjoyment 70%
Monday 11.00. I drive to the River Severn outside Shrewsbury and kayak 12 miles, downstream. I always imagined, when I didn’t have to work full-time, that I would spend my Monday mornings on the river. In the last four years, I’ve managed it three times.
21.00. I’m back home. I have a name for my new venture as a business presenter: Peter the Speaker. I’ve bought the .com and drafted a logo. Now all I have to do is agree to sell Katfone and walk away. I’ll leave it until tomorrow or maybe the day after…
Daily score: Usefulness: 20% Enjoyment 80%
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