Innovation and enterprise blog

25 September 2017

10 things we learned from Start-up Day 2017

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In September, The British Library's Business & IP Centre held Start-up Day 2017.

The day was filled with inspiring events and engaging workshops from speakers who share their well-earned wisdom with a crowd of budding entrepreneurs and business owners.

This year we held 18 different events, each filled with information and advice on how to turn an idea into a business, covering every topic you might need, from how to write that all-important business plan, to tips for managing your cash flow.

Hopefully, you managed to pack in as many of the talks as possible and just in case you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the information you absorbed over such a small amount of time. We’ve got just the thing to help:

Here are 10 things we learned from the day which we believe are vital takeaways for anyone looking to make a start in business.

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Anything is possible

Julie Deane OBE founded her company The Cambridge Satchel Company with just £600. It’s all she had spare to get started and she’d made a promise to her daughter that she wouldn’t have to go back to her old school that September. It was already June. Julie had plenty of hints and tips for the audience and although she has a firm belief that “your life is more than what you wear or the bag you carry,” she has created her brand based on a passion for British manufacturing and a product that will last customers a long time, making it a cost-effective purchase.

Julie’s talk on how she started her business from her kitchen table was not only moving but demonstrates that almost anything is possible when you’re as determined as she is.

Pic 2 - Julie Deane

Test your ideas first

You don’t have to immediately pack up your 9-5 and risk all your savings when you have an idea for starting your own business. In fact, many of the speakers encouraged staying comfortable while you plan and test your ideas first. Nigel Spencer, Research & Business Development Manager at The British Library, gave an insightful workshop, based on a regular offering at the Business & IP Centre, on where to take your business idea next and how to plan for its future.

Nigel recommended some of the fantastic tools available for free from the Business & IP Centre such as a Business Model Canvas that you can download, and then tailor to your business model revealing any gaps you might not have addressed yet.

Pic 3 -  Nigel Spencer

Know your worth

Anis Qizilbash’s entire talk focused in on this important reminder for start-ups and people who are venturing out into the world of business. She encourages people to employ her strategies and challenge their fears around charging the right price for their services or product. “Don’t think about the money you’re going to make, think about the impact for the customer… make it about the difference you can make.” Believing that you are charging a fair price and remaining confident in the face of a difficult sales pitch is no mean feat – but this talk left everyone feeling empowered and ready to charge their worth.

Pic 4 - Anis Qizilbash

Find people who believe in you

“If I’d have told my mum that I was going to Mars on a rocket ship she would have replied “oh, how interesting, when?” said Julie Deane. She used this as a great example of finding people who will truly support you as you make your idea into a business reality.

Neil Daly of Skin Analytics echoed this in his panel discussion on Profit with Purpose. When he asked his wife if he should work a normal 9-5 that brought in enough money but made him miserable, or follow his passion to diagnose skin cancer earlier, but run the risk of money being tight, she reminded him that “you’re a miserable bugger when you’re unhappy at work, so go for your passion.”

A common theme across the day was a need for self-confidence and belief in your ideas, but equally important is finding the people you can rely on when it isn’t going perfectly. Having someone who thinks your ideas are worth fighting for is crucial.

See your competitors as free research

Keye Oduneye from Google Digital Garage kicked off the day with his talk on How to Build a Social Media Strategy with an interesting take on how to view your competition. “see them as free research. They’re either doing something you should or doing something you shouldn’t. Learn from them and be inspired by them.”

When there’s someone out there doing something similar to you, or trying to reach a demographic that you’d like to tap into, keep a close eye on what they get up to online. Use it to decide what you might do with your next campaign on social media and keep the creative juices flowing.

Pic 5 - Keye Oduneye

Social media is a powerful tool

As demonstrated by the live Twitter feed that had #BIPCStartUpDay trending by the afternoon of the event – social media is a force to be reckoned with. Keye Oduneye’s talk highlighted just how many customers use it to reach brands for swift responses to customer service queries, get the latest news from their favourite companies, and ultimately decide where they might spend their money.

Keye gave a thorough breakdown on the sort of things you should be sharing with potential customers and how important it is to see social media as a powerful influence to build a brand and reflect the kind of business you want to be seen as from day one.

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Networking is key

Life coach, author, and speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru led an interactive workshop on ‘How to network for business success’ that was full of useful takeaways for everyone. “If I don’t meet, I don’t eat” was one such important reminder – although networking might seem nerve-wracking, meeting people and promoting your business is key to earning money from your product or service.

It certainly helped to be surrounded by people that have already started or are thinking about starting their own business all day, and plenty of business cards were exchanged throughout the event, but networking is more than just a brief connection we learned. Even if you connect with someone who might not seem like they can help you with your business, they might know someone who can. Rasheed urges people to “collect good people” that you can share values and ideas with to help grow your business and make it a success.

Pic 7 - Rasheed  Ogunlaru

You won’t always get it right

Setbacks are part of life and business. We can plan ahead, but sometimes we make mistakes and that’s natural. ‘How to get your business in the media on a budget’ was less of a how-to workshop than it was a lesson in how to face the potential pitfalls when you’re promoting your company. Jessica Huie runs an award-winning PR company and knows a thing or two about how to get your business into the media spotlight and create a positive buzz around what you do, but she also reminded us that it’s ok for it to not always go your way. “you are not for everyone and everyone is not for you” was the mantra, and setbacks ultimately teach us something in the long run. You will attract the right audience if you are authentic, do your research, and always seek to understand your customer better.

Pic 8 - Jessica Huie

Focus on pleasing your customer and you’ll always make money

There is a lot to consider when you’re starting out in business or working out how to turn a great idea into one. Budgets, planning, PR, social media campaigns, and networking are just a few of the plates you’ll be juggling – and sometimes all at once. The topic of Tim Campbell MBE’s talk could not have been more appropriate for the day as he shared his thoughts on ‘Staying Alive – How to get motivated when growing your start-up’. How exactly do you stay motivated and keep cash flow steady with everything else going on?

His advice was simple – focus on the customer. Don’t chase the materialistic aspects of the business as much as you concentrate on delivering what your customer expects and more. By focusing on providing the best service and product, always innovating and “delivering with quality” Tim promises you will always make money.

Pic 9 - Tim Campbell

The Business & IP Centre is a fantastic resource

Julie Deane not only inspired with her story of setting up her business with minimal funds, she also shared some interesting stats. She revealed that businesses that engage with the Business & IP Centre are 4 times more likely to succeed than the ones that don’t, and as we learned from Nigel Spencer, there is a whole host of tools at your disposal to help plan and test your business. From free or low-cost workshops to online guides that cover numerous topics, it’s in your (and your businesses) best interest to check them out.

Days like Start-up Day are just a small taste of what you can achieve with the British Library’s Business & IP Centre. So, if you have a great idea and want to set up your own business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team. You can also check out our list of upcoming workshops and events to get even more great advice and support for your great business idea. 

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Start-up Day was sponsored by Virgin StartUp, Google Digital Garage, and The European Union Regional Development Fund.

For more information on this year's Start-Up Day, visit our website.

20 September 2017

Start-up Day 2017 live webcast: find out what you can tune in to

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Over 20 master class talks are set to take place at Start-up Day tomorrow, Thursday 21 September, with over a thousand aspiring entrepreneurs joining us at the British Library to take the next steps to launching a business. If you won’t be able to join us, some of the sessions will be webcast live for you to watch from home.

Here are the times to look out for:

9.30 – 10.15
Google Digital Garage: How to build a social media strategy

Learn from Google how to optimise your online presence using the power of social media.

You’ll get a run-down of the best social media platforms to use in 2017, plus your trainer will explain how to create a social media strategy that delivers the right goals for your business. We’ll cover the importance of defining a set of marketing guidelines too, so you can always stay on brand and on message. You'll learn about:

  • Making your business's social media presence known
  • Developing rich, engaging content for social media

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10.45 – 11.30
UK2: How to get your business online

In this workshop, Sara Rego, Marketing Director at leading web hosting and internet services company UK2 Group, will take you through some practical tips for maximising your online presence and raising the profile of our businesses with a great site. He will share common pitfalls to avoid and also explain how making some small changes to your business’s online presence can deliver tangible results. Content includes:

  • Getting started online
  • How to get a website that works for your business
  • 5 Common Web Design Mistakes
  • Website optimisation

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12.00 – 12.45
Julie Deane OBE: How I started a business from my kitchen table

In 2008 Julie Deane – the Business & IP Centre’s ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ – started a business at her kitchen table with a budget of £600 budget and the aim of paying her children's school fees.

Fast forward eight years and the Cambridge Satchel Company is a multi-million-pound business that has five stores and sells products all over the world. Hear this incredibly inspiring story from Julie herself, and pick up some hints and tips that will help you grow your start-up idea into a global brand.

 

1.15-14.00
Virgin StartUp: Losing my entrepreneurial virginity

In less than four years Virgin StartUp has helped 2,000 people change their LinkedIn profile to read ‘business founder’. In that time over £24m has been distributed to help each one of them turn their great business idea into a reality. These people are now running businesses the length and breadth of the UK, from the toe of Cornwall to the tip of John O’Groats in the Scottish highlands. In the session you will learn:

  • How to apply for a Virgin start-up loan of up to £25,000 at a rate of 6% fixed p.a.
  • What you need to know before you apply
  • How to ensure you write a great application
  • The unique package of support that you can get alongside the cash
  • Plus the opportunities that might come your way from being part of the Virgin StartUp community

 14.30 – 14.50
Margot James MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility  will share a keynote address on ‘The Importance of Start-ups to the UK Economy’ followed by Q&A with the audience


14.50-15.25
Tim Campbell: Staying Alive: how to keep motivated when growing your startup

Nobody ever said that starting and growing a business was easy! Whilst the rewards can be great, new businesses inevitably must face and overcome numerous obstacles and setbacks on their path to success, some of which they couldn’t ever have predicted when they set-out.

Winner of BBC’s The Apprentice and Founder of Bright Ideas Trust Tim Campbell shares his insight on how to stay focused on your endgame when you’re traversing the trials and tribulations of business start-up, and gives some top hints and tips on how to stay positive and motivated throughout the highs and lows of your own personal business journey.

 15.45-16.30
Expert Impact Panel: Profit with Purpose

Big business doesn't have to be 'bad', and a successful start-up can still make a big social impact

This event, in partnership with Expert Impact’s ‘Human Lending Library’, will give you hints and tips for unlocking the ethical impact of your start-up and balance profit with purpose. The session will benefit those wanting to start or grow a social enterprise, or those that want to improve the social impact of their existing businesses and for those interested in the topic. Our panel comprises:

Neil Daly, Founder of Skin Analytics

Paul Singh, Founder of Equal Education

Jo Godden, Founder of Ruby Moon

16.45-17.45
Start-up Stars: How I bit the business bullet

Our panel of business owners will talk candidly about taking the plunge from an employee, to self-employed, to employer, what they’ve learned along the way, what they wished they had known before they started, and why it was all worth it in the end. You’ll leave armed with practical insights, and feel more inspired than ever to turn your business idea into a reality.

The panel comprises:

Zoe Watkins of Livewire Kitchen

Rob Pitman of Tinderflint

Frankie Fox of The Foraging Fox

 To join in with any of these inspirational and practical talks simply register for our webcast. We will also be live tweeting as the whole event unfolds so be sure to follow us on #BIPCStartupDay to add your own comments and questions for the speakers.

Start-up Day 2017 is being held at the British Library in London as well as across 15 other city libraries in the country from Norwich to Newcastle. It is being run with support from our Event Partners the Google Digital Garage and Virgin Startup.

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15 September 2017

The three tech steps every start-up business should know

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With our national Start-up Day events on Thursday 21 September fast approaching, we are working with our specialist staff and many of our external partners to pull together the best advice and practical know-how to help make your jump to becoming a business founder as easy as possible.

Most start-ups are likely to have a website before their first customers and as such will need to think about delivering a secure and compelling online experience for those precious new clients. Written with help from our partner Lucidica, here are our top 3 factors to consider as a start-up, alongside choosing your brand name, fundraising, and staff.

  1. Make sure your data is safe and secure

As a start-up, data is crucial to the growth and development of your business. The idea of losing your data could cause long or irreplaceable damage to a business of this size. However, it’s had to find the right data backup solution for your business with so many options on the market and also with the need for it to be cost efficient. Intermediaries such as Lucidica can advise you and tell you which applications we’ve used and found to be effective and we will also implement these systems and ensure your data is safe. It’s always best to talk to an expert and find out what options you have, especially when it’s a technical subject you may find intimidating.

One such example is Cerberus who is a firm of commercial investigators specialising in assisting clients to protect their businesses and brands. They received help on how to share contacts, calendars, files, tasks and other company data not just within the London and the international offices, but also available to investigators on investigations from worldwide sites. They also needed to ensure that all data was backed up off-site.

  1. Get the best efficiency out of our tech equipment and systems

In your start-up years, technology solutions need to save your business time and also be cost effective. Whether it’s your email provider, technology equipment or other technical applications, they need to be scalable, adaptable and affordable for your business. A lot of retailers offer small businesses and start-ups special rates, even if they are run by an individual.  Lucidica is a Microsoft gold partner and reseller and also a Dell partner meaning they can give you the best deal on technology solutions.

Mango Logistics Group is a London based logistics company handling courier and storage needs for customers from consumers through to FTSE100 enterprises. They have eight computers and have been a client since 2009. Lucidica provided a virtual web server along with managed email hosting within a split Linux and Exchange environment.

        3. Have a plan to fend off cyber-crime and attacks

With more than 70% of cyber-attacks targeting small businesses, it is crucial that your start-up is protected. Cyber security is constantly on the rise and is becoming a profitable business for hackers. This means that businesses of all sizes are increasingly placing more priority on protecting their business and data. Not only can an attack cost you a substantial amount of money to fix, it can also lead to hours/days unable to work and files that cannot be reclaimed.

Make sure that you seek advice on what security best practices will help your business without making your work processes convoluted. Some of the questions you could plan to ask are:

  • How to identify the potential security flaws in the company and whereabouts it is likely hackers may penetrate to
  • How to create a practical data recovery plan
  • How to get a template to run a security audit
  • Where can you relocate important data

Quite often, the biggest cyber security breaches could have been prevented by the smallest changes. However, thanks to the Business & IP Centre’s new partnership with Tech experts Lucidica, we will pass on the advice you need to make the changes before anything can happen. Look out for upcoming workshops held in the British Library.

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Lucidica is really well placed to offer this advice as they started small themselves – with Thomas Jeffs helping out businesses as a one-man-band in 1999. Thomas discovered he loved empowering businesses to use technology more effectively to help them grow and turned his passion into a business. Since then, Thomas has amassed an enormous amount of experience in helping over 1000 small and medium businesses solve their IT problems.  He’s gathered a team of expert engineers and support staff to help him deliver his vision. You may have even taken part in a workshop in one of his popular training sessions in the Business & IP Centre.

We are really pleased to say that some of the Lucidica team will be with us for the London Start-up Day, at the British Library on Thursday 21 September 2017. They will be on hand to answer any IT and technical questions you may have and offer their expertise advice on getting your business online and optimised.

05 September 2017

Profit with Purpose – Can you make money whilst also making a difference?

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The days of profitable business meaning a heartless, soul-less, money-grabbing monolith are long gone. These days, more and more businesses are seeking to make a genuine social or ethical change. Whether through innovation, environmental conscience or simply ‘giving something back’, and in sectors as diverse as food and drink to Fin Tech, the best new businesses know the value of an integrated approach both in terms of consumer appeal and growth prospects and the rise of social enterprise shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, a recent Business & IP Centre survey revealed that 60% of respondents stated that making a ‘social and/ or environmental impact’ was an important motivating factor for their strategy.

In response to this trend, Expert Impact, who give free advice and mentoring from successful entrepreneurs for social enterprises through the Human Lending Library and The British Library Business & IP Centre have partnered to launch a new series of events which explore the question ‘can I make money and still make a difference?’

The then-new, Profit with Purpose series was to initiate engaging evenings of stories, advice and lessons learnt from entrepreneurs who have created impactful businesses in sectors ranging from the food and drink, education and retail to the healthcare, sciences and tech., sharing their personal experiences of starting and growing a business that has made a positive impact or social change.

Cemal Ezal, founder of Change Please

Cemal Ezal

The event ‘The Tastemakers’, took place on Wednesday 6 September 2017 and was be chaired and introduced by award winning business coach and motivational speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru. Throughout the course of the evening all that attended got to hear from a diverse panel of impressive social entrepreneurs:

Jenny Dawson Costa, founder of Rubies in the Rubble

Jenny Costa-Dawson

As well as top tips, you can expect the founders to share entertaining insights like their biggest mistakes and to provide answers to your most pressing questions; build on their experience to achieve your own success and improve your social impact.

Shaz Shah, founder of Harry Specters

Shaz Shah

Kendra Walsh, Programme Director at Expert Impact added:

We are delighted to be working with the British Library to deliver this important new event series. Expert Impact helps social entrepreneurs to scale their work and their impact. We do this by connecting them with those who have done it before; advice, support and pertinent introductions from successful entrepreneurs can play a huge part in generating success.

The Business & IP Centre offers a perfect environment where businesses can receive impartial support, learn new skills and get access to a wide range of valuable data and resources which enables them to launch their idea more quickly and make a bigger social impact’. 

Jamie Crummie, co-founder of Too Good To Go

Jamie Crummie

The Business & IP Centre are thrilled to support this initiative to encourage more start-up businesses to consider the social and ethical impact they can make as they turn their business dreams into a reality. For more information on how to access this wealth of support and knowledge, visit The Business & IP Centre website.

 

29 August 2017

Are you a business virgin? We’ve partnered with Virgin StartUp to support new business ideas around the UK

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On Thursday 21st September, the British Library is to co-ordinate a Start-up Day taking place across eleven UK city libraries through the Business & IP Centre network. The event is set to be the largest national effort to help turn fantastic ideas into business realities, with over 3,500 aspiring entrepreneurs predicted to take part in over 100 sessions over the course of the day. Joining us in this huge effort are our event partner Virgin StartUp, a start-up loans provider, who themselves have lots of experience in funding and mentoring. We are delighted to be working with them on our Start-up Day 2017 campaign, and here’s why.

 

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In less than four years Virgin StartUp has helped 2,000 people change their LinkedIn profile to read ‘business founder’.  In that time over £24m has been distributed to help each one of them turn their great business idea into a reality. These people are now running businesses the length and breadth of the UK, from the toe of Cornwall to the tip of John O’Groats in the Scottish highlands.

2,000 is a big number, but behind it are thousands of ‘ones’.  One person, with one goal, striving to live out one dream. Such as Cemal Ezel, who took out a £25,000 start-up loan from Virgin StartUp to launch his coffee business Change Please. He used the funds to buy his first mobile coffee van which was managed by a homeless person near London Bridge who he trained to be a barista. Fast-forward to today and that business now has multiple vans across London and the U.S. which are exclusively run by homeless people, providing training, income and stability to help lift them off the streets.  As part of this journey, Cemal won an all-expenses paid trip to Necker Island where he was mentored by some of the best social entrepreneurs in the world including the one and only, Sir Richard Branson.

Cemal Ezel

Another ‘one’ in the 2,000 is Melanie Goldsmith, co-founder of Smith & Sinclair who also received a £25,000 start-up loan, plus one-to-one guidance from a Virgin StartUp mentor. Melanie used the loan to produce her first product – an alcoholic fruit pastille. That first batch flew out the doors and the company are now manufacturing much larger volumes with products listed in Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and more!

These are just two of the thousands of entrepreneurs who’ve taken a Virgin StartUp loan from ranging from £500 - £25,000 per co-founder. These loans are funded by the British Business Bank and given at a fixed rate of 6% interest pa over a 1-5 year period. Every single one of those founders has also been given access to their own locally-based mentor. Virgin StartUp mentors commit 15 hours of face-to-face support over a 12 month period. Even though a lot of people first think about the loan, it’s the mentoring that makes a real difference to the success for your business.

Like the British Library, once you become part of the Virgin StartUp community other opportunities do crop up. At Virgin StartUp, founders and businesses can take advantage of a whole range of activities including the popular scale-up accelerators, the most recent being ‘Platform-X’, which linked up with Virgin Trains to find start-ups who had ideas that could impact on the future of train travel and improve customers’ experience.  Five of the entrepreneurs we took onto that programme are now developing offerings with the likes of Virgin Trains and the Department for Transport.

Working with big businesses is something that we, like Virgin StartUp, urge start-ups to do. Winning contracts with corporates can give a small business the platform it needs to thrive. A recent attendee on the ‘Doing Business with Big Business’ event was Jamie McCloskey of Love Corn. Since going along he’s managed to secure deals with a whole host of retailers for his roasted corn snack product, including big high-street players such as WHSmith and Sainsbury’s.

Virgin StartUp will be at all our Start-up Day events and will be running a special master class in London at 1.15pm. This is free to attend but make sure you book your place soon to secure your seat as places are filling up fast! Come along on September 21st to find out how Virgin StartUp can help you take the first steps on your business journey. Don’t forget to check out the full programme for the day too, which features advice on a whole range of business topics including marketing, cash-flow management, building a website and implementing a social media strategy, all designed to help you turn your great idea into a booming business.

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05 July 2017

How Intellectual Property helped Julie Deane start a £10 million business from her kitchen table

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So many small businesses lack IP awareness and understanding, but IP is something of an unsung hero and can prove critical in making or breaking a business.

The Business & IP Centre team are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and SMEs understand what IP is and why it’s important, what IP they might have created and how they might increase their business success and profitability by protecting and exploiting that IP in the future. Over the years the team have supported thousands of small businesses unlock the value of their IP, and much of the support we provide in the Centre uses case studies and real-life stories to demonstrate how having a handle on your IP gives you a huge commercial advantage.

One such example is Julie Deane OBE, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company, who has taken her business from the kitchen table and a £600 start-up budget to a global success story with a turnover of £10 million. Along the way Julie has overcome numerous business challenges including managing designers, manufacturers and overseas distributors, establishing web and physical retail sites around the globe and dealing with thousands of imitator brands. Here, in a free 30 minute podcast with the Intellectual Property Office, Julie lays the truth bare on how she’s developed strategies to tackle copycat websites, build the brand, keep putting the quality of the product at the heart of the business and “hang on to the passion that made you start the business in the first place.”

 

Podcast IPO

 Here are our 3 ‘top tips’ for what you need to know when it comes to your Intellectual Property:

  1. Think about trade marks - Is your business name protectable in the countries that you wish to trade? Is it already being used or does the word have another meaning in a different country. Future investors will want to know that you have the rights to trade in the countries that they wish to trade in, and you need to consider this right from the start to give your business the best chance of success.
  2. If you’re creating a ‘thing’ - Do your research before filing for a patent; is there a market for your product? It is expensive and takes a long time to protect your idea so make sure you do your market research and can be confident that somebody will buy it at the end of the day. If you have paid for your product to be patented and want somebody to manufacture it for you, you also need to ensure you have agreements in place limiting their rights to your initial idea or design.
  3. Founder’s agreement - It is easy to set out a document with your business partner right at the start when setting up your business agreeing things like % of ownership and what should happen in the case of a dispute, or if one of you wish to sell then business and the other one doesn’t. Once a dispute has started it is much harder and messier so you need to make sure all parties are clear on this from day one.

You can find further help, support and information on IP in any of the eleven Business & IP Centres up and down the country, including the British Library in King’s Cross. Speak to any one of our specialist staff face-to-face, over the phone or by email. You can also log on to our free of charge online workshops to grow your knowledge about IP, and increase your chances of business success.

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Julie Deane in the Business & IP Centre

Julie Deane is Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library and a huge champion for ambitious business owners. She recently gave advice and practical tips on Intellectual Property at the Library’s Scale-up Summit alongside Will Butler-Adams, CEO of Brompton Bicycles. Cambridge Satchel and Brompton recently launched a range of colour-matching bags and bikes where the satchel fitted perfectly to the handlebars. This ‘made-in-heaven’ brand match caught the attention of the press and delivered extremely high sales. Will and Julie's opening keynote presentation on ‘Getting your business in the media’ was a great success too.

 

Brompton
The Cambridge Satchel Company / Brompton Bikes collaboration

 

30 June 2017

How the British Library can help you turbocharge your business

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By Isabel Oswell, Head of Business Audiences at The British Library

The Business & IP Centre officially opened in March 2006 and over the past eleven years, we have welcomed over 650,000 business owners through our doors. The Centre is a front-door to business support, combining access to the UK’s largest collection of business data, intellectual property and market research resources (worth in excess of £5 million) with free and low-cost training, one-to-one advice  and referrals, all located in a welcoming, inspiring and accessible space at the heart of the British Library.

When we first launched, we found that the majority of our users were either very early stage businesses or pre-starts.  Aspiring entrepreneurs would come into the Centre to make use of the extensive range of resources to help them research their markets, identify their potential customer base and determine whether their start-up idea ‘had legs’ before deciding whether to take the plunge and enter the world of entrepreneurship. Our team of trained business information specialists and expert delivery partners further supported this community of start-ups and pre-starts, helping them to get their ideas off the ground by offering training on a range of business topics including writing a business plan, funding and marketing.

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Our changing user base

As the Centre has matured, however, so has our user base and we now cater to a growing community of scaling businesses in addition to supporting new enterprises.  Many of the businesses that were supported by the Centre as they took their first tentative steps continue to return to use our resources as more mature companies who are encountering a whole new set of challenges as they seize opportunities to maximize their growth and reach their potential These include business owners like Paul Lindley – who used the Centre to start and grow the Ella’s Kitchen baby food range – and Shaun Pulfrey, founder of the revolutionary Tangle Teezer hair brushes and styling range. Our service has evolved to support the needs of scale-up businesses and to ensure that start-ups with high growth potential get timely access to the resources, training and expertise that they need to scale their business in a sustainable way. This has included introducing our flagship scale-up support offer Innovating for Growth, an ERDF funded programme giving scaling businesses access to three months of bespoke consultancy support to help them develop and implement a growth strategy. Innovating for Growth has been running for four years and in that time has supported over 320 businesses to increase their turnover and create new jobs for the UK economy.

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How can the British Library help you scale up your business?

We understand that scaling businesses need immediate access to practical advice and guidance across key areas including branding, exporting, raising finance and leadership, and questions related to these issues crop up time and time again at our events and during the consultancy sessions on Innovating for Growth.  But we also know that fast growth businesses are time-poor and don’t always necessarily have the capacity to commit to a longer term programme or to visit the Centre on a regular basis.

For these reasons, our users have called upon the Library to convene a one-day Scale-up Summit, help growing small businesses achieve their potential by giving them the opportunity to put their questions to role model founders and unpick the practical steps they took to make their good business into a great business. This flagship event brings together prominent entrepreneurs, Business & IP Centre case studies and industry experts including The ScaleUp Institute to share the skills and insight that small businesses need to scale up, drive innovation and create jobs.

The event has been specifically programmed to address the four key issues that we know affect business growth, and we’ve brought together carefully chosen keynote speakers along with experienced, expert panellists to explore these issues in-depth and answer your burning questions.  Content includes sessions on getting your business in the media, building a terrific team and identifying export opportunities and will give you the takeaways, practical hints, tips and advice that will help you hack your business growth.

We passionately believe that Libraries are the ideal place not just to start your business, but to scale it too. As your business grows it’s more important than ever to know your customers, be aware of market trends and understand the needs of potential new audiences both in the UK and overseas.  The Business & IP Centre gives small businesses a commercial edge by offering free access to the type of market intelligence that is usually reserved for large corporations. These resources, combined with our workshops and training sessions, allow entrepreneurs to interpret and apply data to real-life business decisions, making the British Library the perfect place to kick-start your business growth.

Scale-up Summit takes place on Tuesday, July 11, 2017 (09.30-18.30) and is a unique opportunity to turbo-charge your business.  Tickets cost just £40.00 including lunch and a networking reception.

Click here to download your full Scale-up Summit schedule

We are delighted to be working with our partners at London Growth Hub and Lucidica to offer ambitious entrepreneurs this unique opportunity to come face-to-face with business leaders, network with peers, share intelligence, spark ideas, find out what drives business growth and increase their odds of scale-up success.

 

18 May 2017

Seven tips for standing out at a trade show

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In the week of The London Business Show, our corporate partner Vistaprint have put together this list of tips for you to put into practice whenever you attend or exhibit at trade shows to make sure your attendance generates a healthy return on investment.

If you don’t have the advantage of an exhibition stand to draw the crowds, attending a trade show can still be a cost-effective way to build your brand and uncover new business opportunities. Just remember the following advice:

 

  1. Order plenty of business cards


Getting your business cards in the hands of as many people as possible should be a major objective of your trade show visit. Your business cards should catch the eye, use bold colours, and reinforce your brand identity and key value proposition.

There’s an almost unlimited choice of combinations of size, shape, colour, material and finish to choose from when it comes to designing business cards and each choice can be used to send subtle clues about your brand to potential customers. For example, if your business sells eco-friendly products then an organic business card with rustic appearance will help reinforce your environmental credentials.

You can also make your business card useful by incorporating valuable information into the design. For example, an email marketing company could use the back of their business card to show the best times for sending email newsletters. Just make sure your contact information remains clear and legible. Vistaprint has lots of tips for designing business cards that not only stand out, but increase the chances that your prospective customers will hang on to them.

  1. Promote the event

You might feel like the exhibition organisers have the promotion of the event well-covered, but why leave anything to chance? Not only will a well-attended trade show increase your chances of finding customers, but if you manage to prompt a few of your potential customers to attend via your blog and social media posts, they’ll be a lot more likely to hunt you down at the exhibition. Most trade shows will use a hashtag for promotion in the run up to, and during, the event. Use it to let attendees know you’ll be there and invite them to meet up.

  1. Dress to impress

It might sound obvious, but your attire should inspire confidence and trust in your target audience. This doesn’t necessarily mean dressing up in your finest business suit. If your customers are more interested in your technical skills, then a branded polo shirt might be a better look (and another opportunity to reinforce brand identity). Purveyors of health and beauty products might do better with clean, crisp whites, which are associated with hygiene and medical expertise.

When you’re exhibiting

Exhibiting at a trade show can be a costly undertaking.  Pitched alongside lots of other businesses vying for the attention of attendees, it takes creativity and planning to make sure you stand out from the crowd and walk away with as many new sales leads as possible. Follow these tips to maximise your impact and generate a healthy batch of new business opportunities.

  1. Catch the eye

At a large trade show, there will be hundreds of exhibitors trying to attract potential customers to their stands, so it’s essential that your little patch of real estate is easy to spot and looks enticing. Use bold colours on posters and banners and make sure the text is large enough to be read from across the exhibition hall (this will also keep your marketing messages short and succinct). If there’s an opportunity to show your promotional videos, advertisements or product demonstrations on a video screen, take it – moving images are great for capturing people’s attention.

Whatever tactic you use to catch the eye make sure it’s appropriate to your products and services. Everything at your stand should reinforce your branding and your key value proposition for customers.

  1. Use lead magnets

Lead magnets are high-value giveaways, like branded sweatshirts, printed books, or free trials of your product or service that can be offered in exchange for sitting through a sales pitch. The real challenge at a trade show is converting passers-by who are vaguely interested in your wares into paying customers, or sales-ready leads. Lead magnets buy you the time you need to accomplish this feat. Just remember to collect the contact details of your new leads.

  1. Take your best salespeople

There’s very little point bringing people to your stand if you don’t have the ability to persuade them to make a purchase or leave their details. Take only your most successful sellers and keep them motivated to stay approachable and friendly all day long. Make sure you have enough people to keep the stand manned all day and provide regular breaks so that energy levels don’t flag towards the end.

Whether you’re exhibiting or attending don’t forget the golden rule of dealing with new business opportunities:

  1. Follow up new leads quickly!

Getting the most out of your trade show appearance doesn’t just mean generating as many leads as possible but also converting as many of those leads as possible into actual sales. The best outcome would be to close sales or make appointments at the show itself, but it’s more likely that you’ll walk away with lots of contact details of potential customers who you couldn’t convert. The sooner you follow up with these prospects, preferably by phone, the more likely they are to remember you and give you another chance to convince them.

Vistaprint are a Corporate Partner of the British Library’s Business & IP Centre

04 April 2017

How do you choose the right domain extension for your business?

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Choosing the right domain name for your new business is a challenge in itself: in addition to your brand identity, you also need to take into account SEO considerations, which is essential if you want to be found online. Then, once you’ve chosen the name, which extension should you go for? This is a separate deliberation as domain extensions will affect the performance of your website in the long run. So how do you choose what’s right for you?

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Here are some top tips from our partner UK2 about domain extensions and how to choose one for your business:

1 The .com: an all-time favourite

PROS: Nearly 50% of all websites end in .com - it is the most trusted top-level domain, or TLD, on the market, and new internet users will gravitate towards typing that extension before even considering having a second look at the website’s name they are trying to access. What is also worth considering is your geographic audience. If you have or are planning to have many international visitors, they will also feel at ease with the .com extension, viewing it as a professional and trusted business address.

CONS: Due to the extensive popularity of the .com extension, the chances are that the domain name you want to register is already taken. In order to buy a .com domain name, you will have to become creative. A unique and quirky brand name is far more likely to be available for registration in comparison to descriptive website domain names. For example, the brand name “Phuture.com” is more likely to be available than “futureinvestments.com”.

2 .co.uk vs .uk

PROS: The .co.uk and the newer .uk domain extensions are part of the geographic identity group, such as .fr for France, .de for Germany, etc. This gives your website an edge when it comes to Google searches. Google claim they prioritise location domain extensions for a given country’s searches. For example, a website ending in .com will appear less often in Google UK than the equivalent ending in .co.uk or .uk. To register more than one extension for your chosen domain.

CONS: We have all become used to seeing .co.uk and identify it as this country’s area code. The introduction of .uk was aimed at providing a shorter and neater version, comparable to the other country suffixes such as .com. With time, however, a neat .uk domain name will be just as desirable as the .com, don’t you think?

3. Are you a .london-er?

PROS: Being synonymous with our great capital London is without a doubt a marketing tool not to be dismissed. But at the same time, registering a .london domain name will not magically send your website to the top Google search results. A .london suffix is effectively a branding tool; it will create a very strong identity for your business.

CONS: It is worth keeping in mind that your business plans might end up growing beyond Greater London. If you do venture further, perhaps even internationally, then having a .london domain extension could be limiting and misleading. This again depends on your branding strategy.

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4. New GTLDs to consider: for example, .earth, .online, .pet

PROS: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is releasing more and more new TLDs to meet the world’s demand for going online. Domain suffixes such as .online clearly state that such a website does business purely online. It can also help differentiate between physical businesses and virtual ones, as some users actively seek out the latter. The .earth domain suffix is great for anything and everything environmental and holistic, which makes quite an impact. And who wouldn’t love a .pet? Vets, animal trainers and behaviourists, and all things pet-related would be clearly identifiable. As there are quite a few TLDs to choose from, chances are that the already taken .com version is still available on your domain suffix of choice.

CONS: The main downside to being adventurous is that new domain extensions haven’t yet earned their trust amongst internet surfers. Many of us are still a bit wary of online dangers and if something doesn’t look familiar then we tend to steer clear of it. But as with all things new, it just takes one person to take the risk and start the flow, and suddenly the popularity and trust will develop.

So what is the conclusion of all of the considerations above?

  • If you can, you should always register more than one extension for your chosen domain. In an ideal world, get the .com and .co.uk (or .uk), and a TLD that is relevant to your area of business, such as .pet. Registering more than one option will give you flexibility for the future.
  • If your business model is clearly defined within a given boundary, such as a local London club, you could either go for the .london or .club extension, depending on which part of the branding you wish to emphasise. Sometimes it pays off to be bold and daring.
  • Costs - when creating your business plan make sure to retain some budget for domain name registrations. Some exotic TLDs are more expensive than others and initially, you might want to register a few, which requires a decent budget. You will have to consider the risk of not registering a domain name and then later having to buy it off someone else, which will be more expensive. Just keep it in mind.
  • Even if the .com is still topping the TLD chart, with so many new websites going live every day, there will eventually be a tipping point. And when that moment comes, the popularity of new TLDs will skyrocket - so strike while the iron’s hot; it’s always better to register one domain extra than one too few.

03 March 2017

Getting your business ready to compete in a digital age

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Gori Yahaya is the founder of UpSkill Digital and is also a delivery partner at the Business & IP Centre. His company specialises in providing bespoke workshops that focus on improving the digital skills of small businesses, charities and young people across the UK.

For most businesses today the internet has become a vital tool in helping them to grow and prosper. However, there are many companies that lack the necessary digital skills to compete effectively in the modern business world.

We caught up with Gori to find out how UpSkill Digital is helping to buck this trend.

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UpSkill Digital focuses on improving the digital skills of small businesses, charities and young people. What made these three groups of particular interest to you?

I’ve had the pleasure of training a variety of audiences for Google over the years and these three groups stood out to me as having the largest need for digital skills in the UK. Small businesses truly drive the UK economy and almost half of them don't have websites or the necessary skills to succeed in the digital age. There is a similar statistic for charities across the UK and for many it’s down to a lack of confidence and ease of access to affordable training. As for young people, there is a common misconception that every young person has an innate understanding of all things digital. Many of them are proficient with digital products for personal use but often have no idea how to harness their digital savviness in a professional setting. This really drives us at UpSkill Digital, because we want to unlock the true potential of these digital natives and empower them with practical skills to help businesses grow.

What are the key areas of digital marketing that small businesses and entrepreneurs should be aware of?

With the digital age moving so fast, it’s often hard for businesses to keep up. One of the key areas that businesses are keen to learn more about is Google Analytics. The power of data to help businesses succeed and understand their customers is underestimated by many and the idea of deep diving into the data still seems very daunting to many small business owners. We launched our hands-on Google Analytics session to really help entrepreneurs get to grips with, and take action on, their data. The other area businesses often find it difficult to nail is Social Media for business. Most people are aware of how social media has changed the way we engage with our friends, family and even companies, but building a social media presence and content strategy to help you engage and sell, needs a little more guidance. Outside of these two, the big focus is mobile marketing as we’re truly living in a mobile world so you need to ensure your online presence is built to engage through smartphones.

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What did you do before UpSkill Digital and could you ever see yourself returning to it?

Before UpSkill Digital and, perhaps even before my time spent working and consulting in digital marketing, I used to run and manage experiential events for large brands, from product launches to PR stunts. I loved it, and I’m still keen to help out with a major event when it comes up. I’ve managed to combine this event management experience with my love of digital training by running our training roadshows across the UK, so I do feel like I’ve found a great balance.

Have you always wanted to become an entrepreneur or is it something that just happened?

I still find the definition of an entrepreneur can differ between people. I feel like I’ve always had an entrepreneurial approach as I find there’s nothing more rewarding than creating something out of nothing and solving a problem whilst doing so. Having worked for myself for well over a decade now, I’ve experienced many highs and low with different start-ups and had a few failures along the way. You truly start to appreciate your entrepreneurial nature once when you notice how you learn and bounce back from the difficult moments.

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What’s next for Upskill Digital?

At our core UpSkill Digital is a training agency that aims to make digital education fun, memorable and practical. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with great partners such as Google and the British Library to help train a large number of small business owners and entrepreneurs in digital skills and we’ve had lots of interest in expanding our training workshops to other vital areas of business, such as presentation and sales skills. We’ve also embarked on a good model with our roadshows to help plug the digital skills gap, and there are some interesting government initiatives in the pipeline that we’re hoping to support.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Being an entrepreneur can be a wild and rocky ride and you’ll need all the help you can get. Leverage your friends, family and any contacts you make along the way to help you. We’re often reluctant to ask for help but we’re happy to give it when asked, so don’t be afraid to ask. Improve your productivity with to-do lists; they have been a lifesaver for me. I like to carry a notebook around with me and will often take notes and prioritise things on a list to ensure I’m not procrastinating. Finally, keep learning. I’ve always been fascinated by our capacity to learn and, more importantly, how we use this information to further or better ourselves, our careers and our businesses.

As part of the 'DoItDigital' campaign, The British Library and its national network of Business & IP Centres has pledged to support 10,000 UK small businesses to learn new digital skills in 2017.

To book your place on an UpSkillDigital workshop or to find out more about the Business & IP Centre’s workshops, one-to-ones and business support, visit:  http://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre