THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

62 posts categorized "Business plan"

07 August 2019

Celebrating International Cat Day with Rose Hill Designs

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Rose Hill is a graphic artist who has garnered renown for her personal commissions and her 'Make Your Pet Famous' series. She trained as a textile designer at the Chelsea University of Arts and took part in the BIPC's Innovating for Growth programme in 2015. Here, in celebration of International Cat Day, she shares how furry friends have shaped her work and business. 

What is your business? 

I'm Rose, a graphic artist. I create award-winning Pop Art designs - from painted murals to my personally commissioned 'Make Your Pet Famous' artworks which are now sold in Harrods. My 'Make Your Pet Famous' collection is where I illustrate your pet in my Pop Art style. Each piece is lovingly designed in North London and made in England. 

What inspires your work?

I love creating art and am particularly keen that my work brings people joy and pleasure. The art I create is fun and approachable and it aims to reflect what you like best about the world around you, which, let's face it, more often that not, is your pets! The colour palettes I use are very bright, which is important because of the effect that colour can have on your mood. 

1b Rose Hill Designs Mural Make Your Pet Famous JAPAN

Pattern and texture is also a big inspiration in my work. Each piece of artwork has 64 geometric patterns layered into it. I hand draw every pet using a Surface Pro laptop. It allows me to draw straight onto the computer screen as if it was a pen and paper. Using a variety of drawing techniques including line drawings, I assemble together every element of their face and body and then insert the different colours and tones of patterns in each feature and change the opacity of each of them to give depth and tone. All have at least 10 layers and most have considerably more. I love mixing the modern technology with the traditional style of craftmanship. To add to that, each work is printed onto brushed paper to make it look like it is on fabric.

Seeing the customer's reaction after I've taken them on the creative journey with me from start to finish is also very inspirational.

How did you put your offer together and find customers?

The process of getting customers for Make Your Pet Famous was very organic. A customer commissioned me to draw their dog, Lola. At that time I had 11 dogs in my card and stationery collection and needed 12 for my first Trade Show. So I asked if I could use Lola in my collection. They loved the idea and so did everyone else! When I was at trade shows and would explain about Lola, people would ask if I could draw their dog too and add to my next collection. This continued to happen and after five more commissions I thought there was something in this. They would say ‘You’ll make my dog famous’ and so that's how the name came about.

I got some lovely recommendations and positive feedback and the word began to spread more. Word of mouth has been a big part of me finding customers because normally when people get their works, they are so delighted they immediately tell their friends about it! This led to my 'Make Your Pet Famous' exhibitions which built on this relationship between humans and pets at a live event. And of course, social media is a wonderful way to meet people and connect with people. 

3 Rose Hill Designs Make Your Pet Famous Aria exhibition

How did the Business & IP Centre fit in to your business journey?

I completed the Innovating for Growth program which was incredible and would 100% recommend it. When doing your market research at the Business and IP Centre you can look at the Mintel and Keynote reports - which are normally hugely expensive and filled with important data - completely for free. They are an incredible tool and you can even send 10% of them to yourself for free, which is so helpful for continuing your research. Irini and all the staff at the Business & IP Centre are a fountain of knowledge and will help you with any question you may have. There are other great search tools for funding and other valuable information!

What advice would you give someone trying to find their niche?

Try stuff! Experiment and play. It’s really important to enjoy what you are doing. When you work for yourself and/ or have your own business it can be incredibly tough and it’s so important to truly LOVE what you are doing otherwise you may as work for someone else and know the income you will get each month. Create something you're passionate about and there are other people who are passionate about it too. Resilience and grit are key qualities to have.

Rose Hill Designs Rachien Smoothie Mural - Rose at Private View

How have you been able to grow the business?

Growing the business is really important but the most important thing is how you want it to grow! It’s very easy to go down the garden path of what is selling the best and where you're making money which is of course very important. But more important, I believe, is to go where you will feel satisfied creatively, financially and mentally. It’s a great idea to keep checking in with yourself regularly to see if your goals are still your goals. Artistic freedom has always been number one for me! So in my case, it meant letting the cards and stationery side of the business go so that I could concentrate on the creative side and personal commissions. I licensed my designs and got others to sell products for me so that I could concentrate on that.

What's been your best/most rewarding/most surreal moment in business so far?

Probably doing my ‘Make Your Pet Famous’ exhibitions in the last year, one in Warren Street and another in Japan. The private views for these were so special and among the best nights of my life. 

I've also been so lucky to have done so many amazing commissions and collaborations, for example getting a commission from Charles Saatchi (to illustrate and make his daughter a dress) straight from my degree show. I feel very proud to have drawn two artworks for Sadie Frost which has been featured in magazines like Red. There was also a commission to do a portrait for Robert Webb and his family. As I'm such an animal lover, doing a collaboration with ZSL London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo was wonderful, as was a collaboration with the British Museum. Finally, having Harrods as a stockist to many items including the 'Make Your Pet Famous' range and designing a print and accessories especially for them under their own name has been incredible. Being able to sell my art and stationery across the world, places like Japan, America and Australia is an amazing feeling! It's an honour to be able to create a life and business that people love and want to be a part of.

How did cats start becoming a key part of your work?

When starting the 'Make Your Pet Famous' collection it began with dogs but very soon after everyone wanted cats. I was always asked 'where are the cats?' because everyone loves cats! They became an integral part of my offering from that point on, with Tupac as the first #MakeYourPetFamous cat.

Trio of cats

Do you have any notes about intellectual property and your work?

The Business & IP Centre are very helpful in this area and would recommend you go and speak to them if you have any questions on intellectual property! They can direct you to specialists. They have all the details on copyright, trademark and registered designs and can help you to get protected, which they certainly did with me. 

You can find Rose's work at https://www.rosehilldesigns.co.uk/. She has recently put on another #MakeYourPetFamous exhibition in Islington and will be doing another one in October 2019 in Hackney. You can find all the details on her website. 

19 July 2019

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

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

The Breakthrough Canvas v3.0 A4

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

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

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

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

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

The Breakthrough Canvas 3-0

Why does Purpose matter?

Two key reasons: Vision and stamina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pivot in — not Pivot out!

Pivot

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

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

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

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

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

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

What next?

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

Neil Lewis, founder of Media Modo

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

29 May 2019

An introduction to intellectual property (IP)

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

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

The four main types of IP rights are:

  • Copyright
  • Designs
  • Patents
  • Trade marks

Protecting creativity

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

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

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

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

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

A flair for design

Crafter or designer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘lightbulb’ moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building a brand

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing out the IP

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

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

Free online learning

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

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

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

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

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

18 February 2019

12 tips for starting up a fashion business

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As London Fashion Week is coming to an end and to coincide with the new season, The British Fashion Council, who organise the bi-annual event, have released figures from Mintel showing the fashion industry directly contributed £32.3bn to the UK GDP in 2017.

This represents a 5.4% increase after 2016; a growth rate 1.6% higher than the rest of the economy. Womenswear represents 51% of the fashion market, with menswear accounting for 26%.

However, despite the importance of the sector, it is one of the hardest to succeed in, due to high start-up costs, sizeable competition and the diversity of products available.

So it’s essential for anyone starting up a fashion business, to have a business plan in place outlining their strategy, and to understand where their fashion brand or idea sits in the overall marketplace.

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Fashion Angel is a fashion business accelerator offering mentoring, workshops (including at the Business & IP Centre) and access to funding to both new and established fashion industry entrepreneurs. Alison Lewy MBE, Fashion Angel founder and author of Design, Create, Sell – a guide to starting a successful fashion business, gives some top tips for anyone planning to start a new fashion business:

  1. Develop a business plan before you start – a business plan is your personal roadmap outlining your goals, visions and objectives and not just needed for raising finance. It will be central to your business development and be a useful tool to measure your progress against your projections.
  2. Don’t underestimate your start-up costs – fashion business start-up costs can be high so avoid nasty surprises and list all your potential costs. Include the cost of your sample collection, stock, equipment, marketing materials, website, IP and professional fees, insurance, and of course any deposits required for rent or utilities.
  3. Research the marketplace – find out about the size of the market for your type of product and whether it’s an expanding area. The British Library’s Business & IP Centre is a very useful resource for this as has numerous up-to-date fashion sector specific market research reports you can access for free. Identify your key competitors and analyse their business and marketing strategies. This will help you define your competitive edge and what differentiates your brand from other similar products.
  4. Create a strong brand – your visual branding and brand story are central to the way the public perceives your label. Your customers should develop an emotional connection, and brands that create a strong identity are the ones most likely to endure.
  5. Profile your target customer/s – conduct primary research to understand your customers’ buying and lifestyle habits and create profiles for each type of potential customer. Keep this information in mind when you are designing your collection/products and setting your prices. Remember, you are not designing for yourself!
  6. Plan your product range – offer a focused tight collection to start with, and do it well, rather than try to please everyone. It will be easier to produce too! You can diversify and expand once you have built your reputation and have sales history to base decisions on.
  7. Identify your sales channels – think about your route to market and how you will reach your customers. Do you plan to be a wholesale business selling to retailers? If so how will you manage this? If selling direct to the consumer, are you planning to open a bricks and mortar shop or will it be online or both?
  8. Work out a marketing plan – you may have an amazing product and lovely website, but how are people going to know about it? The marketing strategy is a key element of any business plan and should detail how you will promote the business, and budget needed accordingly.
  9. Adopt a realistic pricing strategy – your pricing must be in line with similar offerings in the marketplace. Unless you are a well-known luxury brand, every product has a ceiling price that customers will pay.
  10. Offer excellent quality and customer service – this area allows a small business to shine and can give you a competitive advantage. Reputation takes a long time to build but can be destroyed very quickly. Customers expect value for money whether you are operating at the value or luxury end of the market.
  11. Keep a tight control of your finances – monitor your cash flow on a regular basis, this will help you foresee any potential problems arising and allow you to find solutions, rather than suddenly being faced with not being able to pay your bills or suppliers.
  12. Take advantage of any networking opportunities – you’ll need all the help you can get, so make sure you tell everyone you meet what your business does. Always carry business cards with you and always ask for one, so you can start to build your own database of useful contacts.

Starting a fashion business isn’t easy, but with passion, drive and a clear vision it can be one of the most exciting and rewarding industries to work in.

To see all of the Business & IP Centre's upcoming workshops, click here.

Fashion Angel

10 October 2018

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Black Britain and the Creative Industries book recommendations

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As part of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs series, we hosted a panel of leading lights in the creative industries with stories of what can be achieved with the right attitude and determination to celebrate the success and cultural impact of Black British entrepreneurs in the creative sector. The panel included MOBO CEO and founder Kanya King CBE, Femi Oguns MBE, actor and founder of Identity School of Acting and Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené, co-authors of Slay in your Lane.

As part of the Q&A the panel were asked which books had inspired them. You asked us to compile them; and your wish is our command: 

Elizabeth:
#Girlboss, by Sophia Amoruso

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg
“Without Lean In, we wouldn’t be here… that book was such an inspiration”

Yomi:
Black Feminist Thought, by Patricia Hill Collins
“A book which helped me grow a lot and I’d recommend anyone, from any background read. If it wasn’t for me having read that book, I wouldn’t have understood my position in this society as a black woman”

Rasheed:
The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman
“A magical book about life, trust, flow and mastery in being yourself”

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber

Business as Unusual - the Journey of Anita Roddick and the Body Shop, Anita Roddick

Femi:
Book of Ecclesiastes

Kanya King:
What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School, by Mark McCormack

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE, by Phil Knight

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert Kiyosaki
“I had all these ideas of what I wanted to do to generate an income… my mother told me whenever I wanted to do something, she’d say ‘no’ as she was very risk adverse. But you do need to take calculated risks… how you think about money, good debt and bad debt.

 

Of course, we can't miss out Slay in your Lane, written by Elizabeth and Yomi (currently available to purchase in our bookshop) and, as revealed at our event, one to look out for in the future, Kanya King's first book, we can't wait!

Slay in your Lane

To watch the speakers from the evening, visit our YouTube channel and to see other upcoming events, visit our website.

28 September 2018

Top tips from Start-up Day 2018

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Activities in 17 libraries around the UK. 101 business events delivered. More than 1,000 attendees across all locations. Webcast around the world. Start-up Day, in collaboration with Santander, once again proved to be a huge success. 

With a full day’s worth of events, there’s a lot of information and words of wisdom to take in from each speaker. Need a recap of what was said? Missed a crucial top tip? Want to relive it again? Or if you missed it, we’ve compiled all the videos of the speakers in this post, along with a key take away tip from each...



Top tip from Mintel senior consumer lifestyles analyst, Jack Duckett: Consumer confidence is on a growth trajectory, meaning there are opportunities for brands to grow.



Top tip from Google Digital Garage's Chami Coomasaru: Set yourself goals, think how you want your brand to be perceived and choose the platforms which are appropriate for your business.

Top tip from author and motivational speaker, Anis Qizilbash: Steep in your purpose... your success does not mean another person's loss. The more you make, the bigger impact you create.



Top tip from public speaking coach, Elaine Powell: [Your pitch] is never going to be perfect. Always ask for feedback and take your performance to the next level, and the next level, and the next level. Never give up, it's a journey, not an end destination.

Top tip from author, motivational speaker and business coach, Rasheed Ogunlaru: [Networking] online is the window to your world, meeting people in person is the door.



Top tip from former CEO of Tangle Teezer, Matt Lumb: Don’t try and do the 80 hours a week thing. You will burn out. Try and get that balance as you scale.



Top tips from:

Precious Jason, founder of Etieno Skincare: Being in business you have superhero days and you have days which are not so great… Be kind to yourself. 

Rebecca Slater, founder of Shine Creative Solutions: Believe in the idea you’ve got and to try and plan out the three most important things you need to get right.

Amy Fleuriot co-founder of Hiro + Wolf and Artisans and Adventurers: Don’t expect it to happen overnight. If you’re having to work alongside it, that’s ok… Just keep at it.

 

Start-up Day 2018 was in collaboration with Santander. To see our events throughout the year, click here.

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19 September 2018

Start-up Day: Meet the Speakers

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With Start-up Day fast approaching, here's an introduction to a few of the speakers who will be giving their expert advice on the day.

How to understand the UK market right now
Jack Duckett
@mintelnews

Jduckett@mintel Headshot (B&W)

I am the senior consumer lifestyles analyst at the market intelligence agency Mintel, and I am very much looking forward to sharing my presentation with you.

My presentation has two goals; the first is to help you to get a better sense of the breadth of Mintel research that you have access to at the British Library and the network of libraries around the country. The second is really to give you a sense of the important role that we believe market research plays for businesses today.

For start-up business owners, it can be taken as a given that you know your product and customers extremely well. But, when it comes to your Dragons’ Den moment, whether that be with your bank manager, an investor or a retail buyer, market research can provide the information you need to support your brand and help it to stand on its own. The second core benefit to market research is in helping you to know where to go next with your business, enabling you to see what is changing in your category and helping you to be prepared for the future.

How To Build an Authentic Business Network
Rasheed Ogunlaru
@RasheedOgunlaru

Rasheed Image 1

“Networking, love it or hate it, building a genuine network, is vital in starting and growing business.” says Rasheed. “This session will help session will help you network strategically, effectively, authentically and nerve free.”

Rasheed’s top three quotes and tips on networking and building an authentic business:

  1. Always have something shrewd to say and valuable to bring to the table
  2. Your online, website and social media presence are the window to your world - meeting people in person is the door
  3. What people feel and say about you when you leave the room is your job while you’re in the room.


How to be an entrepreneur
Matt Lumb
@mattlumb1

ML headshot

During Matt’s seven years at Tangle Teezer he transformed the brand from being a “Dragon’s Den reject” to one of the fastest growing companies in the UK and a household name. Matt talks openly about the challenges he and his team faced whilst trying to manage exponential growth overseas growth, UK manufacturing capacity, the importance of IP as well as copycat and counterfeit issues and the grey market. The Tangle Teezer story is a fascinating one as he took it from a start-up to having a valuation of £200M inside five years.


Start-up Stars: How I turned my business idea into a reality

Amy Fleuriot
@hiroandwolf
@artisansandadventurers

Amy Fleuriot

Starting your own business can be an equally exciting and daunting time. I founded Hiro + Wolf five years ago with my wonderful business partner, Bee Friedmann and we have learnt so much on our journey. What started as an accessories brand for people and their pets has grown into two distinct businesses as we launched Artisans & Adventurers two years ago with the help of the British Library. My expertise include design, branding, marketing, ethical sourcing and everything that goes into the day to day running of two shops, an online store and wholesale business. I am looking forward to hearing what challenges new businesses are facing and hope I can offer some advice on the start-up stage.

For more information on Start-up Day, to see which libraries are involved around the country and to sign up to the webcast, visit our website.

07 August 2018

If the Shoe Fits… Finding your Business Niche

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Finding your niche in any market can be tough; who is your customer? What do they want? What are your competition doing? Amanda Overs, graduate of the Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth: Scale-up programme and founder of I Can Make Shoes, set up a shoemaking school after being unable to find a course to make shoes, without the need for heavy machinery.

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I Can Make Shoes workshop

“I was sick of being told ‘you can’t do it like that’” (by traditional shoemakers). With the demand for slow fashion and a resurgence of sewing and crafting, Amanda decided to put a positive spin on the negative backlash and eight years later has gone from running classes in her living room by herself to employing five part-time members of staff and running workshops almost every day of the year in both London and New York.

Research was crucial in finding out exactly who I Can Make Shoes’ customers were. Amanda says, “There has been a lot of trial and error over the years, but what I have found is the fastest, most efficient way of doing research is to actually ask your customer what they think. I regularly do surveys when I have a new idea to see what my audience think of it and recently started a Facebook community so that I can see for myself what it is that my students and customers really want and need.”

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I Can Make Shoes now run workshops in both London and New York

Amanda is always looking at ways to improve I Can Make Shoes’ offering and the business is always changing and improving. Something Amanda says is “key to staying ahead of the competition”. Not only do they run workshops for members of the public, they also have online shoemaking instructions, sell components, and train designers from major high street brands such as ASOS, River Island and Adidas.

The Innovating for Growth programme has helped Amanda take I Can Make Shoes to the next level, “It’s helped me to step back and reassess the business as a whole and identify the key areas of potential growth. I started in a bit of a whirlwind and have been treading water ever since, so to have fresh (very experienced) eyes and non-biased opinions on my plans for the future has been absolutely priceless”.

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"Fail fast, learn faster and move on to the next thing.”

What tips does Amanda have for finding your niche? “Trust your gut. Don't over think every detail. Fail fast, learn faster and move on to the next thing.” Amanda lives by her rules, due to popular demand she will be offering a new sneaker course launching soon...

Apply now for over £10,000 worth of business advice!

If you are already running a business and are looking to take it to the next level like Amanda, our three-month Innovating for Growth programme can help turn your growth idea into a reality. Applications are now open, so find out more here and apply now!

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This programme is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the British Library.

24 July 2018

Meet Martha Silcott, breaking taboos, one period at a time

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Each year 1.4 billion tampons are flushed, ending up in the sewer system, causing flooding and pollution. Water companies spend 88 million pounds per year getting all the un-flushable items out of the sewers. What can be done to solve this problem? Martha Silcott is on a mission to find a sanitary solution for this sanitary problem with her corn starch, biodegradable fab little bags...

Tell us a little more about FabLittleBag?

FabLittleBags are biodegradable opaque, sealable sanitary disposal bags that prevent aquatic pollution and actually make disposal feel good!

What inspired the creation of the product? Did you have a ‘Eureka’ moment that convinced you that this was a good idea?

Sitting on the toilet thinking “there must be a better way of doing this” as I performed the LooRoll Wrap with reams of toilet roll for the umpteenth time… Recalling the times when round at friends houses and there was no bin in the downstairs loo so I resorted to doing the Handbag Smuggle. I got cross that there was not a better solution out there, I researched it expecting to find one, I didn’t so I decided to invent one myself. I did loads of research in the British Library, researching the market, the companies involved, the blockages caused by flushing etc. My Eureka moment was when I finally figured out the design of FabLittleBag; its unique one-handed opening and that it had to seal – I ran around the house gathering bits of sandwich bags, sellotape, staplers etc. and made a Blue Peter version.

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Martha Silcott, founder of FabLittleBag

What steps did you take to protect the IP in your design?

I learned a lot about IP form the British Library sessions and their intro to an organisation called Ideas 21 – so I had a free session with an IP lawyer to establish if it was a starter or not – and it went from there, applying for my patent in 2006.

Did you use the resources and training available through the Business & IP Centre to research and launch the business? 

Yes, general market research; access to huge data resources at no cost, if you were to buy the info yourself each one costs thousands of pounds! IP information, a basic course on social media later on, all very useful along the journey.

Tell us more about how are you working with the British Library to bring FabLittleBag to more users?

We are currently trialling FabLittleBag in two toilet blocks, these are ones which have a very high level of blockages causing cost to the Library and inconvenience to users. The Library has a lot of through traffic and we know that approx. 60% of UK women flush their tampons and with other habits and cultures passing through blockages are a real challenge for the Library loos! So our gorgeous new dispensers are installed in these blocks and we have already had direct email contact from a few users telling us how fab they think FabLittleBag is! We are offering all British Library users who email us a free sample pack of FabLittleBags to try, so don’t be shy!

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The best disposal solution. Period

What is the vision for the future of the company? Where will FabLittleBag be five and 10 years from now?

We have BIG plans! We already have customers from lots of countries all over the world but we want to ensure that any Binner that dislikes doing the Loo Roll Wrap and wants to feel more in control and calm at point of disposal have FabLittleBags in their life and that we convert as many Flushers out there as possible into Binners – frankly whether they use FabLittleBags or not, we just want to stop the flushing of non-flushables and so prevent blockages and aquatic pollution at source.

One of our Missions is to #screwthetaboo and break down the ridiculous taboo that still exists around periods in 2017! Involving men and boys is important in this journey as they are involved even if it is not them having periods! Replacing feelings of awkwardness and anxiety around disposal of sanitary products is a core mission of ours, helping women to feel more relaxed and calm as they know that even if there is only two bits of loo roll there, or there is no bin, because they have FabLittleBag, they will be able to disposal of the product easily and without stress. We also want to support our chosen key charity (WellBeing of Women) and to expand our charitable impact as we grow, also helping to support smaller local charities and some abroad where the issues of menstruation has huge negative impacts of girls and women’s lives.

So five years' time to be a normal ‘must have’ in the handbags and bathrooms up and down the UK, Europe, USA, etc. and other countries where disposables are still the most common form of managing ones period (therefore disposal solutions are especially needed). 10 years time to be so successful that our charitable foundation Fab Friends, is making a huge positive impact on menstrual health and practical management for millions of women across the globe.

FabLittleBags will continue to be trialed at the British Library to help prevent the negative impacts of flushing sanitary products.

02 March 2018

A fashionable way to start your business

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London-Fashion-week-logo-300x225London Fashion Week has just finished for another year and is more international than ever, with over 50% of the designers born outside of the UK. The week is a great opportunity to show off their collections to global retailers, as well as getting coverage in the mainstream media and fashion press. In addition to helping new designers with their start-up businesses the show organisers offer British Fashion Council's programme with a range of business advice and seminars.

The fashion industry in the UK currently contributes a staggering £66 billion to our economy. With London Fashion Week adding £30 million to London every year.

Perhaps not surprisingly fashion is one of the most popular topics to research within the Business & IP Centre. And we have a great deal of valuable information and advice available. Have a look at our Fashion Industry Guide to get a flavour.

Mintellogo_900x550For example our Mintel report UK Design Fashion 2017 shows that men spend more on designer clothes than women, because although men shop less, they buy higher value brands. Also 56% of men agreed that wearing designer fashion makes them feel more confident, compared to 49% of women.

The report says that casual clothing and footwear are now the products that drive the designer market. This is a result of a move to less formal wear than in the past for visits to restaurants and trips to the theatre.

Young people between the ages of 16 and 24 years dominate expenditure in every category of designer fashion, from underwear to shoes. This is due to the importance of social media, where celebrities can influence young people to emulate their lifestyles. Just look at how celebrities crowd the front rows of the top fashion shows.


Ibisworld_logo2The IBIS World retail clothing report also covers the rising importance of social media and how it is expected to boost demand for fashion. The new breed of social media celebrities have a significant influence on their followers.

Instagram has become the key social media platform for fashion. “With more than 200 million on Instagram connected to fashion accounts all over the world, Instagram has become a global destination
for people to experience this stylish industry unlike anywhere else.”

As well as market research and related fashion information in the Centre, we also run regular workshops and offer one to one advice clinics via our partner Fashion Angel.

Don’t forget, we are here to help realise your fashion dream!

Seema Rampersad and guest blogger Polly James