Innovation and enterprise blog

59 posts categorized "Business plan"

05 September 2016

Tips guaranteed to cut your bills

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Entrepreneurs inevitably spend more time thinking about sales rather than savings when starting a business. But given how challenging it is to run a start-up or small business, it’s fair to say that we don’t devote enough time to keeping our costs low. SMEs all over the UK are overpaying on their core services – and overpaying by hundreds of pounds. That can be the difference between success and failure.

So here, we provide a series of simple tips guaranteed to save you money on your business essentials.

Switch to save

Last year, the Department for Energy & Climate Change said that £2.7 billion was up for grabs by switching energy supplier. That announcement reinforced what many already knew – that thousands of small businesses and residential customers were losing money simply by not taking the time to look at deals from other suppliers.

The same rules apply across broadband, card processing, mobile and more – there is money to be saved everywhere, and a huge amount of options in every sector. uSwitch have reported instances of broadband bills jumping 400% when contracts have rolled over, and that’s why switching matters – it keeps your bills affordable, and your suppliers on their toes.

Pay by Direct Debit

This is one of those simple, easily forgotten extras that continue to cost businesses money.

Most suppliers will charge you a small processing fee every month if you choose not to pay by Direct Debit. This is a no-brainer – if you’re paying manually, contact your supplier and change to Direct Debit today.

Combine gas and electricity suppliers

It’s very common for energy suppliers to offer favourable deals to customers that choose them for both gas and electricity. So when you’re choosing an energy supplier, ensure you consider this option to get the very best price.

Use energy efficiently

Reducing the temperature of your heating by just one degree can reduce your energy bill by 10%. That’s the thing with energy use – small savings make a massive difference.

There are all kinds of things you can do to cut your energy use – here are just a few suggestions:

  • Use LED lights, which use 80% less electricity and last much longer
  • Turn everything off at night – even on standby mode, computers, kitchen appliances and photocopiers will continue to use energy
  • Kitchen appliances use an enormous amount of energy, so try to ensure you have modern equipment which is typically more energy efficient

Assess your business needs before choosing a supplier

Whether you’re buying card processing services or insurance, it’s easy to get distracted by flashy promotions. So before looking at anything, think carefully about what your business actually needs.

When choosing a phone and broadband package, think about how much you use a landline – the time of day you make calls, and whether you call mobiles or premium numbers. This will help you choose the right package – not simply the headline offer.

For card processing, think about the type of terminal you’ll need. Different costs and rates apply to countertop, portable and mobile machines – so carefully consider the terminal you need.

And for insurance, it’s all about choosing the option that suits your industry. Do you, for example, need Public Liability Insurance? Because if not, it’s an expensive addition to your policy.

In all cases, it really pays to understand everything about your business before you start shopping. You can find out everything you need to know in this handy guide.

Check your broadband speed

A classic error small business owners make when choosing a broadband supplier is not knowing the speed they can actually get.

Speeds vary wildly across the UK. It’s not uncommon, for example, to be in an area that can get superfast fibre but that can’t get a decent standard broadband speed. In this case, getting fibre really would pay dividends.

You don’t need to be a broadband expert by any means – you just need to know your speed. You can find this quickly and easily by using this internet speed checker.

Audit your bills

Financial advisors offer large, established businesses a service called a ‘utility bill audit’. And you can do your own – quickly, and best of all, for free.

You’ll need copies of your last few bills for each of your major outgoings – so phone, broadband, energy, insurance, water, card processing and anything similar. Go through each, and start to look at the detail in each bill.

Firstly, look for charges. If you understand the charge you’re looking at, that’s fine. But make a note of any you don’t, and follow up on them. Then, look at the bill totals, and try to look out for patterns. Have there been spikes? And if so, can you account for them?

If, for example, your phone bill has spiked, look at the numbers you were calling during the period in question. This may suggest that you should change your phone package to include monthly minutes to certain number types.

And finally, use an average of your monthly bills to help inform a price comparison online for each service. This will give you an excellent idea of whether you’re getting a good deal, and how much you could save.


XLN is a partner of the British Library Business & IP Centre and provides phone, broadband, energy and card processing services exclusively to small businesses. Since 2002 it’s helped more than 250,000 start-ups and SMEs to cut the cost of their monthly bills. If you run a start-up or small business, browse their cut-price deals – like 12 months’ free broadband – at


10 August 2016

How I took my business from a small start-up to a super success

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Arit Eminue started her business because she was passionate about giving young people opportunities to achieve their dreams no matter what their background, social class, gender or ethnicity.

Her business, DiVA, matches young talent with outstanding employers through government backed apprenticeships, giving people the opportunity to ‘earn while they learn’ and help businesses gain the skills they need to remain competitive.

Since the launch of the business in January 2011, DiVA have provided apprenticeships to over 200 creative youngsters with employers like 20th Century Fox, UK Music, Universal, Southbank Centre, Sadlers Wells, Crossrail and many more.

We caught up with founder and Director, Arit, to find out how she’s done it.

Arit Eminue 15

Hi Arit! Where did the idea for your business come from?

We started delivering apprenticeships in 2011.  Before this, I had secured grant funding to provide a wage subsidy to film businesses hiring graduate talent.   At the time the entry route to the industry was through unpaid work placements, which the sector was trying to combat.  Our graduate programme addressed this issue, and was incredibly successful with a high number of graduates gaining full-time employment post-internship.

Low-cost recruitment worked, but the grant funding dried up.  Apprenticeships in the creative sector launched, essentially allowing businesses to recruit and train employees at a budget they could afford.  I enjoyed playing the “Fairy Job Mother”, matching the right candidates to the best role for them, so I switched focus to apprenticeship recruitment and training. We started with six apprentices and now have 150 young people currently engaged in apprenticeships, carrying out many jobs businesses depend on such as; general administrators, social media assistants, marketing assistants, HR administrators, receptionists and finance assistants.

What challenges did you face in the early stages?

Changing perceptions.  Apprenticeships were viewed as a poor alternative to a degree.  Employers had such low expectations of non-graduate talent, and thought hiring an apprentice was too complicated and it would take too long for an apprentice to get up to speed.  Having recruited graduate and non-graduate talent I can say with surety having a degree does not guarantee you’re work ready.

In addition to changing perceptions about apprenticeships, running a small business gives me an understanding of the pressures employers are under, so my team and I work hard to make their lives easier.  We take the headache out of recruitment by providing a full service. We submit grant funding applications and have all paperwork and training schedules issued up front so there are no surprises.    We’re also at the other end of a phone throughout the process and beyond. 

What has been DiVA’s biggest achievement so far?

Still being in business five years down the line - with not a grey hair in sight!  Also we have a very high conversion rate from an apprenticeship into full-time employment and each time this happens I’m reminded that apprenticeships do work.  

Resource award winners 2014

You grew the business with the help of our Innovating for Growth programme. What specifically did the programme help you achieve?

The Innovating for Growth programme helped me to develop my team in line with my plans for growth.  The programme also helped increase our client base.  I had previously focussed on creative companies as opposed to creative occupations (e.g. marketing and communications), which are in any sector.  Being encouraged to shift my thinking in this regard helped broaden our reach and attract non-creative businesses such as the CBI, Hackney Council, Greenwich Council and JJ Roofing. 

What one piece of advice would you give to any business owners struggling to take their business to the next level?

Scheduling one day per week to work on the business (rather than just in it) was the best piece of advice I was given, so it seems only fair to share it.  Admittedly, it wasn’t an easy habit to adopt. However, forcing myself to do it has paid dividends. Also, apply for Innovating for Growth and let experts give you the help you need to succeed – it doesn’t cost you or your business anything other than your time.


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

Are you a start-up looking to scale up, like DiVA? Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality.

Covering everything from intellectual property to reaching new markets and branding, we'll guide you through every step of the process.

Find out more and apply now 



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


10 February 2016

How to have a successful business partnership

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Many people who start a business do so with a friend or relative. Often they just start producing or selling something as an extension of this relationship. There are many benefits of going into business with a friend or relative but it can also lead to serious problems or disputes further down the road regardless of whether the business is successful or not. Here’s some advice on what to avoid and what can make your relationship last in business.


The problem with partnerships

The problem with partnerships is that they are without limited liability. As a result should debts mount the partners may be considered jointly and individually liable.

What this means in practice is that should, for any reason, your partner have no cash or assets with which to pay creditors, the whole debt may rest on your shoulders. This sometimes occurs after a personal fallout which makes paying the entire debt burden totally unacceptable to the person left carrying the can. In my experience, very few relationships survive this scenario intact.

Unless you have a very good reason for doing so, I would advise against partnerships of this type.

Form a limited company instead

Instead it's better to form a limited company and divide the shares equally.

The modern Limited Liability Company was first created in New York in 1811 as the American Government at that time felt potential investors were being deterred from investing simply because all their assets were at risk. In England, The Limited Liability Act of 1855 achieved much the same thing.

Prior to this date, a merchant ship which sank in the Pacific Ocean meant the merchant owner could lose his home as well as his or her business to creditors.

By setting up a Limited Liability Company business people could protect assets which were effectively beyond those declared as assets of the company being formed. This enabled people to invest say a thousand pounds into a venture, without risking their homes or other investments. Any potential loss was limited to the issued share capital of that particular investment.

Put more simply, say you and a friend want to produce honey and put £1000 each into the venture. If you do this through a partnership and the business fails you will be jointly liable for its debts to the full extent of your personal assets.

If, for instance, the business traded well for a while and then went belly up and owed £50,000 to creditors, you would each separately liable for that £50,000! This doesn't mean that you owe £100, 000 of course just that, should your partner not have his or her share, you will have to pay the full amount. You are jointly and severally liable for the full extent of the debt. The creditors/administrator won't care where it comes from.

Don't fall into this trap! Create a Limited Liability Company at the cost of about £100 and divide the shares as you see fit.

Personal guarantees

Often lenders insist on personal guarantees which circumvent the protection you should enjoy as shareholders in a limited company.

It is very important to avoid giving personal guarantees where possible, but where it is prudent to do so insist on an agreed limit to this extra liability. Unlimited personal guarantees leave you very vulnerable to potentially unfair financial pressure from lenders, should your investment go wrong.

Seek proper assistance

The above is not detailed advice and is only general observation, you should always take proper legal advice from a lawyer or qualified chartered or certified accountant before signing company formation, partnership agreements, or other binding documentation.

Loan agreements are very important to get right, so proceed with extreme caution and avoid putting your home at risk wherever possible, particularly if you are elderly or have a young family.

Always limit your liability where possible, but remember when borrowing money that that the money belongs to someone else so paying it back, as agreed, is the morally right thing to do.

However, going into business with someone can provide many rewards too. It’s likely you already know the person really well and you will get the chance to do something you love with someone you care about which can be a lot of fun (despite the hard work involved!). It is, however, important that you get the right advice to make sure your business is set up properly. The Business & IP Centre regularly run workshops and one-to-ones covering a huge range of topics – of particular relevance to this article is a How to register as a limited company  being held on Thu 11 Feb 2016.


Stephen Fear on behalf of the Business & IP Centre


16 December 2015

Top tips for running a photography business

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Turning a hobby into a business or turning a passion into a profession is a big decision and not the easy option to for those who want to ‘get out of the rat race’, or fancy ‘giving it a go’ because they are straight out of college with an A* in the subject...

Being a professional photographer means one of two things: you work for someone (although there are not many full time photography jobs out there); or you go it alone, ‘freelance’ as self-employed or as the owner of a Limited company.

Whichever route you choose, going ‘pro’ fundamentally means getting paid to take photographs; and in an age where everyone has a camera in their pocket, it’s a tough business in which to be successful. Plus it takes time to build your portfolio, your client base and your commercial experience.

But there is opportunity if you go into it with more than just a whim and a talent for taking photos. So, if you think you have what it takes, here are a few tips that might guide you:

Photo credit Sam Lane Photography

1. Be a great business all-rounder

It’s not just about taking good photographs, in fact about 95% of the time it’s about running a business. For sure you are the photographer (possibly the easiest bit?), but also the editor, the salesperson, the marketer, the planner, the accountant and credit controller, the business developer and the customer service exec. Having or getting a range of experience in some or all of these disciplines is the best tip of all. Working in a restaurant, answering phones or volunteering will all give you useful business/life skills you can apply to your business.

People buy from people and they are buying a service from you… it’s a lot more than just taking a few photos.

2. Decide on your direction

You don’t have to commit to one genre or having a special focus, such as being a ‘luxury wedding photographer’, but you should have a plan and this should include your overall mission, key objectives and strategy and, importantly, your financial goals. Work out what you want to do, what you need to do it, how long you think it will take and what money it will bring in. Pricing your work correctly is an art not a science; and you need to work out how hard you want to work to get the money in. Working for yourself means you have 100% control over how you spend your time and it is easy to work hard rather than smart – ever heard the expression ‘busy fool’?

Photo credit Sam Lane Photography

3. Market yourself

Make it easy for people to contact you. Simple business cards with your name, telephone and email details are vital and incredibly important for making and building contacts.

These days a photographer without a website is not a great comfort to a potential client who might want to check out your work - and there is no excuse when there are free websites and low-cost templates and tools out there. Get these basic marketing tools sorted before you go too crazy. Of course, social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be helpful, but they can be distracting and time-consuming. Ask yourself ‘Is your ideal client likely to be on Facebook?’ If not, then perhaps this should not be something you spend too much time focusing on. Beware of throwing too much money on marketing such as advertising, wedding fairs, competitions and the like unless you are really sure it is going to reach your potential customer base and drive your business forward.

 4. All the gear and no idea?

Avoid the shiny toys. You don’t need lots of kit to be a good photographer or run a successful business. By all means have a plan and invest when you know you have a project or client that will justify the investment in specialist lenses, studio lighting, additional cameras, etc. But do spend money where it is needed – on your core kit, additional batteries, memory cards, card readers and editing software licenses. Also, you will need to have Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance too if you want to be taken seriously.

5. Never stop learning

Every photo you take should be better than the last – it’s easy to take hundreds and let the camera make the majority of the decisions. You can always be better at taking photos: composition, controlling the light and capturing the moment. And consider asking other photographers for expertise and advice. Most of us are willing to share words of wisdom and I personally believe there is enough work out there for all of us. Getting friendly with local photographers you admire and respect could mean they will consider recommending you if they are booked up.

There will always be a need for a photo so whether pro or no, always give it a go!

Photo credit: Sam Lane Photography

About Sam Lane

Samlane Limited is a photography services company providing a full range of commercial and social photography. Owner and Director, Sam Lane, brings over 20 years of marketing communications experience to the business and enjoys the challenge of working with clients to develop briefs and deliver images that showcase their brand, products or services in the best possible light. Sam has worked with the British Library on several projects and has attended events and workshops in the Business & IP Centre to continue to develop her skills as a business owner.


08 December 2015

How to focus your entrepreneurial skills

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iPads, laptops and smart phones are now part of almost every entrepreneurs business arsenal, and with the tendency to do things on the go, it is essential to be organised and avoid easy distractions. You can learn to do almost anything if you focus, but entrepreneurs often have so much going on it’s a hard thing to do.

Here Dr. Stephen Fear, businessman and Ambassador for the British Library Business & IP Centre, outlines some key skills you should hone in order to be an entrepreneurial success:    


Learn to speed read

Speed reading is a skill I rely on heavily which improves my productivity, knowledge and education and in turn helps my business succeed. However, it is only possible if you are 100% focused on the task in hand. My analogy regarding speed reading:  if you were driving a car at 200mph, you would pass road signs – which although you are glimpsing them quickly, you would read and understand – as you have to in order to remain in one piece.  Therefore, if you scan a document whilst speed reading, you will understand the document and take in the information – as long as you are focused 100% on the task in hand.

Do one thing at a time

Dealing with more than one thing at a time is impossible regardless of what people may say. Of course you are able to run things through your mind which can appear as if you are thinking of lots of things at the same time. But in reality you are not, you are thinking chronologically at great speed, not simultaneously, which means that your mind is flitting from one thing to another, increasing your stress levels as it does so. Don’t fall into this trap: concentrate on one thing at a time, until there is nothing more you can do on that particular thing and then pick up the next.

Employ a clean desk policy

I have two desks in my office set apart by an old swivel chair which I have owned for a very long time. One desk is surrounded by files and paperwork. My in-tray sits on this first desk usually looking overloaded, and my laptop sits alongside. My other desk is empty.

Over the years I have found it very distracting to have too many things in my line of sight. I get agitated and feel overloaded to the extent it will affect my productivity. By swivelling my chair around and away from the pile of work behind me I am able to clear my mind and focus on the one file or item in hand.

Photo credit: Sam Lane

Do the thing you dislike first

Another technique that I have developed over the years is doing the thing I dislike the most first. Never ever leave it untill last. Attack it, get it done and watch the stress drop off leaving you to relax into the more pleasurable tasks ahead. So if you are putting off that phone call to the bank, don’t put it off any longer- just do it! You’re going to have to ring eventually, so do it now and save yourself the stress of all the things that ‘might’ result running through your mind all day.

Streamline your meetings

You also need to ensure that people around you are organised, this will in turn improve your own ability to focus and ultimately deliver. Always prepare an agenda ahead of a meeting and, where possible, share this 24 hours in advance of the meeting; list all the items in the order you would like them discussed.

Make sure that people are allocated individual actions post-meeting and ensure they take ownership of that particular task during that section of the agenda before moving on. Note the date by which the action will be completed and make a diary note for yourself.

Stay on the main highway! This is important because meetings have a habit of drifting if you allow them to. Don’t waste time by allowing personal discussions to develop during the meeting. There is plenty of time after for people to reminisce about their holidays!

Photo credit: Sam Lane

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

As an entrepreneur you can often feel isolated and don’t know who to turn to. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help in order to help you focus.  Staff in the British Library Business & IP Centre provide hour-long advice sessions, to talk through your ideas in confidence and help you to identify the information and organisations which will help you develop your business ideas and a business plan.

Dr. Stephen Fear, businessman and Ambassador for the British Library Business & IP Centre


02 November 2015

5 things to ask yourself before starting a business

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We at the London Business Support Service work with the British Library conducting regular one-to-one confidential business clinics on the first Wednesday of every month at the Business & IP Centre.

During these clinics we meet with many startups and realise that there are numerous reasons for starting up a business. However, once the process has begun, the main goal must be to succeed – and the best way to ensure success is to address some of the following questions before you start.



1.       Do I want to or do I have to?

What is the driving force behind your decision to set up your own business? Is it a long term passion or have circumstances forced you into it?

If the latter, take some time to carefully consider how you feel about your choices, going forward. Resentment can have a negative effect on your chances of success, therefore it is beneficial to re-think your attitude as a positive mind will improve your enjoyment of each achievement towards your goal.

If, on the other hand, you are about to embark upon your dream of being your own boss, you already have a positive outlook – and passion drives energy, which is a key factor for getting things done when you’re the one who has to do it.


2.       Is everyone who matters on board with me?

You should never have to do this alone. If you have a family, a business partner, financial partner or other interested parties, listen to their suggestions and keep them in the loop.

Their support will help provide a natural synergy to maintain a good momentum. Any negativity should be analysed and quickly resolved.

Many clients of ours have taken advantage of the connections available at the British Library and you too can build a network of like-minded entrepreneurs at the Business & IP Centre.


3.       Do I have a support network?

Your support network will include essential services such as accounting, legal or start-up business advisory services necessary for running your business.

Outside of your immediate associates, you may need a range of consultants with experience across diverse subjects: website design, social media management, HR, grant funding specialist or business mentor, to name but a few. By building a network of contacts, you will be able to locate assistance with any issues as they arise.

And, don’t forget, your experience could also mean that you are an important contact for others in your network.

The Business & IP Centre offers a range of services from carefully vetted consultants, coaches and industry experts to help you overcome most of the challenges faced by a start-up.


 4.       Can I make it work?

You have to really honest with yourself – can you make it work? What will it take? Planning at the outset, rather than deferring potential difficulties, could be critical. Gut instinct is no substitute for comprehensive research. Find out what others encountered on their journey and how they found workable solutions to overcome inevitable barriers.


5.       Do I need a backup plan?

A good question! Some say that if you feel the need for a backup plan, you don’t have the confidence to succeed. The real answer is that you need several backup plans – at key stages of the business plan.

You will undoubtedly need a brief but solid business plan covering key points. A business mentor with experience of supporting start-ups will be able to guide you through the process, ensuring that you identify important areas of your business and address them appropriately.


Come along to our business clinics at the Business & IP Centre which are suitable for any type of business in any type of situation, and our experienced business advisors are here to provide you with cost effective business support services that result in tangible and measurable benefits to your business.


Nauzar Manekshaw, Business Advisor with the London Business Support Service

28 October 2015

Dare to dream: How to be a startup success

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Last night Kanya King MBE, CEO and Founder of the MOBO Organisation, took the stage in the British Library before heading to another in a series of events leading up to one of the biggest British awards shows of the year – the MOBOs. The Business & IP Centre at the British Library and the MOBO Organisation joined forces to bring together a panel of leading lights in the creative industries, including June Sarpong MBE, Yinka Ilori and Levi Roots, who shared their groundbreaking stories of what can be achieved with the right attitude and determination.


Credit: Luca Sage


The event was part of MOBO’s ‘Rise With Us’ Season, taking place this month, designed to recognise the achievements of diverse artists, designers and entrepreneurs and inspire the next generation of up and coming talent.

The panel shared their individual stories of starting up and gave some invaluable tips for people wanting to follow in their footsteps.


Kanya King MBE

Credit: Luca Sage


Kanya started the MOBO Awards from her bedroom in 1996 to give a platform to emerging talent who would go on to achieve global success. Now MOBO, one of the most recognisable brands in British music, helps create more opportunities for exceptional talent across all of the creative industries; in her own words ‘Inspiring a generation who dare to dream’. Success wasn’t without its barriers for Kanya. While she had passion and determination she also had no contacts in the music industry, no money and most people told her it wasn’t possible. Finally she got her break when a meeting with an LWT Executive resulted in a broadcast slot with Carlton Television. With only six weeks to pull together the first MOBO Awards, and with many people still doubting that an audience would be interested in celebrating diverse talent, the odds were against her. However, that first show was a hit and, now in its twentieth year, the MOBO brand is bigger than ever.

Kanya gave some tips to the entrepreneurs in the audience including: be passionate about what you do and make sure to prioritise - focus, focus, focus. Her advice is that you don’t always have to get it right, you just have to get going and persistence is key – ‘never give up on your dreams’. She didn’t get where she is today because of talent but because she refused to give up.  She emphasised that much more can be achieved when you have a team around you that is united in your belief.


Yinka Ilori

Credit: Luca Sage


Yinka Ilori is a London-based designer specialising in up-cycling vintage furniture, inspired by the traditional Nigerian parables and African fabrics that surrounded him as a child. When he started off as a designer he felt that there weren’t a lot of black designers and there weren't many people for him to relate to. He wanted to give up many times but his family were consistent in their support for him and told him to keep going.

Since starting up, he has exhibited internationally in solo shows, runs regular workshops and is involved in many projects. One of his most recent projects is partnering with the British Library shop as part of the current West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song exhibition. Yinka came to the British Library when he was starting up to do research in order to find his unique selling point to build his brand. His main piece of advice for entrepreneurs? Remember to tell your story how you want to tell it.


June Sarpong MBE

Credit: Luca Sage


June, one of the most recognisable faces of British television, is also the Co-founder of the WIE Network (Women: Inspiration & Enterprise). WIE is dedicated to women in leadership and it’s not surprising June is involved when she said that fight for empowerment and equality get her out of bed in the morning. She is driven to empower everyone in society to be the best we can be and believes it leads to a stronger economy, safer planet and overall a fairer and better world. Speaking at the event, her mandate was clear: we have to ensure women and those from diverse communities are empowered.

June's number one piece of advice was 'before you start to worry about what other people think about you, worry what YOU think about you!’ Like Kanya she also emphasised the need to learn to control your thinking, have a goal and focus on it.


Levi Roots

Credit: Luca Sage


A MOBO nominated reggae artist, a pioneer in Caribbean food and culture, Dragons’ Den star and with a new ‘rastarant’ opening soon, Levi shared his story about starting his Reggae Reggae sauce in his small Brixton kitchen and giving back to the community by visiting hundreds of schools, universities and prisons each year as part of his School of Life tour. His journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur was shaped by his experiences. His advice for entrepreneurs is to work with someone who knows more than you – a mentor. But his biggest piece of advice? Be true to yourself.


Credit: Luca Sage


As June said at the event, ‘It’s a very exciting time to be creative in Britain’ and we couldn’t agree more. If you are starting, running or growing a business and need some help, check out our week-long series of events coming up in November for Global Entrepreneurship Week




Join the MOBO Season #RiseWithUs


26 October 2015

How to take your business from a start-up to growth stage

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Growing a business isn’t easy. Moving into new markets, developing your brand, and protecting your intellectual property require determination, hard work and support. Which is where our Innovating for Growth programme comes in: a free three month small business support programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and run at the Business & IP Centre at the British Library, it provides expert advice and support for businesses looking to grow in areas including strategy and sustainability, branding, intellectual property, marketing and product development.

Victoria Eggs480w

Pictured above: Victoria Eggs used the Business & IP Centre to grow her business

Recently Innovating for Growth businesses came together to celebrate their completion of the programme and the progress they had made on their business growth. The programme has, to date, assisted just under 240 businesses and helped them collectively to generate more than £14m in Gross Value Added for London. Innovating for Growth participants have also won an impressive roster of awards, from Overall Best Business in London to Great British Entrepreneur Award, and the project itself was a finalist in last year’s RegioStars Awards ‘Smart Growth – SME Innovation’, the only London project to be nominated by the Greater London Authority.

Rose hill580w

Pictured above: Rose Hill grew her business with the help of our Innovating for Growth programme

At the Innovating for Growth showcase event Amelia Rope of Amelia Rope Chocloate, Jo Ayoubi of Track Surveys and David Showell of Cycle Confident Ltd gave some advice for those looking to start and grow a successful business:


From Amelia:

  • Test your market with any new concept before you put a lot of money into it
  • Get out there, meet people, chat about your product
  • Get out of bed with a mantra of Go. For. It.
  • Mistakes happen, accept them and just work at avoiding the same mistake when it presents itself to you again

From Jo:

  • Stay in touch and in front of your customers and contacts; send them short, regular emails (not sales emails). There are lots of competitors and it's easy for people to forget about you.
  • Never burn your bridges: even if you're hurt or upset, don't fall out with people. You'll probably bump into them at some point in the future.
  • Be curious about things that are happening outside your business, as you may find new ideas and ways of staying ahead of your competition that way.

From David:

  • Take time to recruit (hard as it may be).
  • Accelerate your selling when you are growing. You are doing something right so don’t slow down, even if operationally you may be stretching yourself.
  • Accept growth is a relentless task at all times creating challenges and opportunities. Rise to the challenges and take the opportunities. That is what entrepreneurs do. 

Experiences of growing a business

During the event some of the businesses told us about their experience of growing a business. A common theme among participants was the need for clear, constructive guidance and support, and the opportunity to network with other small businesses trying to develop and expand.


JoOverall, we've had a really positive experience of the programme. We were delighted to have been chosen to take part and we've taken away some great ideas. We're feeling excited and inspired about the future - a bit like we've fallen in love with our company all over again. We've also met lots of like-minded business owners that we're going to stay in touch with, so that we can keep sharing our experiences and supporting each other.” Cristina Harvey, The First Word


OvioInnovating for Growth has given us a wealth of knowledge across key areas of business. We've been given the tools to help our business grow from market experts and were busy implementing what we've learned. I've also had my eyes opened to the incredible information resources that the library offers. It's an outstanding programme and resource and we feel lucky to be part of it."Dominic White, Ovio.

The Business & IP Centre was launched with the aim to support businesses, entrepreneurs and inventors grow their organisations by using our valuable resources and expertise and working with a network of trusted partners. Innovating for Growth has been delivered with thanks to the GLA, ERDF and our deliver partners: ABA, asb law, Gearing Up, Makersco and Red Ochre. 

ERDF Logo Portrait Colour Web

Innovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund  

17 September 2015

Book review: Start a business for £99 by Emma Jones

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Emma Jones the founder of Enterprise Nation and also an Ambassador of Business & IP Centre has published a new book Start a business for £99. Emma works closely with us in the Business & IP Centre.


She founded Enterprise Nation, which runs diverse campaigns to support business start-up and growth. Enterprise Nation are one of Business & IP Centre partners who run monthly StartUp Saturday events in the Centre. Emma also occasionally chairs our Inspiring Entrepreneurs evening event panels. 

Start a business for £99I’ve chosen this book because of its intriguing title. Having read it, I can see it would be very useful for people who have an idea, and want to make a living from bringing their idea into the market.  

It covers pretty much everything you would need to know from starting wit a business idea, to funding, marketing, social media promotion, growth and much more.

Inside you will find out how to: 

- Come up with a winning idea

- Take your idea from concept to market

- Carry out high-value, Low-cost market - research

- Develop a professional online presence for less

- Make the most of free technology tools

- Raise your profile with no marketing budget required

- Find space and people by borrowing and bartering

The book is divided into four parts making it is easy to navigate. Each part is broken down into chapters for clearer explanations. In each chapter Emma presents a case study. One of her case studies was Imran Merza, the entrepreneur behind Jealous Sweets, who was also supported by our Innovating for Growth programme.

As Emma mentions “Imran and his business partner Taz had no knowledge of the confectionery market and no idea where to begin”. Imran took advantage of the free resources at the British Library Business & IP Centre and conducted his market research to help him build his business plan. It helped them target their audience market and their spending habits. With this knowledge, they knew who to approach to sell their products.

The book provides you with a checklist of essential things you need to start a business and how you can do them all for under £99.

Here are the essentials:

  • Register as Limited Company - £15.00
  • Insurance - £5.00 ( for 1 month)
  • Broadband - £2.50
  • Domain Registration - £4.50
  • Meet Face to Face with Customer - £5.00 (cost of coffee)
  • Logo - £3.30
  • Business Cards - £9.99
  • Home Office - £20.00
  • This Book - £12.99
  • Bottle of bubbly to celebrate - £10.00

Total - £88.28

Julie Boadilla on behalf of the Business & IP Centre 

08 September 2015

Five Preparation Tips for Entrepreneurs

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Dr Stephen Fear, Ambassador to the British Library’s Business & IP Centre and Chairman and Founder of international organisation Fear Group, outlines key skills any successful independent entrepreneur should include in their work ethic.


The noun ‘entrepreneur’ derives from the French and means ‘organiser’. Entrepreneurs are traders: some work for a corporation whereas others who cherish their independence are self-employed. Independence is therefore one way of distinguishing between different types of entrepreneur. Independent entrepreneurs are mavericks. There is something about them that sets them apart from the crowd- something more than financial success alone. Some of their ideas fail and some prosper, albeit briefly, whereas others may influence the course of history. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook - all of these companies were started by independent entrepreneurs.

In many ways becoming an independent entrepreneur is an act of revolution, not of course in a political sense but that of the insistence of the individual to be just that, individual. An independent entrepreneur wants to produce a solid expression of his or her desires and dissatisfactions, usually in a positive way for the benefit of society. Of course it’s about making money, but for me at least it has always been about more than that. Interesting projects abound and getting involved and solving problems make me get up in the morning.

1.    Be organised

I organise myself and have created a system to reduce mundane tasks so that they are dealt with automatically and therefore I am left with the more exciting job of finding new opportunities. One thing I learnt very early on is that paperwork seldom goes away on its own and the longer you leave it the worse it gets. Automating how you deal with it is essential if like me you prefer doing deals rather than shuffling papers.

I allocate one full day every week to deal with what I call ‘office stuff’. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, that one full day, which in my case means 14 hours, is spent clearing my desk. Thanks to modern technology this no longer means that I need to be in my office because I have digitised my administration so that I can just as easily work from France or the US as I can from the UK, or even Africa or Brazil.


2.    Go paperless

Focus on ensuring everything you need is available on your laptop or tablet if you want real freedom. Once you have created a truly paperless office it goes everywhere with you.

Ringing someone, even on a mobile from New York to London, is still a lot cheaper and more efficient than travelling across time zones and with Skype it is free. I started in a red phone box but am thankful to the entrepreneur who developed the smart phone because without him or her, I might well have back ache by now! We live in a brilliant age for the entrepreneur, an age where almost anything is possible and most things are probable. That is, if you’re organised of course.

3.    Exercise your mind and body

I find that a walk gives me the time to prepare and think things through. I avoid the phone or texting whilst walking because it interferes with my thought process. It isn’t necessary to walk for miles, so a stroll around the block is fine. I often do this first thing in the morning when staying in hotels. I have walked the streets of Moscow, Los Angeles, Toronto and most other large cities at some point in my life. Just wandering, looking in shops and people-watching from cafés fills my mind with new business opportunities. Try it for yourself, it works. Preparing the mind is essential if one is to make good balanced decisions, rather than the rushed feeling experienced by many. An organised mind leaves time for entrepreneurial thought to develop.

4.    Allocate time as you would money

Time is money, and we spend it in much the same way. Let’s say you decide to work 40 hours a week but waste 27 of them chatting on the phone with friends or using Facebook. That means you only have 13 hours left to earn your daily crust which might leave you wondering why you can’t pay your bills. For entrepreneurs - unless they use time efficiently their businesses never get off the ground. This can often result in friends, relatives or banks not being paid back money they lent to get the business started. Try looking at your time like you do your bank balance. At the start of the week you have a certain amount of both. Spend them with equal consideration to those finite limits.


 5.    Know your competition

Keeping your own counsel and thinking things through is something many successful people do regularly, including myself. It’s important to create a space between your idea and the clutter that surrounds it so that you can obtain perspective. Learning who your competitors are and what they are up to is essential if you want to progress. Don’t be daunted by others’ success, but instead be inspired by it. I always think a great leveler is to realise that you are probably not as good as the very best and not as bad as the really hopeless. “You’re as good as ANYONE, but not better than EVERYONE.”

Need some more advice on starting and running your business? Come along to our next Inspiring Entrepreneurs event which will celebrate the contributions of Black British entrepreneurs and creative talent in the UK with a panel including: MOBO CEO and Founder Kanya King MBE; June Sarpong MBE, TV presenter and Founder of Lipgloss Productions; Yinka Ilori, Designer and Levi Roots, Reggae Reggae entrepreneur and MOBO nominated musician. Book now

Dr Stephen Fear on behalf of the Business & IP Centre