THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

114 posts categorized "Business"

14 February 2019

Brexit resources available

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It's an uncertain time for many businesses around the UK regardless of whether Brexit goes ahead with or without a deal on Friday 29 March 2019. We've compiled a list of resources currently available to help you find the information you are looking for.

Prepare your business for EU Exit

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Use the information from the Government to understand how leaving the EU may affect your business and what you can do to get ready, including guides on employing EU citizens, importing and exporting, intellectual property and funding, amongst others.

Brexit Business Resource Hub

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The London Growth Hub and the Mayor of London have launched this new Brexit Business Resource Hub, bringing together key resources from a range of partners to help with business planning, support for mapping business areas with potential exposure to Brexit.

Using personal data after Brexit

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The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has put together an online resource on what to do if there are changes to the rules governing the use of personal data.

The Institute of Export and International Trade Customs Procedures and Documentation

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A comprehensive look at the information that is required to be submitted to customs to enable goods to be imported and exported. It also looks at the differences between EU and non-EU trade. 

IP and Brexit: the facts

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The Intellectual Property Office's facts on the future of intellectual property laws following the decision that the UK will leave the EU.

12 February 2019

A week in the life of... Rachel Walker, co-founder of The Fold Line

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Rachel is a co-founder of The Fold Line, an award-winning online sewing community and sewing pattern shop. Championing independent pattern designers, they are the one stop shop for all your dressmaking pattern needs. Founded in 2015 they are the home for people who love sewing and making their own clothes and are alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme.

With a background in science research, it wasn’t until after finishing her PhD that Rachel decided she wanted a career change. She started to work part-time for a sewing company in London, teaching classes and helping at events, as she had always enjoyed sewing as a hobby. She then retrained in pattern cutting and over the next year, moved into overseeing pattern production and development, using the project management skills she had gained from her studies. During this time she met Kate (co-founder) and after a couple of months they decided to start a business together.

As avid makers, Rachel and Kate struggled to keep up with all the sewing pattern releases and growing number of bloggers sharing their makes and tips. They were inspired by the growing online sewing community to build a home for everyone interested in dressmaking. From this The Fold Line was born, a place you can meet other makers, share tips and ideas and get lots of inspiration for your next project while keeping up-to-date with the latest sewing news and pattern releases.

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You can expect to find lots of inspiration and catch up on all the latest sewing news on their sewing blog and vlog. They also have an extensive sewing pattern database where you can use a pattern finder tool to search over 10,000 patterns plus read lots of sewing pattern reviews from the community. 

Monday The first thing I do on a Monday morning is take my enthusiastic Labrador for a long walk to tire him out. Once back home I begin the week with catching up on everything that has been going on over the weekend. I reply to any outstanding emails, pay invoices and browse social media channels for news in the sewing community. I also take the time to reply to questions and comments from our community of makers on our website and social media.

In the afternoon I plan out my tasks for the week ahead and check we have everything we need. I will usually spend the rest of the day on accounts, making sure our freelancers are paid and looking at our spending over the last week.

Tuesday Another long dog walk. When back at home I start the day by emailing the freelancers who work with us on creating content and sharing it across our social media channels. I’ll also order more stock for our warehouse and check on the status of orders that need to be sent out.

In the afternoon I will work on one of our consulting jobs, creating content and scheduling it for the week ahead.

Wednesday First thing in the morning I photograph any sewing patterns that have been delivered so that we can get the new products added to our website. Later in the morning I visit our warehouse and the team that picks and packs all the orders that go out from our online shop. It’s a good opportunity to take any new stock with me and also talk through problems with the team.

In the afternoon I email new pattern designers about adding their sewing patterns to our new online shop. I’ll also update stock levels depending on what products I took to the warehouse. I’ll also spend time on social media looking for new sewing challenges people can take part in, sewing meet ups that have been arranged and sewing pattern releases so we have new content to share with the community.

The Fold Line new website - pattern page

Thursday Another long dog walk! I then meet up with Kate, who is the other founder and director at The Fold Line. Over tea we talk about how we are getting on with big projects we have planned and chat through any difficulties we’ve had during the week. We also analyse sales of sewing patterns from our online shop and look at current trends. We brainstorm about new content for blogs over the coming months as well. If it’s been a challenging week we will treat ourselves to a nice lunch!

In the afternoon I’ll update our diaries and schedule with the plans we have made. I’ll also do more work on one of our consulting jobs.

Friday I usually spend Fridays working on the second consulting job we do, designing and testing creative content for publication.

Weekend We often attend sewing meet ups on Saturdays where we join a group of sewing enthusiasts for fabric shopping or a fashion exhibition. We might also be guest judges of handmade outfits at sewing parties. On Sundays I try not to work. If I have time I’ll try and do a bit of sewing for myself and make a garment such as a top or jacket. I do like to reply to all the emails that we have received over the weekend on a Sunday evening so that I can start Monday with an empty inbox!

06 February 2019

Why have a mentor? Discover more about our Innovating for Growth: Mentoring programme

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Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs, Jamie Oliver has Gennaro Contaldo and Lady Gaga has Elton John. We’re talking about mentor and mentees. Are you looking for your own Elton? Do you want guidance like Mark? The Business & IP Centre runs a mentoring programme as part of Innovating for Growth, pairing up entrepreneurs who have completed our Scale-ups programme, with those who have started their own new business (to see the eligibility criteria, click here).

We found many enquirers had misconceptions about being a mentor/mentee, didn’t really know what it was or just wanted more information, so we picked the brains of those currently in the mentoring programme for some insider knowledge.

Deborah Wood, founder of Ascendit highlights the importance of having a mentor, “Open your mind to be able to learn from and be supported by others. Business lessons are universal so there will always be something to draw from someone else's experience that can help you develop your business. If you have a skilled mentor then they will quickly identify a point that will make a difference to your development.

“[I wanted a mentor as] I’m a great believer in mentorship. I was very fortunate to have my very first one at the tender age of 15, when taking art in school. I had absolutely no experience but clearly was talented. My art teacher thought I would benefit from studying at art college. My first choice was to apply to Central Saint Martin’s in London. I got in and the rest is history.” Tina Bernstein, founder of Mapology Guides

Eligibility

What are the programme’s eligibility requirements?

  • Your business has to have been registered as a Sole Trader or on Companies House for at least six months by the application deadline (see below)
  • Your business should already have a ‘live’ website
  • Your business should have already generated some revenue from sales (e.g. from trading at local markets, trade-shows)
  • You will be able to attend the Introductory Mentee Workshop
  • You or your business must be based in London

Tina confirms how mentoring at this stage of her business helped more than if she’d had someone at the start, “I suppose having a mentor right from the start would potentially have helped with avoiding making so many mistakes. However, being good at business is all about learning the lessons and mistakes are part of the journey. Personally, I wouldn’t have wanted someone to guide me right from the start. I’m grateful for all my mistakes and what they’ve taught me. I’m sure I benefited more at this stage of my business.

Can I still apply if:

… I haven’t been registered with Companies house for six months, but I was previously trading in another country before then?

Yes, as long as you also meet our other requirements.

… My company has not yet generated any revenue, but we are expecting some invoices to be processed by our clients soon?

Sadly, no. You must have generated some revenue from sales at the time of your application. We encourage you to apply for future cohorts when this happens.

… I am rebranding my company and/or taking it in a new direction?

Yes, as long as this is a development of your existing company and not the creation of a separate business entity. The mentoring programme is a chance for you to grow your current business endeavour with a Mentor.

 Deborah confirms “The matching process was perfect as my mentor and I are from the same broad industry category. This meant that he immediately understood my business and was able to draw lessons from his own business development to guide help me. [Having being registered for over a year and generated revenue helped] as we had some operational experience to work with and shape.

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 The Programme

Who are the Mentors?

The Mentors are alumni from our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme who have volunteered to take part in the programme.

Sarah Orecchia, founder of Unbeelievable Health, an Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni who is a mentor says, “The Innovating for Growth program is something I shall always be grateful for. Having access to invaluable advice from so many professionals in the fields of IP, marketing, sales, supply chain, finance and more helped us to strengthen the foundations of our business and also taught me what being a good mentor is all about. I'm a real Business & IP Centre nerd and recommend it to anyone I come across who's starting a business! When I started my business I was really fortunate to have a couple of great mentors and it truly made a world of difference. Their straightforward advice and support helped me to avoid numerous pitfalls and guided me in the right direction. As Maya Angelou said – ‘If you get, give. If you learn, teach.’”

Amelia Rope, founder of Amelia Rope Chocolates wanted to become a mentor "Because it was important for me to give back'; not only to the Business & IP Centre, but also to individuals who were at the stage when a mentor may be of some help. We all have so much experience gained from getting things hopelessly wrong or delightfully right. If you can share an ounce of these with a budding start-up in the hope its saves them making the same mistakes it has to be worth it. The thorough training from the Business & IP Centre before we kicked off was invaluable. One fellow mentor I met on the course will be a friend for life."

I understand that the Mentee Introductory workshop is mandatory. If I am unable to attend in person, can this be done remotely?

It is essential that you are able to attend this workshop so as to have a greater understanding of the programme, your expectations as a mentee and also the expectations of your prospective mentor. If you are unable to attend the workshop, you must let the Innovating for Growth team know by e-mailing mentoring@bl.uk.

Should you unexpectedly not be able to attend after receiving a place on the Introductory Mentee Workshop, we do allow you to defer your place once to start with the next cohort.

I’ve been successful in getting a place on the Mentee Introductory Workshop. Am I now guaranteed a Mentor?

The Innovating for Growth team work hard to make sure that we can match you with an appropriate mentor so as to try to ensure the most positive experience as possible for you. This careful decision process is based on the information you provide on your application form, your interactions during the Introductory Workshop, and the experience/skillsets that our existing pool of Mentors have to offer.

Therefore, if we feel like we are unable to match you with a suitable Mentor this cohort, we will automatically enroll you onto the next cohort. In this instance, you will not need to reapply or attend a second Mentee Introductory Workshop.

The mentor appointed to me understood retail and my various challenges, that’s because they’ve themselves been through them at an earlier stage. I felt we spoke the same language. I think the matched approach is imperative to a successful mentor/mentee relationship. I was very grateful for the hand-picked approach.” Tina Bernstein, founder of Mapology Guides

How often does the programme take place?

The programme takes place on a bi-annual basis (approximately).

How much time will I need to commit to the programme?

If successfully matched with a Mentor, your mentoring sessions will consist of two one hour introductory meetings of one hour at the Business & IP Centre, followed by five meetings of 1-2 hours over the course of four months. The time, dates and locations for the remaining five meetings will be decided between you and your Mentor.

What type of Mentoring will I receive?

This is something that will be discussed in greater detail at the Introductory Mentee Workshop. However, it is good to know that the purpose of the programme is to provide a holistic mentoring experience, and we cannot guarantee that you will receive mentoring on a specific topic i.e. marketing, finance, international trade, etc.

Does the programme provide any financial support?

No, the programme’s purpose is to build your entrepreneurial confidence and it seeks to offer the following non-monetary benefits:

  • Practical advice, encouragement and support from experienced entrepreneurs
  • Identification of goals and establish a sense of direction
  • Exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking
  • Strengthen your interpersonal and communication skills and learn to listen actively and accept feedback
  • Increase your confidence and motivation
  • Expansion your professional network
  • Will I need to pay to participate in the programme?

No. The Innovating for Growth project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the British Library, making this programme completely free to you. All we ask is that you pay for your Mentor’s coffee or tea during your mentoring meetings as they are volunteering their own time to help you.

Sarah explains the importance of having a mentor, “As humans, we tend to wage an internal battle between lacking confidence and feeling like we can do it all. Starting a business takes a LOT of time and many mistakes can be made along the way. A mentor helps to guide you and provides often, invaluable advice and insight. I had several mentors for different areas of my business. Sometimes just a few meetings or conversations are needed, and sometimes the relationship may last longer. To those who are unsure about having a mentor - I ask - what is the downside? Go for it! And once you've built your enterprise, get out there and give back by mentoring others! It's very rewarding!”

Other

I would like to become a Mentor for the Innovating for Growth: Mentoring programme. Is this possible?

We only recruit our Mentors from our Innovating for Growth: Scale-up programme. If you meet the Scale-up programme eligibility requirements, we encourage you to apply so that you might Mentor with us in the future.

If I don’t get onto the programme, are there any other Business & IP Centre opportunities available to me?

Yes, certainly. The Innovating for Growth programme in general offers a Start-up and Scale-up programme, both with the goal to help your business prosper. Additionally, we invite you to take a look at the Business & IP Centre website for all the fantastic programmes and events we have on offer all year round.

If you have any further questions for the programme, or would like to clarify anything you have read here, please reach out to mentoring@bl.uk. The deadline for this round of mentee recruitment is Friday 8 February.

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05 February 2019

A week in the life of... Merilee Karr, founder and CEO of UnderTheDoormat

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American by origin, Merilee Karr is an adopted Brit, having lived in London for the last 18 years, always in the southwest near Putney. She founded London’s premier short-term lettings company back in 2014 and is an alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme. Passionate about providing visitors with a ‘home from home’ experience and not leaving homes empty when their owners are away, when others could enjoy them, UnderTheDoormat was born. Now hosting over 200 homes and attracting over 5,000 visitors a year, UnderTheDoormat is paving the way for 'responsible short-letting’ across London, for both homeowners and guests to enjoy. Merilee will be one of the speakers at Day of Disruption on Monday 11 February.

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A typical day for me is varied – and no two are ever quite the same! As a founder of a young and growing company, it’s important to be ‘hands on’ in the running of the company. On the flip side, my role involves a lot of external focus to grow the business and includes everything from speaking at conferences, meeting with property companies for partnerships, carving out potential strategic partnerships with suppliers and of course meeting new investors and keeping my current investors and board members up-to-date. Every day is a challenge for me, and I love it when I have a combination of internal and external things are on my to-do list.

My ‘work day’ can include any of the following:

  • A team meeting going through our monthly results and key metrics for the business
  • An external meeting with Westminster council or an MP about the industry standards we are building and how we can make them effective as we roll them out
  • Releasing payments to suppliers and paying our homeowners the money they earned from working with us
  • Lunch or coffee with a fellow founder of a sharing economy business to discuss our businesses and potential to collaborate
  • A meeting with a property company or developer about partnering to provide them with short-let options for their portfolios
  • Developing a bespoke proposal following that meeting with a business case for working with us and the value we can deliver
  • Phone call or meeting with a potential homeowner looking to let their home with us
  • A PR meeting with STAA (Short-term Accommodation Association) for which I currently sit as Chair. I take this role extremely seriously as it promotes ‘responsible’ short-term letting which is the key USP of UnderTheDoormat
  • Media interviews and discussions – particularly with property press or newspapers like the Evening Standard
  • Increasingly I am asked to speak at conferences as the spokesperson for the industry. With three planned this month already it’s a busy time and I thoroughly enjoy these. It's great for networking and learning what other people are doing in our sector and beyond. 

My time away from the job is also important to me. Outside of office hours, it's fair to say I combine more work(!) and my love of sport, keeping fit and keeping up with friends. This is my usual schedule of extra-curricular activities:

Tuesday morning I run with a friend (someone who I went to University with in Virginia who lives around the corner in London).

Tuesday or Wednesday evening Typically, a work event of some type- e.g. Tourism society conference speaking or Supper Club CEO’s dinner.

Thursday evenings are triathlon training - usually a swim followed by a social in the pub - I always order a pepperoni pizza and an apple juice and soda!

Saturday mornings are my club cycle ride which I find hugely enjoyable. My favourite is the Windsor ride via the Great Park (you really get to feel the seasons through the year and looking down at the castle from the top of the long walk never gets old). We stop for coffee at the Cinnamon Café and get gigantic cinnamon buns before heading back.   

Saturday evening Drinks or dinner with friends. This week I have a friend’s leaving drinks as she is moving to Hong Kong. 

Sunday Lie in day! Generally, it’s a morning of doing stuff around the house and then heading out for a walk and lunch with friends. I then swim in the evening which is a great way to set myself up positively for the start of the week. 

23 January 2019

A week in the life of... Dr Jan Kattein, founding director of Jan Kattein Architects

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Dr Jan Kattein is founding director of Jan Kattein Architects, a design studio that advocates socially engaged working methods. The practice embraces design as an opportunity for dialogue and exchange. Their work strives to make a civic contribution, using design as a means to support economic, cultural, educational and social prosperity. Jan took part in the British Library's Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme in 2018 and is now working with Global Generation to design a community garden to support the Library's outreach programme.

Monday... I was hoping for a slow start in January, but there are already a raft of emails in the inbox, annual staff reviews need to be scheduled, a tender is due later this week, a new member of staff is joining the team and a number of new projects are starting.

The week starts with a meeting with Westminster Council's regeneration team. Westminster have firmly committed to consultation and dialogue with their communities around regeneration projects and have set up a series of local regeneration bases in several areas of the borough. Regeneration has attained a somewhat tainted reputation in recent years because it is often associated with displacement of communities and gentrification of neighbourhoods. Whilst I understand the root of these concerns, I can also see the very tangible benefits that an inclusive approach to regeneration can bring for local people. When embracing the Mayor's principles of 'Good Growth', regeneration is principally about creating opportunities for all sections of society. And this is mainly what our work is about at Jan Kattein Architects. Working together with local authorities, the private sector and the third sector, we can unlock educational, economic or cultural potential in projects and find a way of using the design process as a means to bringing greater community coherence. I often think that as a profession we need to become much better at accepting accountability for our work. In the knowledge that an inclusive city is a more prosperous city, the smart players in the private sector are doing that already and local authorities are increasingly taking the view that an integrated and transparent way of working brings real tangible benefits. Architects have traditionally had the role of synthesizing a range of different parameters that allow the built environment to function and are well placed to act as mediators between the various interests that inevitably collide when working in urban regeneration.

Morden High Street Regeneration
Morden High Street regeneration

Back at the office, I need to put the finishing touches to a tender submission. Tower Hamlets Council have invited us to submit a bid for a small high street regeneration project in Roman Road. High streets are such an important part of civic life and London would not be London without its 600 high streets, the jobs they provide, the contribution they make to public life and the cultural diversity they bring. I have now been involved in delivering some 30 or so high street regeneration projects in London. In high street regeneration our engaged way of working finds particular bearing. The aim of our work is never just about physical change, it's about shifting people's perception of their environment, about sewing a seed for a mindset change and instil confidence in a struggling but vital sector of our economy. There are challenging years ahead for the high street and if we really want to protect this important civic asset, we have to come up with some inventive new uses that service communities and the experience economy. We also need to carefully consider our spending habits and the tax regime that currently creates an uneven playing field which is heavily skewed to benefit multi-nationals.

Tuesday Today starts with a talk at the Cass School of Art and Design. I still lecture and teach at intervals. I am pleased to give a share of my time to a new generation of designers and thinkers making their way through university, but am also aware of the contribution that this interaction makes to rehearsing and disseminating our message. I have found that the communication of our work relies on a thoughtful and nuanced message which is best brought in person, with patience and the opportunity for critical discussion.

Church Street Regeneration
Church Street regeneration public consultation

In the afternoon an internal resourcing meeting. We introduced these weekly meetings to better manage workloads and to predict capacity. The challenge with our work is that things are rarely predictable. What we do is subject to public scrutiny, brief changes, political whim and an evolving social or economic context. Whilst these are challenges that are tricky to manage when running a business, it makes our work profoundly human too and that's why I am happy to tolerate uncertainty and why everyone at Jan Kattein Architects needs to become a master at improvisation.

Wednesday Staff reviews today. Our office is open plan and designed to encourage social interaction. The arrangement of our workspace is a direct representation of the horizontal management structure that we are striving to achieve. A supportive environment where people talk to each other and lend a hand or provide advice informally is critical to everyone giving their best. The downside of our office space is that there is very little privacy; so that a private conversation has to take place at the local pizzeria. This year, that's exactly where we are doing staff reviews, over lunch. It's been beneficial so far, getting out and away from the desk has brought about some friendly but frank conversations. We clearly have to review how we support our team. I suppose the crux with horizontal management is that the level of responsibility taken on by staff needs to be matched by just as much support, empathy and engagement. I always thought we were doing quite well in this field, but I suppose one can always do better.

Jan Kattein Architects office
Jan Kattein Architects office in Islington

Thursday Good news this morning. Camden Council have emailed the planning permission letter for our designs of the Story Garden, a new temporary community garden for Somers Town residents behind the British Library. The project was conceived in a partnership between educational charity Global Generation, the British Library, Stanhope and Central St. Martin's College (CSM) to create an ecological outdoor education space on a disused site just north of the Library. Enabled by the Library and Stanhope and through Camden Giving and the Mayor's Greenspace Fund, the garden will host workshops and events, provide growing space for local people and a maker space for CSM students until the end of 2020. A community-built straw bale roundhouse will provide a field classroom, a public kitchen, a sheltered outdoor dining space and small office are the communal hub of the garden. CSM are bringing a digital workshop onto site and a commercial greenhouse will provide all-season growing space for food and to propagate shrub and tree seedlings ultimately to be planted in estates, parks and squares throughout Somers Town. The space will also be used by the British Library to work on community learning, business and engagement projects.

Story Garden
Story Garden at the British Library

Friday Spanish Architecture Magazine A+T have published a six page spread about our Skip Garden project in King's Cross. It's a real joy to read how others perceive one's work.

In the afternoon meeting at Lendlease's office in Elephant & Castle to present the designs for a temporary place making installation that will form part of a large-scale regeneration project. Interesting discussions about what makes a good street and a good public space, how to foster cultural activity in a new neighbourhood and how to respond flexibly to people's changing needs in the urban environment.

Blue House Yard
Blue House Yard meanwhile village in Wood Green, London

I really enjoy working on meanwhile projects because they are a great platform for design innovation and because they provide an opportunity to engage with communities and start a dialogue about the sort of place where we all want to live without quite committing to a permanent and finite solution. After all, some of the world's famous landmarks like Gustave Eiffel's tower in Paris and the London Eye started their life as temporary projects - and I wonder whether they'd ever have received planning permission in the first place if they had been conceived as permanent structures from the outset. Temporary projects have made a really valuable contribution to the way we think about architecture and urbanism during the last decade.

Back in the office, an internal review of our exhibition design for the forthcoming Spare Parts exhibition at the Science Gallery at King's College. We have made the decision to manufacture the exhibition components ourselves. Just like most other architects, we work with contractors, specialist fabricators and makers to realise our designs. But ever so often, we build ourselves, sometimes as a team at Jan Kattein Architects, sometimes together with communities, apprentices or craftsmen. Building together engages the team, teaches new skills and provides room for experimentation and innovation - and as architects it makes us better at instructing others to build. If you are free, come to the Spare Parts exhibition opening on Thursday 28 February 2019!

I enjoy the heterogeneity of my work, the fact that what I do makes a difference to people's lives and the day to day interactions with my team, but now I am happy that it's Friday.

18 January 2019

Five tips to drive traffic to your website

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Grow are small business marketing consultants, whose founder and MD, Alasdair Inglis, is the Marketing Expert in Residence at the Business & IP Centre. Here they give us five tips to help drive traffic to your website.

 

You had to build a website for your business, that much was clear. You designed and honed your site until it was ready. Then what?

Like many people, your website is all dressed up and ready to go, but where's the traffic?

There are lots of brilliant websites like yours selling great products and services but don't have the traffic they need to be successful. If you find yourself at this point, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will run through some basic techniques to help your site rank on Google and get traffic.

  1. Find the right keyword phrases for your web pages

Keywords are the building blocks of how search engines work. Keywords are crucial for driving traffic to your website for free. When people perform Google searches, an algorithm decides what content to show them. You need to tell the search engine that yours is the best result to show. Using keywords throughout your web pages helps Google understand what you offer and when you should appear.

There's also a bit of a catch. Some keywords are so popular that you haven't much chance of ever ranking for them. If you tried to rank a web page for the keyword, chocolate, you will struggle.

The trick is to find less-popular keyword phrases e.g. "Where can I buy organic chocolate?", where you might be able to rank for the phrase, but you'll never rank for the keyword chocolate alone as it's just too competitive!

Targeting the right keyword phrases is crucial. When researching for the best keyword phrases, the key is to find the balance between low enough competition and high enough volume. There are many ways to do keyword research, and some software packages such as SEM Rush give you an idea of how hard it is to rank a keyword phrase in Google.

  1. Putting your keywords to work

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Sadly, it's not quite as easy as just putting the right keywords on your web page. You need to optimise your web pages in order for search engines to rank the web page for a particular search term.

Think about it from Google's point of view. Every person that searches is their customer – and they want to provide the very best service to that customer to keep them coming back (it seems to be working!). To do that they must strive to eliminate poorly written and irrelevant content and anything that could deliver a bad experience to their customer. Optimising your site is saying to Google, "I'm here, I've got good content, and my site is worth showing".  We’ve written a detailed guide to optimising your web pages.

  1. Create your content

Once you know your keyword phrases, it's time to start creating content. Many people dip their toe in the water with a blog. If you're reading this and can write, congratulations, you're qualified to create a blog!

Some find writing daunting, and others don't enjoy the process. Luckily for those people (and writers, too!), we're in the age of video content. Video content is on the rise at the moment and generally receives higher engagement.

A combination of text and video might be the ideal way to boost social media shares and links to your blog– and therefore your search rankings!

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*Tool tip: Yoast SEO is a great little tool for free on-page blog optimisation. If you're using WordPress, give it a try! If not, set up an account and test your content with Yoast before posting text your site!

  1. Get other websites to link to your web pages.

It seems strange to think about, but the internet is just a collection of pages linked to each other. Links are the fabric of the internet. Search engines know this and use links to help them work out the quality of websites and web pages.

The more links from quality sites that point to your website, the more important Google knows your website is. Quality links are one of the major ways Google and Bing rank your pages. If your chocolate-themed website is linked to from chocolate-lovers blogs and chocolatiers’ groups, great!

Link building (the process of acquiring links from relevant quality websites to your content) can happen quite naturally. If you have great content, people will often link to you. Millions of links are being created daily without anybody asking for them.

Sometimes, the organic way can be a little slow. Especially right at the start! If nobody sees your content, nobody can link to it. An outreach programme can be a good bet. Dust-off your best email manners and contact other businesses, make connections and show them what great resources you have! Once you have a good network within your niche, it will be easier to pick up links along the way. This process can be carried out with a relatively low budget by using mail merge software, but it can be time-consuming.

There are a number of different strategies you can use, such as contacting bloggers who write about your niche and asking them to link to a useful article you’ve written, is a great way to get a link. Bloggers are usually keen to be the first to break some news or get involved with something fresh. Perhaps think about what you can offer them in return? Sometimes sending them a product to review is a great way to do this. 

Another common link building strategy is to offer a complimentary guest post to a high-quality website. You will need to write an excellent guest post though!

  1. Use social media to share your content

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More than three billion people worldwide now use social media every month. That's also a lot of potential customers and website traffic back to your site!

Ensure that your social media profiles all link back to your website and that you're sharing your own content and driving traffic and engagement to your site.

Social media can also be an excellent tool for finding relevant bloggers and businesses to get links from and to share your content. Connect with people via Twitter and form a relationship. The clue is in the name… so be social!

Posting useful content, engaging with people and building your followers is a sure-fire way to increase traffic and promote your website. So, what are you waiting for? Your next blog, article or video post is just a few hours away.

Remember your keywords, build those links up and stay social.

Want to learn more digital marketing strategies with Grow? Visit our workshops and events page to see when their next Online marketing masterclass is running.

02 January 2019

Five elements to consider when choosing a winning domain

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Here are some top tips from our partner UK2 on choosing the correct domain...

The domain you choose for your next digital adventure is a major decision, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your web address outlines branding and website identity and also impacts how website users find you online. When the time comes for you to choose your new domain name, there are a few things you need to consider. We’ve assembled a list of the most important website elements including, uniqueness, typability, clarity, substance, and protection.

See our recommendations for these important elements and the questions you should ask yourself before registering a domain in the list below:

#1. Uniqueness

While it can be difficult to stand out on the internet - a place that holds everything and everyone in the world - it is important to attempt to create a unique identity for your brand and website. Your domain name is the perfect place to begin to find your originality.

Startups.co writes that “You need to establish an identity that gives your company direction and helps customers easily find you.” The uniqueness of your domain is important not only to try to create a name for yourself but also to make sure that you aren’t encroaching on anyone else’s territory. Check and double check the domain name you have in mind by answering the questions below:

  • Is anyone else using this domain, or something similar?
  • Is this domain brandable to represent your specific purpose?
  • Is this domain memorable, and will it lead visitors to your page?

#2. Typability

Whilst this word is clearly invented for our purposes, it represents a very important aspect of choosing your domain. When searching out your next domain name, it is important to remember that website visitors will be typing in your web address repeatedly. You will be repeating your domain name out loud for years to come, so you want to consider how it sounds.

Maqtoob writes, “Whether you’re launching a startup, ramping up a business or rebranding your company, it’s important that you have a domain name that rolls off the tongue, is easy to remember, communicates a positive image, looks professional, and inspires you and your team.” If you include unique words that are tough to spell or sequences of numbers that might be forgotten, you might lead people to the wrong site or error pages. To avoid this mistake, ask yourself the questions below:

  • Does your domain easily lead to mistypes or misspellings?
  • Is your domain long and convoluted?

#3. Clarity

Ensuring that your domain is clear lends an aura of respectability that you might otherwise miss out on. There are far too many spammy domains, email addresses, and social media accounts to make us wary of almost everyone we come across online. However, we realise that this is not an easy task. Paul Graham once wrote, “In a world where all the obvious names are taken, finding a good name is a test of imagination. And the name you choose tells whether or not you passed that test.” To be sure that your website gains the credibility it deserves, ask yourself the following questions:

  • From your domain, can site visitors get an understanding of what you offer?
  • Does your domain clearly represent your brand?
  • Could you easily be mistaken as another website?
  • Is your domain as short as possible?
  • If in doubt, is a simple is better than a shorter domain?

#4. Substance

If you’ve ever seen articles about the unfortunate domains for IT Scrap, Pen Island, or Who Represents websites, you know that understanding how your brand is displayed without spacing is very important. Do your best to make sure that you are not using numbers, hyphens, or a collection of smaller words that could become confusing when strung together. Ask yourself the following questions before registering your new domain:

  • Does the domain avoid hyphens and numbers?
  • Could your domain be misconstrued because of spacing?
  • Have you checked into the history of the domain and its other uses?

#5. Protection

The unfortunate truth of the digital world is that if someone has a chance to misrepresent themselves to earn a pound or two, they probably will. While we don’t want to believe that there are lots of unscrupulous folks hanging around the web, the truth is, there are. This is exactly why you want to be sure that you don’t register domains too close to an established entity and why you want to protect your brand by registering domains that are too closely related to you. Before registering, check the answers to these questions to protect your brand and your reputation:

  • Could others purchase domains similar to yours to spoof or misrepresent your business?
  • Are there other domains you should register to keep off the market?

Now that you have encountered the necessary elements of your new domain name, all that’s left is to choose the winning contestant. Check availability, add necessary tools, and register your domain with the help of UK2.NET today!

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10 December 2018

Contemporary twists on traditional festive gifts

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It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas so we decided to catch up with some of our Innovating for Growth alumni whose businesses become even busier over the festive period to get their take on seasonal trends, consumer behaviour and to see what they are offering this year... 

Mellissa Morgan, co-founder and Company Director of Ms. Cupcake in Brixton, has found that traditional flavours remain popular, but are wanted in contemporary and innovate ways, "Big successes this year have been our Stollen Muffin, which is a light and fluffy take on the traditional German treat. Our Mince Pie Squares have been a big hit with our B2B clients, flying off the shelves of their establishments”. 

Ms. Cupcake Grinch Cupcake
It’s also a great time of year to be playful, as Mellissa has seen with their ‘Grinch’ Chocolate Mint cupcakes. 

That’s not the only change in consumer habits Mellissa has noticed. Consumers’ lifestyle choices have also impacted on Ms. Cupcake, “Veganism has been on the rise over the last two years and retailers both big and small are taking note! When we opened the UK’s first vegan bakery back in 2011, we were a novelty. Now that vegan foods have become a firm fixture on the high street, we are in great company!. 

From food to feet... ChattyFeet, co-founded by Gil Kahana, is a brand of quirky, pun-filled, character socks, Gil says, “Here at ChattyFeet, we're very excited about Christmas. We love the Christmas lights, mulled wine and spending time with people we care about. The festive season can get pretty intense so we're also looking forward to chill out in January”. 

Their sock characters, however are causing mischief... Yayoi Toesame insists that ChattyFeet’s Christmas tree will have only circular shapes! Can you imagine? Is it a bit dotty or perhaps she's right? 

ChattyFeet1

Ernestoe Hemingway is doing OK apart from his constant demands. He wants ChattyFeet to let people know that he doesn't want any more books for Christmas (on social media)... Apparently he has enough books to read until 2020! 

ChattyFeet2

And lastly, a bit of an embarrassing one... If you bought Mr. Grrrril socks between 2017-2018, ChattyFeet need to warn you about a possible issue... Some customers sent us evidence of Mr. Grrrril opening up the presents early. 

ChattyFeet3

It sounds like ChattyFeet have a demanding bunch on their hands feet, but they aren't the only ones with a sense of humour. Rosie Tate, designer of cards and gifts at family-run business, Cath Tate Cards has a range of traditional and humorous Christmas cards. With the rise of digital communications, we asked Rosie if the trend of sending Christmas cards was in decline, “The rise and rise of the internet, email, text and social media might make you think traditional paper greeting card sending was dead, however this is not the case. In 2017 100 million single Christmas greeting cards were bought and in addition, an estimated 900m Christmas cards were sold in boxes and packs”. 

Cards1

Rosie add, “Every person in the UK sends on average 33 greeting cards a year. A text or an email is just not going to cut the mustard for Aunty Brenda at Christmas! A paper card is an obviously more thoughtful gesture. 

Which gets us thinking, we should probably make a start on writing ours... 

If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of these entrepreneurs and believe your business has what it takes, is based in London and has a turnover of £100,000 or more, why not apply for Innovating for Growth: Scale-up and take your business to the next level? Register your interest for our next intake today.

23 November 2018

IP Corner: Registered designs and knitting

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When people think of intellectual property what most often springs to mind is patents, closely followed by trade marks. There are other forms of IP though and I came upon a good example of one when looking at gadgets to do with my favourite pastime – knitting.

This is the Wool Jeanie a nifty little device that holds the ball of wool/yarn whilst you are knitting releasing the wool evenly as you knit. The yarn holder is suspended from the frame using magnets and when not in use it can be disengaged from the frame and rested on the platform below.

Knitting

The Wool Jeanie is a UK registered design registered with the IPO UK and given design registration number RD6011452. The full design record can be viewed via the DesignView database upon entering the registered design number in the search box.

If you are not sure how to use the database, or if you are just interested, you can download our free IP guide A brief introduction to registered designs and registered design searching.

Registered designs protect the outward look of a product particularly the lines, contours, shape or texture, but they can also protect the material or ornamentation of the product. You cannot protect the way the design works, only the way it looks. To protect its functionality you would need to apply for a patent. For a design to be protectable it must be new and it must be unique.

A UK registered design gives the rights holder the exclusive right in the United Kingdom to make, use, sell, import and export any product embodying the design, if it is a shape, or bearing the design if it is ornamentation.

Registered designs can apply to a wide variety of products from packaging to furnishings, from clothing to jewellery and from household goods to textiles. However, registered designs do not last forever. Registered designs last a maximum of 25 years and are renewable every five years to the 25 year maximum. At the end of the 25 years, or if the renewal fees aren’t paid, the registered design falls into the public domain and is there for anyone to use.

So why should a business protect its designs?

By registering your designs you:

  • contribute to obtaining a return on investments made by you or your company into creating and marketing your products.
  • obtain exclusive right to the registered design allowing you to prevent or, if necessary, stop others from exploiting or copying your design without your written permission.
  • have the opportunity to sell or license the rights to the design to another enterprise for a fee.
  • strengthen your brand.

It is worth remembering that a vast majority of businesses today are web-based and the IP registrations the company holds, or the licenses it has to use others' IP, are assets of the business which can help increase the market value of a company and its products.

Within the UK unregistered ‘Design right’ also exists and automatically protects a design for a maximum of 10 years from the end of the calendar year in which the design was first sold or for 15 years after it was created whichever is the earlier. However, design right only applies to the shape and configuration of an object.

When deciding whether or not to register your designs it is worth speaking with an intellectual property attorney. Most will offer free 30 minute one-to-one advice sessions and you can find one in your local area via their website.

So what about my Wool Jeanie? Well, it has proved to be one of the best gadgets I have bought it my many years of knitting and crocheting and I am busy spreading the word about it to all my handicraft friends and acquaintances.

Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert at the Business & IP Centre London

Maria has worked in the field of intellectual property since she joined the British Library in January 1993. She is currently the British Library Business & IP Centre’s Intellectual Property Expert, where she delivers 1-2-1 business and IP advice clinics, as well as intellectual property workshops and webinars on regular basis.

To see all upcoming workshops, webinars and events, visit our website.

13 November 2018

Q&A with the Queen of Shops, Mary Portas

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We couldn’t resist asking the Queen of Shops herself, Mary Portas, a few pressing questions before she takes to the stage at Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Work Like A Woman with Mary Portas.

Some of our Innovating for Growth graduates and Ambassador, Julie Deane OBE, picked Mary’s brain on surviving in business during a challenging economic climate, the rise of digital and more. Here's what they asked...

Alice Asquith, founder and creative director of Asquith: 

With the closure of some key High Street stores, what advice would you give to someone starting out in this rather challenging retail climate?

It depends on where you want to place yourself. The future of great High Street retail will be around experience, knowledge and incredible service. If you can put that at the heart of your business and you believe your offer is unique and relevant to that market and you’re not being screwed over on rent, you have a chance. There’s so much more I’d ask you but these are the first things you should be asking yourself. Why would somebody make the effort to come to my shop? if you can cover the above you have a chance.

Where would you recommend for women to network if they’d like to meet other like-minded retail business owners?

There are hundreds if not thousands of great networking groups across many sectors. They all offer different things so it’s totally dependent on what you’re looking for right now. If you can’t find one that’s giving you what you need, start your own.

What would you say are the key ingredients and factors to successful collaborations with likeminded partners?

Understand the word collaboration. A symbiotic relationship where both parties benefit and support each other. Collaboration is about being better together than apart. Often collaborations are done with one thinking about their benefit alone. You need to consider your collaborator’s reputation and how they’ll benefit too.

Julie Deane OBE, founder of Cambridge Satchel Company:

Should businesses concentrate on establishing themselves in their home market before casting their eyes overseas?

Absolutely. And especially when you’re selling something that’s connected culturally to your market. I’ve seen too many business who’ve gone international and the power of their brand back home has eroded.

Rowena Howie, founder of Revival Retro:

Up and down the country there are small specialist shops providing a remarkable in store experience whilst trying to respond to a digital economy. What advice does the Queen of Shops have for bricks and clicks micro-businesses trying to pay a living wage, offer flexible working and create opportunities for amazing people, whilst still paying rampant rents, unfair rates and facing competition on a global level? Where do you consider the focus should be for small retailers looking to grow and create opportunity?

Focus on community, customer experience and identity. If you nail those three you stand a chance.

 

If you missed Mary's talk, you can catch up on our YouTube channel.