Innovation and enterprise blog

10 August 2020

Meet Sol Ramos, co-founder of London Basketball Nation and Start-ups in London Libraries participant

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There were a strange couple of months in 2020 where team sports were essentially non-existent. As they are slowly creeping back to normality, we wanted to celebrate one of the sports businesses who took part in our Start-ups in London Libraries programme.  Here we speak to Sol, co-founder of London Basketball Nation to find out more about her business, how it came into being and her advice for anyone else thinking about starting their own business.

‘We are London Basketball Nation Ltd. We organise basketball tournaments and events related to the sport.

The business came into being after years of unsuccessful attempts to find where to play amateur basketball in London. We started in 2018 with the experience of being unsatisfied customers who could face a challenge. The CEO of the company (and my husband) is the coach of an amateur basketball team. I spent some of my weekends at basketball courts watching games but also listening to almost everyone involved in the activity complaining about the poor quality of the service they were getting. They were paying to do something they loved during the scarce free time they had, and they were having a terrible time! This concern was shared not just by players but by staff working for existing organisations.

What first started as a chat about how bad things were, ended up in more serious talks about how much better things could be, and we took the matter in our own hands. Having experience in the amateur sports sector and a multidisciplinary team on board was really helpful. We got the support of two experienced officials that have been giving valuable insight from day one.

The London Basketball team

I have a background in Management and I get easily bored.  I was motivated by the challenge but also by the potential results.  Seeing people doing what they love and making that possible is very satisfying. As someone who has several hobbies herself, I can also identify with our customers.

There was little to no information available online about related services so we conducted some research, talking to other teams and players about what they wanted. They were all looking for the same: good venues, but above all, sensible people behind the activity. We thought of offering an “all-inclusive” format (fixture, staff, venue, etc) – from the players’ perspective, they then just had to be there and do what they do best.

We set up a company (just in case “it worked”) in March 2019 and organised a short tournament in June that year to test the waters. Teams decided to give us a chance and we ended up organising a 7-month tournament for adult men (18+) afterwards. We are looking forward to expanding our reach and have not only more teams but also a Women’s division. We celebrated our first year as a company in March 2019.

I found out about the SiLL project thanks to a British Library newsletter around September 2019 and registered for the ‘Get ready for business’ workshop that was taking place in December. My SME Champion, Loretta, got in touch with me to know a bit more about the business and I shyly accepted a meeting. She talked me through the Business & IP Centre services for new businesses. I was amazed by the number of resources and support given to entrepreneurs.

SiLL helped us see the organisation as a business rather than something to do on weekends. It provided us with key insights and added value to our service.  This is my first experience as an entrepreneur and I had to learn a lot about legal and financial aspects of a business in the UK, as well as networking; social media… you name it! There is a lot of information out there, so much that it can be not just overwhelming, but also misleading. The SiLL project served as a guide.
I would have loved to have known about the project from day one as I think it would have saved me tonnes of time and work.

Two teams at a London Basketball Nation event

Coronavirus has, of course, been a huge challenge. With people not being able to gather in groups and the basketball courts being closed, we have been forced to stop our operations during this period. It really is just me and my husband running the business alongside other jobs right now, and so we have had a real split focus over the past months.

However, it has given us some space to focus on our brand and the digital aspect of the business. My husband is a web developer and he was able to dedicate time to work on the website and to bring more functionalities on board. We are also currently working on LBN Courts, a portal to find and rate outdoor basketball courts. We think this will help players to get back in shape - both physically and mentally - whilst encouraging people to make the of their local facilities (and that way, diminishing the use of public transport). The portal will not only show the location of courts, but it will allow players to rate their features, and to organise training groups - always according to the latest government advice of course.  

I consider myself extremely lucky to be part of the Greenwich business community. Loretta’s insights and support are invaluable. She is a connector, she puts together ideas to create new things, and people to make them come to life. She is always happy to have a one-to-one to talk about the progress of the business, and she makes sure I keep up to date by sending training and promotion opportunities. Not to mention she has such good energy! I am deeply thankful for her support.

A basketball game at a London Basketball Nation event

I have learnt so much from starting up my own business – the main one being that everything takes at least double the time and the money than you expected/calculated, especially admin work! Reaching people is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re new in the game.

However, it has also given me lots of advice that I would p[ass onto anyone else thinking about starting their own business:

  • Do your research: know the market, the customers and the competence.
  • Someone has already done it: maybe not exactly what you are thinking about doing, but someone has already walked the steps to set up a business. Someone has already made the mistakes and reached success. Use it and share it.
  • Be organised and have a plan: Having a plan, even a vague one, and keeping records of things you want and what you are doing to get them is really helpful. It’ll keep you focused, and with time it’ll give you information to analyse and understand what happened and why, and identify what can be improved.
  • Be responsive: reply to everything (emails, calls, social media messages, etc) as soon as possible.
  • Do not assume anything. It is better to talk about things rather than thinking they are a certain way. Ask for confirmation, repeat things, write down dates and meeting notes.
  • You can’t make everyone like you or what you do, and there’s no point in trying to do it. Focus on providing a good service and listen to feedback, let your actions speak louder than words.
  • You can’t control everything. Deal with it.
  • You can do much more than you think.
  • Just start!’

Find out more about London Basketball Nation.

If you’re interested in joining the online Start-ups in London Libraries webinars and workshops, you can find all of the information at bl.uk/SiLL.

SiLL funder logos - ERDF, Arts Council and J.P. Morgan)

 

06 August 2020

The beer lover’s guide to the perfect IP brew

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Since Babylonian times, humans have been in search of the perfect beer brew. The brewing business today is a testament to the originality and passionate dedication of its forebears.

Each generation has created beers that have inspired the next while building a major industry.

Beer and commerce are an easy blend but what’s the one key secret to brewing success? Earning from your brewing creations by protecting the Intellectual Property that made them.

If you have developed a novel invention to brewing, a unique brand or a secret brew that gets people at the bar talking, then Intellectual Property is something you should invest in to reap the rewards you deserve.

Here are four different forms of intellectual property every new brewer should consider.

Brewing breakthroughs with technology

The sheer size and volume (literally) of the brewing industry means that it’s constantly innovating. So it’s not surprising that there’s some pretty clever technical innovation happening around the brewing and bottling process too.

If you’re a keen inventor, find out what some of the big problems that need ‘fixing’ in brewing today and ask ‘could you engineer a solution’?

If so, you’ll soon encounter the remarkable world of patents. A patent is an exclusive right granted to the maker of invention. It is a form of Intellectual Property that protects technical innovations. The innovation is eventually made public in exchange for the owner having a monopoly on the idea for a period of time (usually 20 years).

My favourite example from a past brewing patent is the story of William Painter. You may not have heard of him but without doubt you will have benefitted greatly from his invention, the ‘Crown Cap’ bottle top. Or in patent speak, ‘a bottle sealing device’.

William Painter was an accomplished inventor with a keen commercial eye. His devised a way to effectively seal a bottle of beer to prevent it from going flat. This involved a sealing disk topped with a metal cap. The advantage too was it could be opened easily. Perhaps you’ll recognise this from the patent image below?

Patent for William Painter's bottle sealing device

We’re still using the same basic technology on bottled beer and soft drinks today.

In 1894, when Painter was granted his patent, there was no shortage of bottle sealing devices but his particular patent (US468258) ensured bottling could be mass produced, increasing supply and meeting demand from a very thirsty public.

Painter himself went on to found the Crown Cork and Seal Company and quickly developed manufacturing technology to enable his patent’s potential to be fully realised. The company was immensely successful and is trading today as Crown Holdings Inc.

The lesson here is that if you find the right problem with the right solution and obtain effective Intellectual Property protection with a well drafted patent, it can be a significant advantage in a highly competitive market place.

Brewing up an awesome beer brand

Beer has personality. It has unique characteristics all to its own particular brew. It has heritage and modern edge with everything in between. Local, global, national. There’s a beer brand to suit every taste.

There are thousands and thousands of them. And a registered trademark for each.

You may have heard of the beer brand Bass. That brand has heritage, and is also UK trademark number UK00000000001 from the 1st January, 1876. The registered trademark is still in force today and no doubt worth more than every penny of the original registration fee!

Bass beer logo

 

The Bass brand also benefitted from what we nowadays call product placement. It’s not too discreetly featured in the French artist Édouard Manet’s famous, “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère”.

But beer brands rarely demure.

If we look at a modern brand such as Beavertown, they like so many beer brands, have registered their trademark too. The name is just too recognisable not to.

You can do this too. There’s a database of existing marks to check your own mark is original and to help decide what classifications of trade to choose.

Because it’s not uncommon for beer brands to produce all manner of merchandise and marketing material, so why not maximise the reach of your trademark by applying in a number of different trademark classifications?

With so many beers on offer, the beer brand you want to brew will need to be your unique identifier. Your trademark is, to put it simply, the legally registered name and/or image of your brand. It protects you by preventing others from blatantly copying or ‘trading off’ your good name and reputation. If you find yourself in that unenviable situation (and plenty have), the registered trademark is your comeback to cease and desist unfair imitation.

It also represents the incredible value of your brand. And because your trademark is your intellectual property, you can sell it or licence it to whomever you choose. It’s what will earn your reward in the future for all the thousands of hours of hard brewing.

To discover more about patents or trademarks, visit our website.

Beer that creates a first impression.

To own a registered design is to have rights over the appearance of a functional object that can include colour, shape or even texture. The form is what creates its appeal as a marketable object, instantly recognisable.

As one form of Intellectual Property, registered design is worth considering. Especially if you’re producing a beer product that wants to be distinctive.

For example there are many distinctive shapes of beer bottles that are themselves an identifier for the brand just as much as a trademark is.

And this is not only something for new beer brands striking out to get noticed, registered design is used by older established brewers as well.

Affligem, is a beer brand with an astonishing heritage, coming close to one thousand years of brewing history. But a brand with such pedigree still values other Intellectual Property assets, even if the taste of its brew is so famous.

They too have a registered design on their classic bottle shape.

Affligem beer bottle

If it’s something a thousand year brewer would have, why not consider it as a new brewer?

You can register a design with the Intellectual Property office and the Business & IP Centre runs regular webinars on it. See our upcoming webinar schedule.

The secret bit behind the beer magic.

If you’ve spent hundreds of hours in the quest of brewing perfection, and you think you’ve found it, what’s the best way to protect it from the rival brewer next door?

The answer is disarmingly simple; keep it a secret.

Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping trade secrets in the brewing business. Plenty of brewers rely on it.

A proper definition of a trade secret is a technique, process, formula or method of creating something that has commercial value and is known to only a limited number of persons. It is often kept secret through the use of legal agreements (such as employment contracts) or non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

Unlike all of the other forms of IP mentioned, this is known as an unregistered right. Meaning you don’t have to register the secret with a governing body. It is yours to keep and the length of time is how long you want the secret to be kept.

A good trade secret is also good for the brand. It helps create a mystery around the product and keeps people guessing to how it was made.

Four cheers for IP

These are four forms of Intellectual Property every beer lover and maker should consider. You can pick and choose which of these works best for you. Maybe all of them. It’s all up to how you innovate, create and ultimately protect your most valuable asset, your own unique IP brew.

Jeremy O'Hare is the Business & IP Centre's Information Expert. You can find more information on intellectual property and the Business & IP Centre's upcoming events, by visit bl.uk/bipc.

03 August 2020

Meet our delivery partner: Mark Sheahan

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Mark is the Business & IP Centre’s Inventor in Residence, as well as the President of the Institute of Inventors & Patentees (a registered charity), Managing Director of Compgen Ltd (Licensing) and Proprietor of Plasgen Design (Product Design). He is also Chairman of Morgan Goodwin Ltd (Online Trading Platform) and Ambosco Ltd (IT Development). He’s also a  Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Vice Chairman of the Round Table of Inventors (CTRI). Here’s a bit more information about him and how he can help you at one of his Ask an Expert sessions…

Mark Sheahan

I’m an experienced business owner with a demonstrated history of working in the inventing, business mentoring and licensing industry. My specialities are in business planning, invention, entrepreneurship, manufacturing, plastic injection moulding, packaging closure technology, intellectual property and licensing. 

One of my inventions, SqueezeopenTM, won me the accolade of Inventor of the Year in the UK and the top Grand Prix Award at INPEX in America. The product is an easy open and close plastic container.  

My Ask an Expert sessions are confidential, free one-hour meetings and are aimed at inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs. I suggest, to get the best out of the hour that they bring everything they can bring to the meeting, particularly samples, working or not, drawings and patent documentation, if applicable.

I see my role as nurture and clarity and try not to be judgemental in anyway. In fact, I like seeing people as early as possible, even with half-baked ideas/inventions. As, all too often, they take a wrong path and spend time and money unnecessarily. 

My first question in the meeting is normally about the idea/invention itself, as it does not matter how well you do everything else, if it does not work or has a major flaw/s the project is likely to fail. As an engineer, I can generally spot manufacturing problems and advice accordingly. Another area I like to explore with entrepreneurs is whether it is the best solution, being either cheaper or better, ideally both.     

Once I am happy with the idea/invention and only then I will move on to the business side, e.g. intellectual property position and strategy, business model, manufacturing, sales and marketing and, if applicable, licensing. 

It is very easy to get overwhelmed with advice, so you end up not knowing what to do next. I try and give that clarity and re-motivate anyone who comes to see me to take those steps.  

To book a session with me, click here.

29 July 2020

A week in the life of... Olivia Thompson, founder of Akila Dolls

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Olivia Thompson is the founder of Akila Dolls launched nine months ago after Olivia left her full-time job in a law firm to become a carer for her then seven year old daughter. It was on a shopping trip with her daughter, Amira, that they both noticed the lack of diverse and disability dolls in the high street shops. With only a few savings Olivia began work on the doll illustration, packaging and concept book. During a global pandemic and homeschooling her daughter in June 2020 she successfully raised £6,000 through a crowdfunding platform to begin the manufacturing of the doll prototype. In the early stages of the business, Olivia used Business & IP Centre Leeds and one of their IP sessions.

Akila Doll

Monday I love waking up on a Monday knowing that I’m working for myself and doing something I am really passionate about. No more rushing out the house before 7am trying to get my daughter to her childminders house before I start work. My daughter is now at an age where she can generally sort herself out in the morning. We’re currently coming out of a three month lockdown due to COVID-19, so my daughter has been at home since March. I try to get started on work by 9am each morning, using my dining table as my work desk. I always start my day by checking my work emails and seeing what appointments or commitments I may have that day. After responding to some emails I post on my social media accounts my morning motivation quote and check my notifications. I receive an email from Leeds City Region Enterprise arranging a meeting for next week to discuss innovation support so I can develop my product further. My work day ends at 3pm as my daughter has her piano lesson at 3.30pm

Tuesday Work again starts at 9am after getting my daughter ready for the day. I post on my social media every morning with a motivational quote and any new updates I may have for my followers to keep them updated on my business development. I usually plan my posts ahead, so that I can keep organised. I reply to any comments or messages I may have received. This helps gives my businesses page maximum exposure and to also stay connected with my followers. My daughter has an appointment at 10.30am with our family support worker Mel, after not seeing her in over four months it’s lovely to get back into our routine and have a good catch up. It’s also important for Amira to start getting out of the house and socialising with other people. She had a lovely morning painting and telling Mel all about her upcoming birthday. I spend the afternoon researching fabric manufacturers in the U.K. Myself and my friend Sophie designed an exclusive range of fabric swatches a few months ago for the dolls clothing and accessories.

Akila Doll

Wednesday The day starts like every other day, unfortunately Amira is not having a good day. After calming her down we go on a trip to the park and anything work related is put on pause until she’s in bed. It’s times like these when she really needs me and I’ve got a busy work schedule I have to prioritise what’s more important, obviously that’s Amira.

Thursday Today I have a meeting booked in with student from Leeds University who is doing her masters dissertation on nascent entrepreneur facilitation in the black Caribbean community in the U.K. We had a lovely talk discussing social capital access for black entrepreneurs and whether its use has seen elevations in ones entrepreneurial success. I finish my day having a meeting with my website designer Shaun.

Akila Doll

Friday On Fridays I plan the Instagram and Facebook schedule for the week ahead. Instagram is becoming a big part of my business, within the last three months I have almost 600 followers. I check my calendar for the week ahead and make sure all my meetings are scheduled in. By planning ahead it makes my life a lot easier, especially with Amira’s autism, you never know whether a day will be good or bad. Tonight is an extra special night for me as I am finally able to go out and celebrate all my achievements these last few months with my best friend Chloe.

Weekend Once the weekend arrives it’s time to spend time with my daughter and family. We enjoy going on drive to the countryside, and just switching off. Anything work related will wait until Monday.

28 July 2020

First aid and health and safety essential changes due to COVID-19

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Health and safety for your business has never been more important, than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each business sector has guidance of some kind to try and keep their staff and customers safe from infection. Innovating for Growth: Scale-up alumna, Emma Hammett, founder of First Aid for Life talks through what you should be aware of...

Usual HSE requirements concerning first aid remain applicable to everyone and all businesses. Whether a sole trader, or major corporate, we all have a legal requirement to make appropriate first aid provision for our employees.

It remains the law for all businesses to undertake a suitable risk assessment and ensure staff:

  1. undertake suitable first aid (and mental health first aid) training
  2. have an appropriate and in-date first-aid qualification
  3. attend regular refreshers to update skills and remain competent to perform their first aid role
  4. remain abreast of the latest advice from the Resuscitation Council UK, concerning any changes to resuscitation guidance.

Risk assessments

Businesses need to undertake physical risk assessments to assess hazards for the workplace and address any specific risks relevant to their workforce. These risk assessments should encompass measures to protect the physical and mental health well-being of their employees. Following COVID-19, these risk assessments need to consider additional infection risk and safety requirements concerning coronavirus.

First-aid provision for non-employees

Health and safety law does not require businesses to provide first aid cover for anyone other than their own employees. However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, additional requirements require essential proven measures to be put in place to protect everyone from possible infection. There are new powers to enforce this and businesses can be closed if not compliant.
It is critical for businesses to demonstrate a clear duty of care to staff and customers alike.

Additional training

Good first aid training businesses will help you establish your first aid provision and assist you in arranging the most appropriate training for your organisation, tailoring and adding in extra elements if required.

The HSE strongly recommends all first aid training to be annually refreshed with practical or online training.

The HSE also recommend training in mental health first aid.

First Aid for Life provides practical and online first aid and mental health first aid courses.

Giving CPR during the COVID-19 pandemic

Resuscitating an adult

Whenever CPR is carried out, there is some risk of cross infection, particularly when giving rescue breaths. Normally, this risk is very small and is set against the inevitability that a person in cardiac arrest will die if not helped.

The Resuscitation Council UK has issued the following updated guidance concerning the giving of CPR to an adult whilst there remains a risk of infection from coronavirus:

  • Recognise cardiac arrest by looking for the absence of signs of life and the absence of normal breathing.
  • No longer listen or feel for breathing by placing your ear and cheek close to the patient’s mouth. If in any doubt about confirming cardiac arrest, start chest compressions until help arrives.
  • Make sure an ambulance is on its way. If COVID-19 is suspected, tell them when you call 999.
  • If there is a perceived risk of infection, place a cloth/towel over the victim’s mouth and nose. Start compression only CPR and early defibrillation until the ambulance arrives.

Early use of a defibrillator significantly increases the person’s chances of survival and does not increase risk of infection.

Paediatric CPR

Breaths are still recommended when giving CPR to a baby or child, as the breaths are more critical to the likelihood of them surviving. It is far more likely that they have had a respiratory arrest and they do not retain oxygenated blood in their system for as long as an adult. Therefore, it is important that staff receive appropriate additional training if paediatric CPR is a possibility. Rescuer protection such as pocket masks, airway adjuncts and bag and valve masks should be available to appropriately trained first aiders.

Resuscitating a child

Protection for first aiders

If the rescuer has access to personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g. FFP3 face mask, disposable gloves, eye protection), they should wear them.

After performing compression-only CPR, all rescuers should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water; or cleanse them with alcohol-based hand gel. They should also seek additional advice from the NHS 111 coronavirus advice service or medical adviser.


First Aid for Life and Onlinefirstaid.com were founded by Innovating for Growth: Scale-up alumna, Emma Hammett. First Aid for Life is a fully regulated provider of multi award-winning first aid and mental health first aid.

24 July 2020

How Innovating for Growth is helping business throughout the crisis

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For the first time in the programme’s history, Innovating for Growth has taken place entirely online. Participants can now have virtual one-to-ones with our external consultants, ‘meet’ each other in online workshops. It’s not only the way the programme is currently being run which has pivoted due to the current crisis, the goals of the businesses taking part have also changed, some struggling to keep going, many changing the way they operate, others trying to keep up with the demand their product or service has seen increase.

We caught up with our delivery partners to find out first-hand how they can support Innovating for Growth businesses and why now might be the best time to apply for the programme…

Red Ochre – Growth strategy

“For the majority of businesses we’ve seen during the pandemic, there had been a stop or slow down in trading. However, there is a lot of positivity. For many there is an improvement in the situation, others are exploring new opportunities and others can see a positive change when various sanctions are lifted. In every case the initial panic has been allayed by the input from the consultants.

“We can help businesses identify what can they do in the short term, how to prepare for more changes in the midterm, provide someone to talk to, someone looking outside in, someone giving a wider perspective to help build resilience and sustainability.”

Since 2012, we've supported over 520 businesses

Meta Value – Financial planning

“We can help businesses be resilient and adapt and help figure out a model to make it all easier and less dependent on them (a common problem). We can also help stabilize the business and identifying the right model so they can then grow or consolidate.

“We can also help with grants, which might not be relevant for all businesses, but the option is available.”

Newable – Innovation

“It’s sometimes daunting or difficult to take the time in a business owners’ busy schedule to spend time to work on the business, rather than the day to day fire-fighting. This programme is a great way to discuss and confide in experienced professionals obstacles or opportunities they might be facing.

“We can also highlight the wealth of other resources available with the BIPC which might be relevant to your business, such as the free market research reports and programme of webinars.”

Since 2012, 50% of scale-up businesses have been female led

ABA – Marketing and branding

“We’ve seen a real mixture of those fighting to survive and those who are paddling frantically to keep up with demand or change in circumstances. Regardless of where they find themselves, the reality is (i) they were all having to deal with changing circumstances, not a static landscape; and (ii) they all needed – and I’m sure benefited – from having an expert, outside perspective on the state of their business, the state of the market, and the possible ways forward.”

BRIFFA – Intellectual property

“The businesses we’ve supported since the start of the crisis were looking at how to protect their IP whilst they ride this storm and adapt to new working conditions with the lockdown conditions rather than consideration of future prospects. We also found that some of the candidates had been considering or attempting to try and adapt their business to be digital and needed to understand on how to protect their IP online along with following compliance with GDPR and other commercial aspects like terms and conditions and registering of domains/trade marks. We can help with all of this, so whatever intellectual property query you may have, the programme will be able to support you.”

Since 2012, over 500 jobs have been created

Whatever concern you and your business may be facing, Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups can support London-based businesses to pivot, diversity, plan their finance and adapt in these challenging times with £10,000 worth of free, tailored advice. Visit our website for more information about the programme or to complete our qualifying questionnaire.

14 July 2020

Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups diary - The Good Slice – part 2

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Hello, I’m excited to share the progress we’ve made since we last checked in. Ups, downs, turn it all arounds… It’s been a wonderful journey. Pizza in the post is nearly a go! Please take a look at our website and subscribe to our mailing list to find out when we go live.

The Good Slice stand

Calum and I haven't seen each other in person since March. We were meant to be working side by side from May through to October, hopping from festival to festival. Alas… we firmly believe that our challenges are our best teachers. We’re coming out of this stronger, with a better business in tow - thanks in no small part to the Innovating for Growth programme.

Often when problems arise our outlook can become narrow. We may focus on worrying about our own issues and have a sense that we’re the only ones going through difficulties. The Innovating for Growth programme has helped us see things from a wider perspective. Connecting with dozens of other entrepreneurs has been a joy, while the hours of dedicated service and expertise - beamed through Zoom from home to home - have equipped us with the skills needed to identify and execute on an exciting opportunity.

The Good Slice pizza

Very soon you'll be able to order a Good Slice through our website and have it arrive on your doorstep the next day. From San Marzano tomato, smoked burrata and basil to sumac yogurt, burnt aubergine, herb and sesame salad - we’ve worked to create a menu that sources local, but is truly global. And of course, as well as being healthy, fresh and sustainably sourced, every pizza will provide a meal to someone in need.

Members can choose to have pizza delivered weekly, bi-weekly, or once a month, from our ever evolving menu. They’ll benefit from free delivery and a discount. They’ll also be surprised with goodies from partner suppliers and other social enterprises. They’ll become a part of a community united by pizza and purpose. A community into which we’ll share recipes and inspiring stories, highlighting the amazing things they’re helping to achieve.

Pizza with purpose

The Innovating for Growth programme has propelled us forward in what are incredibly tough times. The advisors and consultants have inspired us, and the wonderful British Library staff have been so lovely, and so organised! Our long-term goal is to ensure all people on this planet have the nutrition they need to lead healthy and productive lives. Thank you all for helping us get there. And to anyone considering joining the programme, go for it!

Peace, Love and Pizza,
Ed & Calum

08 July 2020

Meet Ahmad Baracat, founder of Baracat Bros and Start-ups in London Libraries participant

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Ahmad is the founder of Baracat Bros, an app company that builds games with hidden educational value. He took part in our Start-ups in London Libraries programme and is part of our SiLL community in Greenwich. We spoke to him about his business and his Start-ups in London Libraries journey.

Tell us about your business. Why did you start it up?

We believe games offer a unique channel to deliver educational messages and foster learning because of their interactive and engaging nature. Yet, many of the popular mobile games are designed for entertainment purposes and the educational games on the market lack engagement and the fun factor. We wanted to address that. We try to create edu-games, which are fun, engaging and educational.

We rely on academic research in the Science of Learning field, which uses cognitive-science research on how students learn, and uses that knowledge to offer practical actions to improve teaching, to guide the design of our games.

From a personal perspective, we believe that working in a corporate environment is not for everyone and, for us, starting up a business was a viable option to gain more freedom over which problems we wanted to solve and how to approach them.

App screenshot for blog 2
App screenshot for blog 2

How did the SiLL project help you in setting up your business?

I attended 3 sessions as part of the programme and it helped me gain the needed confidence to set up my business. The workshops also really helped to equip the attendees - I came out of the ‘Get ready for business’ workshop with actionable advice like how to access funding, how to create a business model canvas and where to find resources to continue learning.

What was the most helpful part of the SiLL project for you?

Meeting like-minded people who were trying to build their own businesses. It was eye-opening to see the diversity of their backgrounds as well as their business ideas.

Loretta [our Start-ups in London Libraries Greenwich Business Champion] is building a business community for people who want to pursue their own businesses and need the practical knowledge and the support network to do so successfully. I really believe that such communities are invaluable for anyone building their own business.

What advice would you give anyone looking to start up a business?

Make sure to invest time in building a circle of like-minded people, it really helps when things get tough and you need people to share your experiences with.

I really can’t stress enough having a support network that understand what it takes to start a business and how to navigate the space. I would highly recommend going to the Start-ups in London Libraries’ workshops as they will equip them with a support network and practical advice on how to start a business in the UK.

I would also highly recommend preparing oneself psychologically and mentally that building a business takes time and that there are usually no shortcuts to getting it to be profitable other than putting in the hard work.

AhmadBaracat_Profile_Picture

What are the key things you have learnt while starting up your business?

When you are starting a business, the main way to think about it is how you are solving valuable problems for customers - the main way to figure out such problems is to actively talk to customers and potential customers. Once a valuable problem is identified, it becomes relatively easy to iterate on a potential solution.

What’s next for you and your business?

A few days ago, Foodology, a game we created in 2 weeks to help people learn about food, was featured on ProductHunt (the go-to platform for launching new products): https://www.producthunt.com/posts/foodology

To take a look at Baracat Bros' games, visit https://www.baracatbros.com/

To read more about Start-ups in London Libraries and our workshops, which are now all taking place online, visit bl.uk/SiLL.

SiLL_logo_lockups_CMYK

 

 

 

01 July 2020

Meet our delivery partner: Centa

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Centa is a long-standing social enterprise and a partner of the Business & IP Centre for over 12 years. Trading for over 36 years in central London, we support people wishing to start a business and offer existing small businesses advice and training on how to develop and grow their businesses. We are currently delivering the Get Started workshop for the Innovating for Growth: Start-ups programme, which is always well attended and well received by delegates from the feedback.

Lucan Richards

The workshop is delivered by Lucan Richards, who has 15 years’ experience as a business adviser. Since joining Centa initially as a business support officer, his business knowledge and expertise has grown tremendously whilst working on various government funded business support and mentoring programmes. Acting as the first point of call for all enquiries has enabled him to provide effective business solutions to budding entrepreneurs who required urgent help and support. This progressed to running his own business and the opportunity to better understand a client needs having gone through similar experiences. Besides delivering workshops for the last four years he still continues to provide direct business advice and business planning support, whilst to date has helped over 500 clients start in business and access over £750,000 of start-up finance. Delegates who attend the full day Get Started workshop will be able to:

  • Identify effective market research techniques.
  • Identify and quantify the market opportunity.
  • Develop competitive service/product offers.
  • Develop a successful marketing strategy.
  • Generate sales, break-even and profit and loss forecasting techniques.
  • Produce a clear business plan.
  • Understand how to raise finance from banks, investors, or other sources of funding.
  • Know where else to go to gain additional support and advice.

I attended your Get started workshop this week and just wanted to say one more time: great job! It was a really good day with a lot of valuable information. Thank you!

I have to say your session was one of the best and informative session I have attended so far.

Thank you for the time, energy and wealth of information and knowledge. We will have you to thank for a successful company launch.

Excellent presentation. Clear, concise, and informative. Very very useful for advice. Great tips to move forward.

Lucan Richards delivering a workshop

From our experience there are many common pitfalls for start-ups that the workshop tries to raise awareness of:

  • A reluctance to seek advice
  • Poor or inadequate market research
  • Lack of capital
  • Weak financial planning/cashflow
  • Over-optimistic forecasts
  • Pricing mistakes

But also highlights characteristics of a good business with growth potential:

  • Owners have previous success or experience and failure
  • Risk takers/entrepreneurs
  • Understanding the market – their customers
  • Prepared for growth – staff, capital, physical space, scalable client base
  • They keep evolving - moving forward.

We have a passionate determination for business and entrepreneurship and how it can be a means for economic improvement, wealth and job creation. And our partnership with the Business & IP Centre compliments this mission. 

22 June 2020

3-steps to get time back (and grow your business) 

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Adam Slawson is lead consultant at Fluxx for Good, one of our delivery partner businesses who provide support and expertise to those attending events such as our speed mentoring. Here he gives some top tips on how to understand your customers, what you’re actually selling and how to find the time to do this..!

I don’t have enough time,’ said most of the businesses Fluxx for Good speaks to. The most common themes we’ve noticed during our conversations are, people:

  1. don’t know enough about their customers (and often think they have only one type).
  2. aren’t aware of what they are actually offering — the importance of ‘value exchange’.
  3. haven’t considered the detail of the emotional journey their customers take.

Fluxx for Good helps companies with a social purpose to grow and move forward. Helping them change direction, pivot, think differently, transform, grow, whichever verb you’d like to use. In short, helping organisations gather evidence, in turn, gain the confidence to make (important) decisions.

The tools, exercises and processes which aid decision making have a crucial kicker — they will give you time back in your day too.

Each tool used individually will help develop your business. The real power comes from combining them. Doing so will maximise time to spend thinking about the direction of your business rather than getting bogged down doing your business.

Granted, there is an irony in suggesting more things to do to give you time back but the return on investment will be manifold.

The conclusion of the exercises will be:

  • You’ll waste less time attracting the wrong customers.
  • A list of how to make improvements to your service (so the customers you do attract will be happier).
  • Plus a simple structure for your time/brain…and sanity.

Understanding your customer

The first question we often ask at the British Library is ‘Have you spoken to a customer to get feedback recently?’

<insert blank face> (not every time but — certainly more often than is advisable)

Customers hold a lot of information which is simple to gather, and when turned into insight is an essential aid in serving them better. If you don’t do this, your competition will — if they are not already. So, it’s important to define who your customers are — and who they are not.

Exercises & Tools:

  • Interview customers. It needn’t be overwhelming, aim for ten in the first instance. Keep the questions open-ended, don’t ‘lead the witness’ — let them do most of the talking and if you can, video them (people often say one thing while their expression says quite another).
  • Survey as many customers as you can — begin with your friends’ friends and their friends (via email and social media). Keep the questionnaire short and remember, no leading questions. We want honest answers.
  • Customer (user) research tips from Fluxx.

Output: The industry term is Personas: Characters created from real insight. See an example below, online examples here and more detail of how to create one here.

Neutral navigator

Note: It’s likely you’ll have more than one customer persona e.g. people that buy from you (e.g. neutral navigator, frequent buyers, one-off buyers…), people that supply you, and so on. It important to also remember that your team are ‘customers’ of your business too — internal ones — if they aren’t happy, your customers are unlikely to be.

Value exchange (what you are actually selling?)

If you think you sell a product alone, you’re mistaken. You implicitly sell a range of value exchanges throughout the experience of your product, and in turn, service.

Business model canvas
© Strategizer

At the centre of the Business Model Canvas is value propositions — and there’s a reason it’s positioned there. It shows the exchange between what a customer wants/needs, and the service you offer (why a customer would hand over their hard-earned cash). It’s so important, it has its very own canvas. See below.

Value proposition canvas
© Strategizer

Exercises & Tools:

  • Value proposition canvas — Start with the customer profile circle — think about what happens in your customers’ lives, what are they trying to achieve (not just in relation to your product — think wider)? Then do the other product (value map) square — in general, what could happen to make your customers lives easier? How then, can your business help with that?
  • For more on this, see How to use the Value proposition canvas in more detail

Output: A deeper understanding of your customers and more detail of what you’re offering to make their lives better (and make you money).

The (emotional) Customer Journey

You have defined your customer(s), and you know more about what you are actually selling. The next step is to map out the journey each persona takes through your service. ‘You don’t sell a bed, you sell a good night’s sleep.’ It’s an old cliché, and it’s fundamentally true. While the product is of key importance, it’s the comfort and security the customer feels that ultimately makes the sale.

Sales only happen when there’s an emotional step change, for example:

I desire something > I gain confidence in your product > I’m convinced to purchase > I love using your product/service > I’m happy to purchase again (I tell all my friends how great it feels to use it).

A customer journey map is a timeline of value-exchange opportunities. The reason to map your customers’ journeys is to break down your service into bite-sized stages. Then you can look at how to enable improvements at each stage (your to-do list), and change each customer’s emotional response towards being happier. As you increase the chances of your customer wanting to progress from stage to stage, you ultimately improve their overall experience.

Exercises & Tools:

  • With your team, map out the stages of your entire experience: think about a person who has never heard about your business (someone who’s ‘cold’) from initial contact (discovery), to point of purchase, after purchase care, through the service you provide, customer care, and beyond. What does your customer want/need/desire at each stage? Is it a positive or negative experience? How can your service enable an exceptional, frictionless service (make them ‘hot prospects’)?

Output: An even deeper understanding of your customers and a to-do list (enablers backlog) of service improvements.

Next steps..?

Ask the next person you see about your product/service for some feedback and build from there. The above might sound like a lot but if you break it down it’s not. Keep the customer at the heart of your business and taking those steps will give you time back to spend on the growth of your company. If you discover you need to grow in a different direction exercises 1. and 2. can be used to sense check desirability (combined with experimenting, using a Minimum Viable Product method) before investing in making any, perhaps vital, changes.

Adding structure to your day to carve out even more time… To undertake your to-do list from all the work above, structuring your day will help.

Fluxx uses the Agile structure in our projects — because it works. It gives structure, allows for surprises and builds team communication. Lack of communication is the cause of a lot of problems in most businesses. Agile isn’t complicated, and you can read about the Agile manifesto here.

There are subtleties within Agile that, with an understanding of the basics, help. Any Agile aficionado will tell you, that understanding them in greater detail will serve you well. For the purposes of this article, we consider one important aspect of Agile, the meeting structure. It’s something which can be applied to a business with ease — after all a business is just a big project!

The structure is cyclical: one cycle is made up of a sprint, a sprint planning meeting, daily stand-ups, and a retrospective meeting — each is equally important and shouldn’t be overlooked. The bonus here is that these are the only doing meetings you need.

The diagram below shows how these cycles fit together, and also how this tool helps bring together the steps in this article. That’s because each cycle is fuelled from the doing backlog — the to-do list you created — but also a thinking backlog which would come from your strategic mission and vision plus the roadmap you’ve created to get there. If you don’t have those, they will be needed to be done first.

  • A sprint is a set period of time work will happen in. It can vary according to your needs but they tend to be a week or two weeks (however for a small business a month might work well). Test and learn what is best for you.
  • A sprint planning meeting happens once a sprint, at the end of one/start of the next. They last around thirty minutes and ‘do exactly what they say on the tin’. From the backlog(s), you plan what you’re going to commit to doing in the next sprint.
  • A daily stand-up is a work-day meeting that happens each day. They help productivity and communication because people verbally commit to stuff and the team knows who’s doing what. They are quick, around fifteen minutes. The team literally stand-up around their to-do list (see KanBan board — Trello is a digital KanBan board. Although I’d recommend a physical one, mirrored, if necessary, by Trello). In Daily stand-ups each person, in turn, answers these three questions:
    1. Yesterday I did…
    2. Today I’m doing…
    3. I have these blockers (things that are preventing me from doing what I need to do)…

How might this play out?

Over sprint cycles, as a team, you move your to-do-list /enablers backlog from to do, through doing, to done.

Note: In a daily stand up meeting don’t go into detail around points, have a brief clarifying chat, if more is required have the conversation afterwards. They are short for a reason (no-one likes meetings).

  • A retrospective meeting happens directly before the Sprint planning meeting. Again about thirty minutes. Its job is to look back at how the last sprint went and to make things better. Its purpose is to encourage team communication and discuss what they think they should Drop (stop doing), Add, Keep doing, and Improve on, or DAKI for short.

Exercise & Tools:

Write your DAKI’s, in secret, on Post-Its (use one for each (and the same colour helps)). Once a team has exhausted their ideas group the Post Its, then openly discuss each one. The goal is for the amount of DAKI’s to reduce over time. Try it for four sprints, test and learn (that’s the point).

The last thing to add is a structure to know who’s doing what (to avoid duplication). A RACI matrix (the last acronym, promise) is a list showing what needs to be done operationally to keep your business afloat and who is Responsible (going to do it), Accountable (head’s on the line for it), Consulted (about it), Informed (about the outcome i.e. they don’t need to consult on it they just need to know the outcome).

Exercise & Tools:

Make the list of day-to-day operational tasks with your team vertically, list the team horizontally and put an R, A, C, I against each action. Discuss the overlaps (there will be some) and push for clarity — generally a single letter under each name for a given task (although a person can be R and A). Note: not everyone needs a letter, just means they aren’t involved in that task.

Next step..?

Talk to your team and suggest using this structure for four sprints. The trick is to do it enough until a habit is formed — ease and repetition are key to that. Share the responsibility of who drives the flow of the meetings each sprint. Remember it’s a structure to aid communication — to know who’s doing what- not the time to do the things. Keep the meetings as brief as possible — a habit will form and things will improve.