Innovation and enterprise blog

27 March 2020

A message from the BIPC

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British Library from Pullman Hotel (Credit Tony Antoniou) resized
Photo credit: Tony Antoniou

Since 2006 our doors have been open to everyone.  Throughout this time our mission has remained constant: to help businesses to innovate and grow, and to diversify and democratise entrepreneurship across the country through our free and low-cost support from our base at the British Library, and, more recently, across ten London boroughs and our national network of BIPCs.

Like you, only a couple of weeks ago we were also looking ahead to scaling-up and developing our services, with a central government investment in the regional expansion of business support via libraries, enabling us to reach both the high street and rural areas. Now, like you, we are adapting to the new and changing patterns of our lives. In these unprecedented times, we, at the British Library and our partner libraries, find ourselves spread out in our own homes and unable to offer our normal face-to-face support.

But opportunities remain. Technology keeps our network of libraries working together with our expertise and resources pooled. It also keeps us connected with you and, during this time, we are providing many of our normal workshops as webinars, and free online one-to-ones will soon replace walk-ins and meetings. We are also working on developing content that is relevant to these unique and uncertain times. Please do make sure that you are following us for the latest updates, including additions to our schedules and our offering. As you will have seen in the news over the past weeks, the business landscape is changing at a rapid pace and we, along with our service delivery partners, are working to be as reactive as possible to the impact these developments will have on small businesses.

An extremely important  group in our community are the fellow advisors and presenters who work with us, running the workshops and events. I’d like to use this moment to personally thank all of them, especially as we  look at transforming our services together, to ensure we can continue to offer our support during this period.

More so than ever, we know how important it is for us to stay connected with our users and to provide support through the training and mentoring that we can still offer you. Our doors remain open – in the virtual sense for now -  and we’ll listen to you across social media and through our helplines to inform what it is you need us to be in the coming weeks and months.

We remain committed to the success of new start-up businesses using our services, as well as the well-being of the courageous entrepreneurs who lead them.  Despite the multiple hurdles ahead, we will  be here to help you keep your ambitions alive.

Isabel Oswell

Head of Business Support Services

02 March 2020

Getting to grips with IP: Back to basics

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We asked Briffa, a boutique IP law firm based at the Business Design Centre in Islington, who are specialist IP lawyers and Business & IP Centre delivery partners, to unravel the confusion and complexities around IP…

Éamon Chawke
Éamon Chawke, Partner at Briffa

IP is like spaghetti. A big tangled mess. We frequently hear people say things like “I want to trade mark my idea!” (you can’t) or “how do I patent my business model?” (you can’t) or “I paid you to design something, so surely I own the copyright!?” (not necessarily). It’s only when we untangle the spaghetti and get to grips with the individual rights that sit underneath that umbrella term that we can hope to discover how intellectual property can be used to protect the fruits of our creative labour. So here are a few basics to get started:

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual Property, or IP, is an umbrella term we use to describe a collection of rights which, broadly speaking, allow people to control the use of their creations. The common thread that runs through all IP rights is that their value derives, in part at least, from the ability of the IP owner to exercise monopoly control over what they have created. Or, to put it another way, to stop someone else from using their stuff.

What are the main IP rights?

The four main statutory IP rights are:

  • Copyright - which allows the creators of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other creative works to prevent third parties from copying or otherwise using their works without authorisation
  • Trade marks - which allow the owners of brand assets such as names, logos, slogans and jingles to prevent competitors from using those brand assets without authorisation
  • Design rights - which allow product designers to prevent others from using their designs without authorisation
  • Patents - which allow inventors to prevent others from using their inventions without authorisation.

How do I get these IP rights?

There are two main categories of IP rights, registrable and unregistrable. As the name suggests, registrable IP rights are rights that require registration in order to secure protection. Conversely, registration is neither necessary nor possible in the case of unregistrable rights. Instead, those rights simply arise automatically.

What are the registrable rights?

The main registrable rights are:

  • Patents
  • Trade marks
  • Registered designs.

In the case of these three rights, protection normally starts from the date the application is filed (not the date the registration process is completed, which in the case of trade marks might be a number of months after the application is filed and in the case of patents might be a number of years after the application is filed). Patent protection normally lasts for 20 years and renewal payments must normally be made annually to maintain the patent.

Trade mark protection lasts forever provided that renewal payments are made every 10 years.

Registered design rights last for a maximum of 25 years and renewal payments must be made every five years.

What are the unregistrable rights?

The main two unregistrable rights are copyright and design rights. In the case of UK unregistered rights (copyright and UK unregistered design rights) protection arises automatically from the moment of creation, usually in favour of the creator. Copyright usually lasts until 70 years after the death of the creator of the work (though the term of protection is shorter for some categories of work). UK unregistered design rights last for 15 years from the date the design is created or 10 years from the date the design is first made public, whichever occurs first. EU unregistered designs rights last for 3 years from the date the design is first made public in the EU.

Copyright protection ‘usually’ arises in favour of the creator? Huh?

Yes, the default position under English copyright law is that the creator of a work is the first and automatic owner of the copyright in that work. However, there is a major statutory exception to that rule. If the creator of that work is acting in the course of their employment, then copyright rests automatically with the employer and not the employee. In many cases, an employment contract will contain an IP clause confirming that the employer and not the employee will own any IP created or developed by the employee in the course of their employment.

But surely if I pay someone to design my logo I own the copyright, no?

Not necessarily. As above, the default position is that the creator of a work owns the copyright in that work unless they are an employee acting in the course of their employment. So if you pay a freelance artist to design a logo, no, you will not necessarily own the copyright in the logo (even if you have paid them). Depending on the circumstances, you may have an implied right (licence) to use the copyright but an implied licence is not the same as full ownership and if you want to secure full ownership of the copyright in your logo you must have a written copyright assignment signed by the artist.

What about ideas generally? How are those protected?

IP rights generally do not protect ideas. They protect the expression of ideas. For example:

  • Copyright protects artistic works (i.e. the physical expression or manifestation of an idea such as a photograph of a bridge taken at sunset), but it does not protect the idea or concept behind the artistic work (i.e. the idea of taking a photograph of a bridge at sunset)
  • Design rights protect the appearance of products (i.e. the shape and surface decoration on a piece of furniture), but they do not protect the idea or concept behind the appearance of the product (e.g. a rustic style or a modern style of furniture)
  • Patents protect inventive products and processes (i.e. a new technical invention for automatically locking a car using a sensor), but they do not protect the idea or concept behind the invention (e.g. the idea of having cars lock automatically upon a sensor going out of range of a vehicle)
  • Trade marks protect specific brand identifiers (i.e. a particular word, logo, strapline, colour or shape that customers use to identify the brand), but they do not protect the idea or concept behind the brand identifier (a particular style adopted by a range of brand identifiers).

So there is no way to protect an idea or concept?

The best way to protect an idea or a concept is to keep it confidential and control its disclosure by ensuring that anyone you share the idea or concept with signs a non-disclosure agreement (or NDA) which contractually precludes them from sharing the information publicly or taking the information and using it for their own purpose. A famous example of information which has retained its value by virtue of its confidentiality is the recipe for Coca-Cola. Its value does not derive from the fact that that the recipe is patented, or from any other registration. Its value derives from the fact that it is a very closely guarded trade secret.

What about ‘taking inspiration’ from someone else’s work? Does that infringe their IP?

Big question, short answer. It depends. All IP rights have different legal test for what constitutes infringement and these different legal tests therefore determine the scope of protection afforded to the IP owner. So let’s take a look at two examples: infringement of copyright and infringement of registered design rights.

Infringement of copyright

The test for infringement under English law is whether or not the alleged infringer has copied the ‘whole or a substantial part’ of the original copyright work. If the whole or a substantial part of the actual original work has been copied (e.g. the specific artistic pattern) then there is a likely a case to be made for copyright infringement. If the whole or a substantial part of the original work has not been taken (e.g. the specific pattern has not been copied but only the concept/idea/style of the pattern has been taken) then it is less likely that there is a case to be made for copyright infringement.

Infringement of registered design rights

The test for infringement under English law is whether or not the alleged infringer has created a product which creates ‘the same overall impression’ as the earlier registered design. If it does (e.g. the two pieces of furniture create the same overall impression from the perspective of an informed user e.g. a furniture enthusiast) then there is likely a case to be made for design infringement. If it does not (e.g. the two pieces of furniture are somewhat similar but they do not create the same overall impression such that an informed user e.g. a furniture enthusiast would very easily tell them apart) then it is less likely that there is a case to be made for design infringement.

So I might get into trouble by simply taking inspiration from the world around me? Madness!

Well, the first point to bear in mind is that in these situations the specific facts of the case are crucially important. 

With copyright, a court would look at the most creative/important bits of the earlier design. If those bits have been copied, the court might find that the infringement claim is made out (even if those most creative/important bits only make up a minority of the overall earlier design i.e. the test for copyright infringement is more qualitative than quantitative).

Similarly, with design infringement, the court would look at the things like any existing designs, which might be very similar to the earlier design. If there are lots of similar designs out there, the scope of protection of the earlier design will be narrower (i.e. limited to the differences between all the other similar designs); whereas if there are not, and therefore the earlier design is quite unusual/novel, the scope of protection will be broader.

In the final analysis, it is better to be inspired by concepts, themes and/or ideas if possible, and to develop a new creative work based on those concepts, themes and/or ideas. If you start by copying an existing creative work and modifying it here and there in an attempt to put distance between the old work and the new work, you run the risk of incorporating into the new design elements from the old design which will quite obviously be the result of copying rather than coincidence.

My head hurts, what now?

IP is not just like spaghetti, it’s a veritable spaghetti monster with issues too complex for Oprah. My advice: take advice. The British Library’s Business & IP Centre offers a wealth of advice and resources to businesses and individuals who are trying to wrap their head around their IP. Take a look at the website to find out more.

Similarly, Briffa is always happy to take your call/meeting and give you a steer on any IP issue. Contact 020 7288 6003 or email to book a free consultation.

Briffa logo

26 February 2020

Meet our delivery partner: Elaine Powell

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I remember when I attended a workshop delivered by my friend Jessica Huie on Raising your profile through PR. It was such a great session, delivered in a short space of time with amazing tips to implement, that I left feeling inspired and ready to start raising my profile.

Afterwards as I searched through the British Library courses, I saw that there was a gap for courses on public speaking and pitching. 

Elaine at Start-up Day 2018
Elaine at Start-up Day 2018

You see, I was someone who grew up not being self-expressed for fear of people not liking me, my responses or my opinions, I did not share myself and therefore stopped my growth and development that comes from being self-expressed.  

When I began to work in the corporate sector, I had to learn to speak up and out, but it was never comfortable for me, as I would rather keep quiet at the back of the room. Now don’t get me wrong, I could be the laugh and soul of the party. My friends knew me to be talkative and lively at times, but when it came to officially standing up front and centre, I would usually decline. I know many people are like that too.

So when a friend invited me to a speaking club, I thought, “let me see if this will support and help me” and indeed it did. After winning many competitions, I became a trainer for a charity going into schools delivering public speaking. So my speaking journey began and ten years on, is going from strength to strength.

Over the years I have trained over 25,000 people in public speaking and leadership mindset, delivered 600 workshops, presented 150 talks internationally, and curated a TEDx event for three years in London. Most importantly, I love what I do.

So when I saw that I could deliver these workshops and enable others to find their voice and pitch their business and ideas to others, I jumped at the chance.

Who are the workshops aimed at?

I find that there are two types of people who attend the workshops.

Firstly, they are entrepreneurs and business owners who need to pitch their ideas to gain new clients, business investors or funders. They also attend the presenting workshop as it goes hand-in-hand that being able to deliver with confidence, authenticity, and passion is essential.

Secondly, those attending are usually working for an organisation and either within their roles have to pitch frequently or deliver presentations. Hence why they also come to the presentations workshops.

Lastly, there are those that have always wanted to deliver presentations and know that by attending the presentation skills workshop will give them valuable tools and build their confidence at the same time.

Both workshops are highly interactive and feedback is given by all who attended as 1% of 100 people is more powerful than 100% of 1 person.

Elaine and workshop attendees

So what is covered in your workshops?

Pitching With Confidence Workshop

During the workshop you will learn:

  • Why pitching is vital to any business
  • Who you need to ‘Be” for people to buy into you and your business
  • How to craft an engaging elevator pitch
  • What goes into creating a five step pitch architecture
  • How to be an engaging presenter and remain calm 

At the end of the workshop you will:

  • Know who you need to ‘Be’ when pitching
  • Have an outline for your elevator and 5 minute pitch
  • Have practised your elevator and 5 minute pitch
  • Have more confidence to pitch your business, ideas or requests
  • Understand what any audience is looking for when you are pitching
  • Receive feedback on your elevator pitch 

You will come away feeling a lot more confident about your pitch and receive valuable feedback. If you haven’t got a pitch, you will take-away at least a frame work, knowing what your ideal audience want to see, hear and know about you, your business and most importantly what can you do for them.

Presenting With Confidence Workshop 

Presenting with confidence, is something that most people aspire to do well. Whether it is standing up talking at a meeting, delivering a presentation or sharing your voice, opinions and views with others.  When you Present With Confidence you get to touch, move and inspire others.

During the workshop you will learn:

  • How you can effectively use vocal, verbal and visual techniques to engage any audience
  • Understand what nerves are and learn tips to control them
  • How to gain confidence in yourself and your speaking ability
  • How structure is vital to keeping audience attention
  • Gain clarity around your key message
  • Learn how to write and deliver a short engaging speech

At the end of the workshop you will:

  • Have practised speaking several times
  • Delivered a two minute personal story or presentation
  • Increase your ability to persuade and influence
  • Speak with confidence and charisma
  • Learnt how to manage your fears and nerves
  • Start having fun being self-expressed
  • Receive professional feedback

Very importantly you will get to see that you are really much better than you thought, especially after we spend time looking at your mindset regarding public speaking that actually isn’t serving you and creating something that does.

Lastly, we get to have fun in all my sessions. Laughter is a great way to spend the session.

I look forward to seeing you there.

You can see all of the British Library’s Business & IP Centre’s upcoming workshops and events here.

20 February 2020

Learning new languages through music with Bilingual Beats

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UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organisation) created International Mother Language Day in 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. Every year since then, the day have been celebrated to promote the dissemination of mother tongues and a fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue. One Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumna, Bilingual Beats, aims to do the same thing and has developed a programme for teaching young children foreign languages through music.

Bilingual Beats class

Almudena, co-founder, had the idea for the business after finding that the UK had a lack of structured programmes for introducing foreign languages to very young children, “This is the best age to start learning a second language because children do it in a very natural way, and if it's taught through play, it creates meaningful learning and sets the roots for a successful future learning.

“Music constitutes a language itself, but it also makes it very easy to remember words and sentences. The combination between rhythm and melody, with lyrics, helps to process and acquire structures in a foreign language. Besides, music is one of the most loved things for children, and we aim not only to develop their linguistic abilities but also their inner music abilities, which develops in these first years of life.”

Bilingual Beats nursery

According to UNESCO, despite there being over 6,000 languages throughout the world, only a few hundred languages have made it into education systems and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.

This is reflected in what Bilingual Beats believes to be important, “The benefits of speaking more than one language are quite numerous, including the possibility of communicating with more people of different cultures, the increase in self-esteem, being better equipped for the professional life, etc. However, there is a lot of research demonstrating that there is a window of opportunity during the first years of life for learning languages successfully in a very easy way, and after those years, it becomes much more difficult, often with worse results. The children’s’ brains absorb and retain any kind of learning with very little effort.”

Bilingual Beats class

The desire for parents wanting their children to learn additional languages has increased over the years. Being based in London, the business sees a large amount of their customers speaking more than one language already and for those who only speak English, they want their children to learn foreign languages to increase their opportunities in the future. This trend is part of the businesses growth plan, as they plan to offer classes in other UK locations, with the ultimate aim to expand internationally.

If, like Bilingual Beats, you would like to scale-up your business, find out more about our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme.

18 February 2020

A week in the life of... Heather Lyons, co-founder of Blue Shift Coding

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Heather originally trained as an architect, but had always worked in technology as a user experience (UX) designer. After finishing her architectural studies, she moved to New York to work in technology and taught herself the basics of web development. 

In 2013, Heather was approached by some mums who were keen for their children to learn to code. Heather had been teaching computer-based design at university level in London and had children of my own. She was also passionate about empowering children to create with code as opposed to simply consuming technology through yet another device. With this in mind, she set about teaching code. Their first term started with eight children in her garden! Those eight children all re-enrolled and they soon started running after-school clubs at a nearby girls’ school.

Heather Lyons

Fast forward a couple of years and they are now teaching over 400 children every week at 15 schools across London. They have continued to grow, extending their work to the state sector and collaborating with community trusts. Not only this, but they now run computing camps every holiday and half-term, host corporate workshops for businesses, and have a new private tuition service. And yet, whilst they may continue to expand and deepen their offering, their core tenet of creatively coding is still very much at the centre of blue{shift}. Heather took part in the BIPC’s Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme in 2016 and has been part of the family ever since.

Heather tells us what her week looks like as founder of blue{shift}.

Monday I love Mondays. We start off the week with ‘office quiet time’. Any communication must be done through Slack unless absolutely necessary. It’s a time to put our heads down, get through a pile of emails and get a lot of writing done. We have a very collaborative group at the office, meaning there’s a tonne of discussion. Everyone loves the productivity that happens during our quiet time: it’s incredibly satisfying. 

I’ve been working with a business coach to help clarify our three year and one year plan. At the moment, we offer face-to-face clubs, camps, and private tuition. Our offering would be well complimented through the online delivery of instruction; I’m working on a plan to get us there!

In the afternoon I run through all the 50 after school clubs we’re due to teach next term with my head of Operations. We determine which schools will be doing robotics, which will be doing coding and which will be doing some of our more bespoke offerings (including video production and Virtual reality). 

Children at Blue Shift Coding workshops

Tuesday We have a team meeting every Tuesday morning. This week I delivered the three year vision to the team. Everyone was buzzed. Positive result!

In the afternoon I interviewed an amazing candidate to be our new Head of Education. We had an amazing discussion about the ways he uses things students are passionate about (like Pokemon) to structure his lessons. 

I reviewed profitability of our after school clubs and looked at those clubs that need a bit of account management.

Wednesday One of our core values as a business is empowerment. We want to empower children, teachers and their parents with the confidence to create with technology, inspiring future innovators. As part of our emphasis on empowerment, it’s important that everyone at Blueshift is empowered with an understanding of coding and computational thinking. 

Every other Wednesday, we do an in-house coding session at the office. This week we generated smiling worms in Scratch and learned how to create ‘functions’. 

At the end of the day, I took a new robot (called ‘Robo Wunderkind’) home to test with my five year old daughter. 

Children at Blue Shift Coding workshops

Thursday I discussed a ‘Tech Olympics’ with one of our partner schools in Marylebone. We’re going to have teams of eight year olds from 10 different schools compete in various events from robot building to coding to drone flying. We’re still deciding on a theme, but are hoping to create a series of challenges around saving our oceans!

In the afternoon, I went to IDEALondon in the City to meet with some of the companies there. IDEALondon is a consortium of groups that help start-ups, started at UCL. I had a catch up with some of my former mentors from UCL who led a programme I participated in; a programme that helped me to use evidence-based approaches in our teaching methods. I also met with some lawyers while I was in the City. 

Friday I spent the morning at physical therapy for my knee which I broke a year ago. Unbelievably, I tripped over a delivery of robots in the office last year. It was a robot injury! We now have a storage space.

I went back to the office and discussed our marketing strategy for half-term camps and then discussed a grant proposal we’re writing to create tools to support primary school teachers who want to integrate more computing into the curriculum.

Every Friday, I like to go home a bit early if I can to spend some quality time with my family. I have a 12 year old daughter, 10 year old son and five year old daughter. It’s always a bit loud in our house; can’t wait for a bit more office quiet time next Monday! 

Blue Shift Coding workshops

14 February 2020

The rise of flexitarians and veggie butchers

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The Vegan industry is booming. Many people are changing their diet for any number of reasons from diet and health to environmental factors. According to a recent Mintel report (which is free to access in the Business & IP Centre) a rise in flexitarians has aided the success of the meat-free market, especially amongst the younger consumers.

The report shows 34% of meat eaters are reported to have reduced their consumption in the last six months, giving a recent boost in sales of meat-free foods (UK Meat-Free Foods Market Report 2018/19).

With Veganuary having recently ended, I thought what better time to present my findings on this dynamic market and continue the conversation. Having recently acquired a new role within the Business & IP Centre, I was keen to get right into it and creating an industry guide that highlights useful databases, publications and websites on key industries seemed the best way about it. I chose the vegan, vegetarian and free-from market after seeing a demand for it whilst on the reference desk and was surprised that there wasn’t already an industry guide created on this topic. It was one of the biggest emerging markets and it seemed a great idea until I ventured forth and realised why there wasn’t an industry guide on it already.

I started with the Cobra database looking for Business Opportunity Profiles (BOP) that would be useful for anyone looking to start, run or manage a small business. This is a useful database that holds hundreds of how-to guides, reports, factsheets and even small business ideas to get you started, which you can also access for free in the BIPC. But there were no leads there specifically for vegan start-up businesses. I did however manage to find a BOP on Dieticians and Green Grocers and a Mini- Business Opportunity Profile (MBP) on the Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant and Vegetable box scheme. Not as much as I would have liked, but it was a start. The Small Business Help Books, located by the entrance of the BIPC, proved even harder, only finding general titles on How to run a sandwich and coffee shop and Starting your own Speciality Food Business and Jonathan Self’s book Good Money, which was an account of the authors own experience of a successful ethical business start-up. Maybe the market research statistics would prove more fruitful...

Vegan Trade Journal

The EMIS Database which offers company information and sector research on the top emerging markets proved the most effective with reports on the Global Dairy Alternative Products Market (2019-2024), Global Meat Substitute Market (2018-2025) and Global Gluten-Free Food Market (2018-2025). You can access all of these reports for free in the BIPC. Additionally, Mintel a widely used market intelligence agency on consumer and lifestyle markets provided a broad range of useful consumer trends reports such as Attitudes towards Healthy Eating, Lifestyles of a Generation and Free-from Foods. But I wanted to find more alternative product reports on the UK market.

Veggie Butchers screenshot

Global Data’s Veggie Butchers report although not a recent report, could provide vital insight into meat alternatives (sausages, kebabs, mince etc.). I knew ‘niche’ industries would be difficult and I was happy to find useful content within the broader realm of veganism, vegetarian and free-from foods. But I was determined to dig as deep as I could and using various key word variations I was able to discover useful reports to add – I was especially excited to find a report titled Veganism on the Upswing on EMIS, and Passport proved very useful with reports on Vegetarianism and Other Meat-Restricted Diets and excitedly a report titled A new vegetarian boom is in the making. It seemed I was able to extract key reports that would prove useful for anyone wanting to venture into this industry and I was very happy that the Vegan, Vegetarian and Meat alternative space in terms of market research was on the rise and I look forward to seeing this go from niche to mainstream in the near future.

Meron Kassa, Business and IP Reference Specialist at the Business & IP Centre London

Meron has worked at the British Library for over six years, working in several other reading rooms including Maps and Manuscripts, Asia and Africa and Rare Books and Music before landing a role within the British Library’s Business & IP Centre last year as a new member of the team, where she delivers reference work and will soon be delivering 1-2-1 business advice clinics, as well as workshops and webinars on a regular basis.

03 February 2020

The story behind proofreading

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Many unseen tasks are involved in bringing a great piece of content to the public and one of those is the critical job of proofreading. One Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni business, The Proofreading Company, does just that and more, offering language services including editing, proofreading, translation and copywriting.

Co-founders Peter and Rosie wanted to start the business due to their love of storytelling and working with language. Rosie explains, “The question was: how do we turn our passion into a vocation? Both Peter and I studied languages together at Oxford University and then went into interpreting and publishing respectively, but after a while we decided to join forces and start The Proofreading Company. In the proofreading world, we feel you tend to get either freelancers working solo or companies that offer a rather impersonal service, where work is churned out without much care. We wanted to fill that gap: to create a business that has significant capacity while still being friendly, caring and customer-focused.”

Co-founders Peter and Rosie

Each week is different for the company, with many different jobs, such as helping international organisations publish error-free, well-written reports, writing copy that reflects a company’s brand and purpose, translating a French-language academic paper into English so that it can be submitted to a British or US journal and even reworking lyrics for rock songs!

The landscape of proofreading has seen changes in recent years. “Almost all of our work is now digital rather than on paper. Thinking back to the time of proofreading symbols to mark up a printed document makes me a little nostalgic, but there’s no doubt that working on a computer saves a lot of time and trees,” Rosie explains. And despite the move towards short forms of communication–like social media and text messages–people still care about carefully crafting their writing: “Our customers care about correct spelling and consistency, because they want to convey their ideas clearly. They don’t want their reader to be distracted by inconsistencies or stuck trying to work out what a sentence is trying to say. There are different contexts in which we write; in a text message or on social media, people might not mind bending grammar rules, but they still want their professional documents to be absolutely perfect.”

There is the question of what’s next for the future of proofreading; will machines replace human beings? Rosie thinks it’s a bit more complex than it first might seem. “So many subtleties and layers come into play when we edit or translate a piece of writing. We bring our language and grammar expertise, but also the cultural knowledge, emotional sensitivities and common sense that are (so far) unique to human beings. There are infinite ways in which we can use language. The quirks of a writer are often what make their style unique. How would a computer deal with the brilliant first sentence of Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom!, which is composed of 1,288 words?”

The longevity of proofreading confirms Rosie’s belief it’s here to stay. “Last year I visited the British Library’s exhibition on writing, which featured a Chinese scroll from 672 AD where a list of proofreaders is included on the document. Proofreading existed more than 2,000 years ago, and probably long before! We’re open-minded about AI possibilities, but computers have a long way to go to compete with human beings when it comes to language. From where we’re standing, the future of language services lies in human linguists whose work is enhanced by clever machines.”

The Proofreading Company logo

With humans continuing to lead the way, The Proofreading Company is looking to rebrand to reflect the wider scope of services it offers – so watch this space.

If you have ambitions to grow and scale-up like The Proofreading Company, find out more about our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme.

28 January 2020

What's your New Year's Resolution for 2020?

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We have been speaking to some of our  BIPC businesses as part of our brand new #HighStreetHeroes feature on Instagram. Every Monday you will find insight into their business journey, their best pieces of business advice and you will also have the opportunity to ask them any burning questions you may have. Make sure to follow us to find out more about our buzzing community of entrepreneurs. In the meantine, as January is all about self-reflection, evaluation and setting aims, read on to hear more about some of our High Street Heroes' New Year's Resolutions, and how they are hoping that these targets can help their business: 

Amanda, I Can Make Shoes

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'My 2020 resolution’s to plan my workdays in 1-hour increments the night before. This increases my productivity massively. I’m also going to meditate in the mornings. This helps me keep a light-hearted happy attitude throughout the day.'

Lauren, Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium

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'This year, I've set myself the New Year's Resolution of improving our sustainability practices, particularly when it comes to waste management, the chemicals we use in the cafe and reducing packaging use where we can for merchandise. Maintaining a stable and responsible business is always the goal for us: the hospitality sector and High Street in general are quite volatile and our goal is to continue to do what we are doing to maintain our current strength.'

Chloe and Abigail, Buttercrumble

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'We tend not to set New Year's Resolutions. However, we do follow a mantra: refocus, refresh and restart. The quietness of January always offers an opportunity for personal and business development.'

Joe, Krio Kanteen

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'My New Year's Resolution for 2020 is to not be so possessive over my business. I've realised that sharing responsibilities can be really beneficial for business growth. The trading of ideas and expertise also keeps things fresh and allows your business to remain innovative.'

Mickela, HR Sports Academy

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'This year, I'm setting myself 2 New Year's Resolutions:

1. Stop being a control freak and trying to do everything myself

This year I will become better at delegating tasks to other members of staff and up-skilling people within the organisation to help ensure that I do not get overwhelmed with workload and I stay focused on developing the business 

2. Take more time out for self care

Doing simple things like getting my nails done, having facial and massages, mediating and working out to enable me to relax, recharge and refocus. Physical and mental well-being is so important for everyone, and with the demands of running a business it’s easy to forget to do the little things which will prevent you from burning out.'

Natalie, Acacia Facilities

Natalie

'This year, I'm going to step out of my comfort zone to develop new beginnings within my personal and business life, exploring new abilities to create a better life balance.'

You can find our #HighStreetHeroes feature on our Instagram page every Monday. 

27 January 2020

A week in the life of… Siobhan Thomas, founder of What’s Your Skirt

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Siobhan Thomas graduated from the University of Huddersfield 10 years ago from BA (Hons) Fashion with Marketing, Manufacturing and Promotion. This was where her creativity was harnessed and birthed in fashion. Once she graduated, she went on to building her fashion and marketing career and worked for Mamas and Papas as well as some other local designers and companies. In 2018, Siobhan decided to go for her own dreams and launch her brand What’s Your Skirt?, a collection of beautifully crafted skirts for the individual woman. Since launching at Liverpool Fashion Week, Siobhan has gone on to receiving multiple awards including Business of the Year 2019 and Best Fashion Designer at some incredibly prestigious events. 

What's Your Skirt? The Afrika Skirt
The Afrika Skirt

Siobhan used BIPC Leeds, in Leeds Central Library, which provided her with basic business acumen and allowed her access to reports such as Mintel for market research. Siobhan also received free of charge guidance from the BIPC staff, as well as an appointment with the local solicitors the BIPC was working with. Due to the advice from these sessions Siobhan was able to ask about her trademark and successfully got her brand name protected. In addition, Siobhan attended numerous free courses and workshops that helped with areas like marketing, business planning, intellectual property and securing finance.

Siobhan tells us what her week looks like in the day in the life of What’s Your Skirt.

Monday Research, inspiration and fabric sourcing day. I love Mondays, I always think it’s a fresh start to a new week! My alarm sounds at 5.30 every morning and I go for a morning workout at my local gym. After my class, I return home and enjoy my healthy plant-based protein shake and get ready for work. I get to the What’s Your Skirt Studio for 8.00 and I start my day of creativity.

Sometimes I even go for a walk around Roundhay Park lake to gather my thoughts and get inspired. The simple things in nature can sometimes spark a wonderful theme for my next collection. I create mood-boards, research colour palettes and moods for the next season ahead. I love looking at magazines that are unrelated to fashion, for example interior magazines, I love to see how I can create a collection through creativity in another field. I then go to the local mills and browse the never-ending fabric supplies that surround me, I get to choose the next season fabrics at a competitive price due to the strong relationships I have with the mills. I go back to the studio and start to pin my fabric samples to a mood-board, and I begin creating my collection in more depth. I look at the texture, the fabric qualities, the silhouettes I am going for that season and my core inspiration.

What's Your Skirt? on runway

Tuesday Design development/collections day. Tuesdays are cool just because I am usually getting into the swing of the week by today. Now I have my inspiration, I get to designing! My super favourite part! I draw some illustration styles using my layout pad and pantone colours and I begin to construct some initial design ideas, I try to let my imagination run wild at this point as I can always tame it later on in the process. Sometimes these start off a little extravagant and eventually mellows out to be wearable. I get my favourite music on and I get in my creative bubble. I love being in my zone as my best work is executed. I am constantly touching and feeling the fabrics, seeing how it drapes and I design to the fabric behaviour. By the end of the day I usually have six strong outfits that I can work with ready for the next day of pattern cutting.

Wednesday Pattern cutting and draping day. A day of execution! This is where the maths skills come in, I absolutely enjoy this process and bringing my drawings to life. I get all my favourite pattern cutting books out and begin to draft my blocks, I then edit them to imitate my designs and start to trace them off. When I feel like I have mastered the flat pattern cutting I move on the drapery, which I really enjoy. I start to drape straight on to the dress stand and I begin manipulating the fabric to my design. I find this process therapeutic and it’s always nice to see the piece 3D.

What's Your Skirt

Thursday Sample sewing day. Today, I get to working on my samples. I firstly cut out my pattern pieces and lay them out on calico so I can see a draft version of the garment. Once I am happy with this, I cut it out of the actual fabric and get sewing. Step by step, I ensure the pockets are inserted and finished with a neat top stitch, I ensure it is perfect and the quality of the garment is at a high standard. If I have any details that require more attention, I tend to sew a small sample to see what it looks like, I usually feel like this is a day of achievement as all my work for the week comes together. I tend to work late in the studio on Thursdays as I like to get a set amount of samples finished by the end of the day.

Friday Marketing/photoshoot and social media day. Ending the week with a marketing day is so cool! It’s great to gather all the little photos I have taken all week and inspiration and share with the world what we are doing as a brand. By now, I am organising photoshoots for look books and recruiting models to start talking some photographs in the studio and looking for a snappy marketing angle to launch our new collection in. I also have quite a few meetings with a friends who are photographers, videographers, models, MUAs and hairstylists, this is so I can give them my vision on how I see the collections being. Then they go away and come up with a few ideas based on the collection theme.

What's Your Skirt? model in skirt

Saturday Fittings and client appointments day. Our busiest day! From 8.00 – 18.00, the day is usually packed with client fittings and orders. It’s usually the best day to fit clients as they tend not to be at work on the weekends and have the time to come into the studio. I have a few members of my team who help with this too, which really creates a buzz in the office on days like today! Lots of happy clients and lots of creative clothing. I simply love it!

Sunday Business admin, planning and rest day. Sundays are for resting and planning for the week ahead. This is usually a day of real evaluation of the week before, seeing what goals I have smashed and which ones I have yet to complete. And I look at setting new goals for the following week. This is a crucial day for me as it means I can get my mind back in to plan of action and propel forward into what I want to achieve.

24 January 2020

New business services around the Business & IP Centre National Network

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If you aren’t based in London you can still access many of the Business & IP Centre’s resources around the UK as part of our National Network. Over 3,700 activities were delivered in 2019 and over 13,500 entrepreneurs helped outside of the Capital.

Our Centres have expanded their services in 2019 and have some exciting plans for 2020…

BIPC Birmingham

You will be able to attend new workshops and networking events at BIPC Birmingham in partnership with University of Birmingham Business School, Make it Your Business and X-Forces.

From 2020 there will be a regular series of workshops and one-to-one business advice clinics. The activities are scheduled for the 2nd Wednesday, 3rd Thursday and 4th Friday of every month.

BIPC Brighton & Hove

A new pilot Centre for 2019 and will be launching fully in 2020.

BIPC Cambridge & Peterborough

If you are a local business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur in Cambridge, you will be able to go along to regular Coffee Mornings in 2020, which offer a relaxed and friendly space to meet each other and explore what the BIPC can offer.

BIPC Glasgow

Our first Centre outside of England, BIPC Glasgow has expanded their existing offer to develop new partnerships to create an Experts in Residence programme, which includes Business Gateway, Business Advisors in Residence, Jobs & Business Glasgow, Business Advisors in Residence, SnapDragon IP: Entrepreneur in Residence, Creation IP: IP Attorneys in Residence and Gilson Gray: Legal Advisers in Residence.

A new project will launch in 2020, Making Digital Work for Micro-business, funded by the JP Morgan Power-Up fund.

The Mitchell Library

BIPC Hull

If you are looking for a one-stop business hub, look no further. Hull Central Library has rapidly expanded their business offer in 2019, bringing the Business & IP Centre, new Makerspace, new Business Lounge and an on-site café all under the same roof.

They have a busy 2020 ahead as well after securing ESIF funding for a community-led local development project to provide targeted business support to communities in the most deprived areas of the city. The team has also secured ERDF funding for the Innovate Humber project, which aims to encourage more businesses in the Humber area to participate in research and development.

BIPC Leeds

Are you a regular attendee of our Inspiring Entrepreneur events in Leeds? The team have developed a new format for their live screenings, which allows more time for networking, and features talks and a panel discussion with local speakers. That’s not all, the team have also developed several new workshops on topics including Etsy and Innovation.

In 2020, building on their partnership with the Santander Work Café, BIPC Leeds will be working with Liz Jowett to deliver one-to-one advice sessions on business planning and banking.

Leeds Central Library

BIPC Liverpool

After hosting their first Start-up conference in partnership with the Women’s Organisation in 2019, they will be holding another on Wednesday 26 February 2020.

Liverpool’s Entrepreneur in Residence, Gary Millar, is celebrating his fifth anniversary at BIPC Liverpool. In this time, he and his team of volunteer specialist mentors have advised over 1,600 individuals starting or growing a business. Gary Millar is Deputy Mayor of Liverpool & Mayoral Lead For Business & International Relations.

Gary Millar

After growing his own IT and marketing businesses, he is now co-owner of Parr Street Studios (hotel, recording studios, bars and offices).

When he launched his weekly business clinic Gary explained, “I have a passion for business and a unique understanding of what entrepreneurs and businesses can go through. My role is to listen, inspire, motivate and steer people to hopefully the right kind of support.

“It’s been a great year for business in Liverpool and we have been excited to see so many bright, enthusiastic entrepreneurs coming to see us at the library’s Business & IP Centre, in search of the boost they may need to get their business grow and under way. Interestingly they don’t just come from Liverpool but as far afield as Yorkshire and Wales! Thank you to them all for taking that bold step in reaching out for help.”

BIPC Manchester

Are you a social enterprise in Manchester? BIPC Manchester will house a second branch of the Human Lending Library®, a programme where social entrepreneurs looking for business advice can ‘borrow’ one of Expert Impact’s experts, for free, to help them solve their challenges and scale fast.

Manchester will also be launching a new lunchtime networking session on the last Thursday of every month, hosted by start-up coach Patrick Lauroul.

BIPC Newcastle

Could self-employment be for you? BIPC Newcastle has developed closer relationships with Skills Hub, a City Council project providing employability and skills support and also based in Newcastle City Library. The BIPC team, Skills Hub and other local Start-up support agencies are developing advice sessions for individuals looking at self-employment as a way back into work.

BIPC Norfolk

BIPC Norfolk has expanded their services to King’s Lynn and Thetford libraries, with Great Yarmouth launching this month. As well as expanding their locations, they have also extended their partnership programme to include the DWP Self Employment Team, the Princes’ Trust Enterprise Programme, Teachers Learning Network, People From Abroad Team (Norfolk County Council), Norfolk Enterprise Festival and Pinnacle People as well as existing partners - Menta Business advisors, New Anglia Growth Hub, Leathes Prior (legal advisors), Larking Gowen (accountancy), UEA Alumni, Economic development Team (NCC), Hethel Innovation and the Norfolk Chambers of Commerce.

BIPC Northamptonshire

The BIPC has expanded its offer of regular workshops and experts in residence one-to-ones to Kettering Library as well as Northamptonshire Central Library. Graphic designer appointments and business finance advice will be coming soon.

BIPC Nottingham

There are some big changes for Nottingham and new internal images of the proposed new Central Library, including the best children’s library in the country, have been revealed by Nottingham City Council, with the public being offered the chance to offer their views on the plans.

BIPC Nottingham is hoping to include a Business & IP Centre in the proposed new library. More details including a video flythrough are available here.

BIPC Sheffield

Do you need techniques on mindfulness to help manage wellbeing issues which come from being an entrepreneur? A new workshop has been added to their programme, Mindfulness for Entrepreneurs.

BIPC Worcestershire

A new pilot Centre for 2019 and will be launching fully in 2020.