Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

265 posts categorized "Business"

12 January 2023

2022: Our Year In Business

As we enter a new and exciting year at the Business & IP Centre, we cannot wait to help even more entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and scale their businesses across the country. Before we jump in, we want to take a moment to reflect on all of the amazing things we got up to in 2022. This was a year that saw the 10th anniversary of the BIPC National Network and the return of in-person events. let’s recap all our achievements from last year.

The London Network keeps on growing

photo from greenwich launch, Warren King Photography

2022 was a busy year for our London network, with three more London boroughs joining our rapidly expanding National network. We welcomed Lewisham and Greenwich in September, and Bromley a month later. Through our existing partnership with Waltham Forest, that now brings our business support services to the heart of five London boroughs.

Reset. Restart returns

reset restart graphic banner

In May we welcomed the return of Reset. Restart, a series of free webinars and in-person events around our National Network aimed at supporting businesses in recovering from Covid and in navigating a post-pandemic world. This year we've had over 1,140 people attend these events and benefit from the free expert advice and support on offer.

Creative entrepreneurs got ready for growth

Zoom screenshot of get ready for business growth attendees

After our previous scale-up programme came to an end in January of last year, a new, national programme for creative businesses launched in August to fill the hole. Funded by Arts Council England, our Get Ready for Business Growth programme is only in it's second delivery round & we are already supporting 50 entrepreneurs across the UK in various creative fields. From artisan homeware to theatre and dance companies, we're here to help those in the creative sector who may have pivoted during the pandemic, or are looking for new ways to to grow sustainably. 

Libraries mean business

photo of camera filming the trailer

Did you know, there's more going on in libraries than you think? After filming our trailer in July, we premiered in December across social media, our newsletter and Sky video on demand. We loved having Cultureville, Paradise Cycles and Okan London, as well as our own British Library reference team member, Seema, be involved. What might you find in between the shelves of your local library?

 

We welcomed you back in person

photo from Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Building the Black Economy event

October saw the return of in-person events in the form of Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Building the Black Economy. We heard from a panel of Black entrepreneurs who are building empires online and discussed the power of the Black economy with Swiss, founder of Black Pound Day.

 

Celebrating 10 years of national business support

 

banner celebrating the national network anniversary

This year we also celebrated our National Network's 10th anniversary and welcomed two new Centres, BIPC Cumbria and BIPC Southampton. Since launching, we’ve attracted 185,000+ attendees through events, workshops and webinars, helped create 19,000+ businesses and 12,000+ jobs, supported 10,000+ existing businesses and helped safeguard 4,000+ existing businesses.

 

In 2023 we've got even more in store for entrepreneurs from all walks of life to start, protect and scale successful businesses both in London and around the UK.

 

24 November 2022

How to research your high street business

In 2021, the number of independent shops on Britain’s high streets increased for the first time in five years.

A net 2,157 new independent retail businesses opened across British towns and city centres over the year, according to the latest analysis by the Local Data Company (LDC). The pandemic has led to many chain retailers reducing their presence on the high street, creating opportunities for independent businesses to grow in the space left behind.

Why would LDC be relevant for me?

LDC uses a team of office and field researchers to collect data on every retail and leisure business in Britain, which is then interpreted by their analyst team to map trends across the retail industry. This insight is offered to commercial businesses of varying types and sizes, from large chain retailers to property consultancies.

Local Data Online can help you research and determine what start-up business you can plan for the regions in the UK, where there is a gap in the market, or where you should be looking to have a bricks and mortar presence. For example, the following analysis gives you real data on the coffee shops on the high street in London. This gives you information on where your competition, and opportunities may be - and shows the demand for coffee shops and coffee.

Coffee shops across Greater London

Source: Local Data Online

You can use Local Data Online to find out about locations, business types and companies all over the country. It has a searchable, interactive map tool which lets you select a specific area and explore the types of businesses currently in operation, both chain and local. The map also shows the addresses of available vacant units in the area.

Local data map

Easy-to-read diagrams show extra information including vacancy rates, the mix of chain vs. independent shops, local demographics and average earnings in a specific area.

Where can I access LDC?

You can find LDC’s Local Data Online (LDO) software, an interactive insights database of the retail and leisure market, including key metrics for areas such as retail mix, vacancy rate and demographic data, for free in the following BIPCs:

  • British Library
  • Birmingham
  • Bristol
  • Cumbria
  • Devon
  • Glasgow
  • Greater Manchester
  • Kent
  • Humber Partnership
  • Leeds City Region
  • Liverpool City Region
  • Northamptonshire
  • Norfolk
  • Nottinghamshire
  • South Yorkshire
  • Sussex
  • Tees Valley
  • Worcestershire

You will need a free Reader Pass to access the reports in the British Library, or your library card for any library outside of London. You can learn more about the database on their website.

If you want to learn more about the retail and leisure landscape in your area, including current occupiers and vacancies, come along to your nearest BIPC which has access and speak to our friendly teams. We can show you how to use LDO to benefit your business, all for free.

11 November 2022

A day in the life of Ronke Jane Adelakun, co-founder of Cultureville

This month we are following the co-founder of Manchester-based African-inspired fashion brand, Cultureville, who specialises in hand-crafted clothing and accessories that feature bold African wax prints in contemporary designs. We'll hand over to Ronke Jane to find out what a typical day is like running the business...

In the life of an entrepreneur, each day is unique and in my role as the co-founder and Creative Director of fashion brand Cultureville, this is certainly true. Within the span of a week, my days can vary from having a glamorous shoot on one day to a grueling day of accounting and admin the next, but that’s part of what makes it enjoyable.

I’m constantly being challenged, learning and developing. An added benefit for me is that I get to do it all with my sister, co-founder and best friend, Adeola. Although there is no “typical” day for me, here is what an average day in my life can look like.

Ronke Jane and Adeola
Ronke Jane and Adeola

My day typically begins at 10am, one of the perks of working for yourself is that you get to choose your own hours and as a night owl, I definitely take advantage of this on days where I don't have early meetings. I start my day by praying and reading the bible before getting ready for the day ahead. While I enjoy working from home, I find that I'm more productive in a work space, so I head over to our co-working space whenever I can.

11.00 – 11.30

To help shape my day, I start by writing a to-do list of the tasks that I need to get done and order them by priority. My co-founder and I have weekly strategy meetings which I use as the basis of my to-do list. I usually select four tasks to complete each day – two relatively easy, two more challenging. I think starting your week off by achieving something difficult makes you feel like you can do anything so I try to kick off my week by getting something challenging crossed off my list.

11.30 – 13.30

As the Creative Director of Cultureville I lead our digital marketing and communication efforts so some of my tasks include formulating our content strategy, planning our shoots, designing for upcoming collections and communicating with our mailing list. The first portion of my day is usually dedicated to one of these tasks.

13.30 – 14.30

As a late riser, I tend to do brunch rather than breakfast and I like to break for brunch after I've gotten into the swing of my day. For me, getting started is the hardest part of completing a task so I tend to take my break midway through so I can just pick up where I left off.

14.30 – 19.00

I like to switch between admin and creative tasks to stay engaged, so if my first task was something admin heavy like crafting a content calendar, I'll try to lighten it up with something more fun in the afternoon like creating a reel or writing a blog.

19.30 – 21.00

We are huge proponents of work/life balance at Cultureville therefore our social schedules tend to be packed. In addition to my role at Cultureville, I’m a poet and spoken word artist so in my evenings I can often be found performing at open-mic nights. On the days where I'm not performing, Adeola and I can be found hanging out with friends, either at a games night or dinner.

21.00 – 23.00

If we haven’t had dinner by this point then we’ll head home, rustle up something and curl up on the couch with a good Netflix show. The evenings are when I spend quality time catching up with my family

23.00 – 1.30

I really enjoy working at night , the world is quiet and I can focus so this is the time I dedicate to editing videos for Cultureville. I usually wrap up by 2am and head straight to bed.

While running a business can be extremely challenging, I am lucky to have a job that allows me to use all my skills and pursue my talents wholeheartedly. It’s so fulfilling to see all that work come to fruition when someone wears our items for a special occasion like their wedding and to know I played a part in their story.

09 November 2022

Celebrating small businesses this festive season

Small businesses in the UK have had a lot to contend with in the last few years, however, the UK’s brilliant independent retailers are among the most hardy in their sector. Figures from the Local Data Company have revealed that the independent retail and leisure sector was more resilient to the impact of Covid-19 compared to national chains with five or more outlets.* In this blog we are celebrating their incredible achievements and contributions, both economic and creative. We have curated a selection of some fantastic products from small businesses around the UK who have used the BIPC services, to help you narrow down the search for that perfect gift.

For those with a sweet tooth

Klara's Gingerbread products with a festive theme

One business who received support from BIPC Leeds City Region, Klara’s Gingerbread, makes and hand decorates gingerbread biscuits; each piece made using a traditional Hungarian recipe and carefully decorated by hand making a perfect edible Christmas decoration. Lactose free and vegan versions are available. Klara also runs workshops, both in Leeds and remotely for all ages to relax, have fun and learn how to decorate their own gingerbreads.

Cost: Between £2 – £50

Where to buy? Klara’s Gingerbread

Raise a glass

Selfish Spirits bottle held by a man

Selfish Spirits is an ethically conscious spirit brand based in Skipton, aiming to make the world a little bit better through supporting charitable causes and being as sustainable as possible wherever they can. Their signature product is a dark spiced rum made from molasses from Guyana and fermented and distilled in the UK. It has all-natural flavourings of vanilla, caramel, Mexican lime and a touch of blood orange.

Cost: £34.95

Where to buy? Selfish Sprits

Make your mark

Personalised engraving on a wine bottle

Martina Rocha Luz is a Leeds-based calligrapher and engraver offering a personalised engraving service to make your gifts extra special! Engraving is the perfect way to elevate a present and Martina personalises anything, from wine to perfumes. In addition to her engraving service, Martina also offers unique wedding signage and personalised stationery.

Cost: Prices start at £19.95

Where to buy? Martina Rocha Luz

Don’t get in a pickle

Northumbrian Pantry Pickled Pear chutney with a glass of port and stilton cheese

Northumbrian Pantry makes sweet and spiced pickled pears preserved in a special blend of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. The perfect pairing for a Christmas Stilton and a glass of port and equally delicious with whipped or ice cream or as a classic pear salad with walnuts and Roquefort cheese. Handmade in small batches using seasonal pears in the North Tyne Valley village of Simonburn.

Cost: £5.40

Where to buy? Northumbrian Pantry

Super superfood

Boxes of muesli - photo by Julija Baburina

Harper and Willow, who used BIPC Northamptonshire, was created with the intention of bringing healthy, wholesome, delicious organic food to the market with their own personal twist. They use great flavor combinations with premium ingredients, resulting in an amazing taste experience. The muesli and granola doesn’t use refined sugar, processed oils, preservatives, additives and flavourings. All products are vegan and gluten free!

Cost: Various

Where to buy? Harper and Willow

Look the part

Bag modelled on woman

April’s designs are inspired by the geology surrounding her in the North East of Scotland, she has continued to use nature as inspiration, despite moving to Glasgow where she used our BIPC in the Mitchell Library. Inspired by her photography of stones and geological sites around Scotland, she set out to create a collection of luxury textile accessories whilst upholding her personal values: buying less by buying better; supporting local businesses and sustainability first.

Cost: Various

Where to buy? Agate and Ayre

Give the gift of giving

Photo of the Santaceptor with Father Christmas

For those who are looking to give back this festive season, BIPC Greater Manchester’s Action Media Hire deck out a Police Interceptor Action Vehicle, which usually stars in TV and films, for their fundraising. The Santaceptor distributes sweet treats to children and collects donations to assist with the project operations and other local charities.

Cost: Up to you

Where to donate? Santaceptor

For those who love self-care

Founder Natalee holding Skin Solace products

Natalee Onyeche’s Skin Solace is a sophisticated, luxury brand to reflect the high-quality ingredients used, which makes her customers feel pampered. Your skin absorbs 60 - 70% of everything you put on it within 26 seconds! With this fact in mind choosing the right products becomes more important. BIPC Nottinghamshire’s Skin Solace products are formulated to offer the very best nourishment and moisture naturally. Skin Solace aims to turn everyday occurrences into opportunities for self-care with the products it provides.

Cost: Various

Where to buy? Skin Solace

Bold accessories

Helen Cross Jewellery necklace

Contemporary jewellery designs inspired by the beautiful English countryside and made by hand in the heart of Norfolk using recycled sterling silver. Good jewellery is something that makes your heart sing whenever you wear it - the necklace given with love, the cufflinks bringing individuality to workwear, or the tiny horse shaped stud earrings showing a love of riding. Wherever we see it, jewellery always embodies the essence of the wearer in choices that are as individual as fingerprints. Making jewellery by hand allows Helen, who used BIPC Norfolk, to make one-off pieces on commission for clients.

Cost: Various

Where to buy? Helen Cross Jewellery

Dress to impress

Cultureville founders holding fan

Where African culture meets contemporary fashion. Manchester-based Cultureville offers statement looks and hand-crafted accessories, ethically sourced from West Africa. Their goal is to showcase the beauty and talent of Africa through bold and beautiful African inspired clothing and accessories.

Cost: Various

Where to buy? Cultureville

For the crafters

Very Craftea founder holding a crafting kit product

The 'why' of Tas’ business is to make all people create moments to feel comforted and included. It does this through uniquely flavoured, consciously sourced loose-leaf tea and modern embroidery kits, designed and created locally in Cambridgeshire.

Cost: Various

Where to buy? Very Craftea

For the K-pop stans

SOKOLLAB CD compilation

Get Ready for Business Growth business, SOKOLLAB, is an independent Korean music and lifestyle store bringing you the best in KPop, KBeauty, stationery and books.  Visit their London and Birmingham stores or go online for authentic Korean gifts this Christmas!

Cost: BTS Proof Standard Edition £54.00

Where to buy? SOKOLLAB

Eco-friendly Skincare

Eucalyptus Bath Soak 560g standing on a bath tub

Another of our scale-up businesses, BATCH #001 creates award-winning, sustainable, organic skincare products and beauty gift sets for dry, sensitive skin, powered by the bees, the land and the seas, using only natural ingredients, eco-friendly packaging, and everything is handmade, at their small female founded business. They offer a range of luxury and bespoke gift sets at all prices points, which are gift ready, wrapped, with a personalised note and free UK shipping. Choose from Bath Soaks, Body Scrubs, Bath & Body Oils, Beeswax Balms and Candles. Perfect for Christmas gifting!

Cost: Various

Where to buy? BATCH #001

Bring the world home

multiple soapstone Hippo Dishes on shelves

Meaning 'friend of the people', AARVEN is an ethical homeware and jewellery brand founded by two adventurers, inspired by their artisans around the globe. From wood block printed textiles, recycled brass jewellery, to hand woven baskets, they design their joyful collections in collaboration with the world's best artisans. Working in close collaboration with over 30 artisan groups across Africa and in India, AARVEN uses ancient craft techniques to create contemporary heirlooms for the modern home.  

Cost: Various - save 10% on purchases over £10 with code BL10 (expires on Christmas day).

Where to buy? AARVEN

The perfect accessory 

Pom pom bag

Pom Pom London was born in 2015 with the aim of delivering affordable, stylish and contemporary products. All their products are designed from the UK, they are passionate about creating fashion pieces that are unique and fun for all ages and the expanding range is a reflection of this. Whether you are looking for a warm hat or a useful bag, there's something for everyone.

Cost: Various 

Where to buy? Pom Pom London

 

If the shoe doesn't fit

I Can Make Shoes Kit

I Can Make Shoes teaches people how to make their own shoes from home using their beginner-friendly online tutorials, shoemaking kits and books. Whether you have difficulty finding shoes that fit or you're just a shoe lover who loves to craft, I Can Make Shoes is the best place to start! Our previous scale-up programme helped I Can Make Shoes founder, Amanda Overs, triple her team size and launch an online community. She's now taking part in our new business support programme, Get Ready for Business Growth, tailored to arts and culture businesses and fully funded by Arts Council England.

Cost: Various - save 10% on books, kits & supplies with the code: BritishLibrary10

Where to buy? I Can Make Shoes

Does what it says on the tin

Body wash being poured from a KANKAN can into a bottle dispenser

Introducing KANKAN, natural body care in a can. A simple at-home refill solution. Nourishing botanical soap supportive for your skin health and wellness. Made from all natural ingredients, plastic free and infinitely recyclable. Oh and one tree is planted for every can sold ensuring your daily wash is giving even more! Delivered gift ready in reusable packaging. 

Cost: Starter set prices start at £24 - use the code BRITISH LIBRARY KAN to enjoy 20% off your first purchase.

Where to buy? KANKAN

Design your own wardrobe

Sew Me Sunshine founder with rolls of fabric in the haberdashery

Sew Me Sunshine is an independent dressmaking fabric & haberdashery shop shipping worldwide. We have a curated selection of dressmaking fabrics, including a large range of sustainable eco fabrics & deadstock (ex-designer) garment fabrics, dressmaking patterns and high quality sewing supplies. Our one stop shop will help you make a handmade wardrobe that will make you smile.

Cost: Various - save 15% on all orders with code BRITISHLIBRARY15

Where to buy? Sew Me Sunshine

Cards for every Christmas

Jelly Armchair christmas card and envelope on wood

Jelly Armchair is a small family business specialising in big silly puns. Run by two sisters, Jelly Armchair has a collection of colourful illustrated cards, gifts and homewares designed to bring some silliness to everyday life and make you giggle (or grimace) at the pun based 'dad joke' humour. Cat, the illustrator creates beautiful, detailed artworks that you'll want to look at time and time again, and you’ll notice something new each time. Our collection of 'multipun' Christmas cards is suitable for all ages and even comes with a fully illustrated Christmas envelope.

Cost: Various - save 10% on all orders with code BLXmas22

Where to buy? Jelly Armchair

*According to COBRA reports (which you can access for free in many BIPCs around the UK)

26 October 2022

A week in the life of Amarachi Clarke, founder of Lucocoa Chocolate

Come with us as we take you behind the scenes of London's first bean to bar chocolate factory, Lucocoa Chocolate, founded by our previous scale-up programme alumni Amarachi Clarke.

Amarachi founded Lucocoa in 2015, after teaching herself to make chocolate in her home she learned that the bean-to-bar quality chocolate could be much better than that available in the mass market, even than perceived luxury brands. Since taking part in our previous scale-up programme last year, she has had some incredible opportunities come her way.

"Some new stockists approached us that we could only have dreamed of, as well as some high-profile media. Our team has grown a lot so we are now a team of 7 covering production, comms, sales and creative. Previously we only really dipped our toe in seasonal but we now have the capacity to really engage with Halloween, Bonfire night, Black Friday, Christmas, Easter etc. It’s also fun for us to think creatively about how we sell our chocolate.

We’re also looking at a new, larger factory to move to so if all goes well we will have a new Lucocoa home soon!"

Read on to get a taste of what it's like to run your own chocolate factory...

Monday

Today will be the most chill day of the week! Looking at the calendar we have a lot to get through so planning is key. I start  the day by mapping out what success looks like at the end of the week and then work back from there plotting every key task for me and my team members, that we will discuss at the Tuesday morning team meeting when everyone is in.

We also start by roasting the cocoa beans of the chocolate that we’ll be making in the week, going through stockist orders and planning when we will get them out by.

Amarachi putting trays of cocoa beans in the oven

Tuesday

We have our weekly team meeting, this is a good chance to get the team up to speed with a lot of things that have happened in the last week, catch up on projects and have a chat about how we felt the previous week went.

The weekly stocktake happens and gives us a snap shot of how much product we have. We have a baseline of product we are comfortable with. After the stocktake, we then prioritise the making of products to get to the baseline or just above that.

I had a meeting with Mercury Spirits a fellow British Library scale-up programme alumni. We discussed the possibility of working together on a Christmas product – chocolate and negroni, a combination that never fails!

All the cocoa beans are crushed and winnowed and the machines are switched on. They won’t stop until Thursday when the chocolate is ready. We’re making Natural Blonde and 60% Haiti this week.

Lots of tempering of chocolate today as we have to keep the stocks up!

Amarachi filling trays of chocolate

Wednesday

We were invited to a Black History Month fair in the Aldgate Tower, it was a nice little lunch market for staff in the building. It was great to meet a lot of other Black founders.

I got back to the factory and hopped straight on a call with ITV as I will be baking our signature brownies on This Morning with Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary, there are a few things logistic wise that needed to be sorted so I hopped on a call with the guys at ITV to iron those out.

The coconut sugar, lucuma and cocoa butter are all weighed out and loaded into the machines slowly throughout the day.

In the evening a few of us went to a screening of Chocolate War a documentary by Miki Mistrati, highlighting the issues with child and slave labour in the chocolate supply chain. With the amount of money big chocolate companies make, we know they can fix the problem, but haven’t been required to, which is a great shame. We have been working on how we fix this problem and raising awareness on the issue through a campaign and podcast.

Amarachi boxing up the set chocolate

Thursday

Today we were invited to speak at a conference in Brussels by Meta in November which is flattering, we hopped on a call and got some more details.

I caught up with our sales lead on where we are sales wise and putting a strategy together on meeting our targets

We had a request from the BBC show Dreaming whilst Black to have our products placed in the background of the show. I finally got around to signing the contract and sending that off. Now to get the stock ready to go out next Monday.

Lucocoa's products laid out

Friday

This is bake day and always a little stressful as Friday which is supposed to be a bit of a winding down day, always seems to be one of the busiest. All the bakery orders that come through online throughout the week are baked and dispatched on Friday for delivery on Saturday.

We had a brainstorm session with a new partner – Glebe Farm, the only oat milk company in the UK using British oat. We have been using their oat milk for our hot chocolate and their gluten free flour for our brownies for a few years now. We got some great ideas down and now to get them rolled out.

Lucocoa chocolate being packaged up

Saturday

We form part of the Spa Terminus market on Saturday so we have the shop fully stocked with chocolate, chocolate gifts, hot chocolate and our signature Bourbon biscuits.

I left the shop early to head over to my Spanish lessons.

Lucoca_Portraits_456

 

Are you a creative business looking to grow and open doors to new, exciting possibilities? Join our Get Ready for Business Growth scale-up programme now! 

21 September 2022

Gold and the alchemy of Intellectual Property

Our obsession with one metal has inspired some of the greatest art and creativity in history. Why are we so enamoured with it?

Gold is rare, malleable, remoulded and reinvented into countless forms, throughout many different cultures and civilisations. It is also incredibly beautiful.

We extract it from the earth to form objects that are coveted and often become more valuable over time until they become treasures. This process inspires great innovation and creativity. All in the pursuit of one, precious metal.

The British Library’s Gold exhibition showcases its own collection of golden treasures. On display are manuscripts, treaties and book covers of varying ages and from different places, cultures and civilisations from all over the world.

Here we see how this valuable commodity, when combined with innovation, creates new objects that can be protected, valued and resold. As we’ll discover, it’s a kind of intellectual property alchemy.


Innovation to extract beauty


Over the centuries there have been various places where people have literally, ‘struck gold’. These have become renowned; from the ancient mines of Egypt, India and Anatolia to parts of Europe, where explorers obsessed over a mythical place in the new world called El Dorado, the city of gold. More recently, it is the 19th century that springs to mind, with its gold rushes in Australia, New Zealand and North America as well as Canada’s famous Klondike gold rush in the Yukon province, immortalised in novels and film.

Each gold rush generated new migrations, economic development and new technology. It’s here that the patent system gives an interesting snapshot into what was going on technologically as speculators were investing in sophisticated ways to extract more and more from the same mine.

A patent is an intellectual property right that will protect new and original inventions and processes. The British patent GB1853 no.997, Apparatus for Washing Earths containing Gold, is one such example. Here, two mining engineers from France sought protection for a new technique to ‘dredge’ and ‘wash’ earth and materials derived from rivers to extract more gold. We can see an illustration of how their patent worked in practice here:

Detailed black and white sketch of an invention used for mining gold

There were many other such patents at the time related to mining and metallurgy to keep up with the demands of the industrial age’s hunger for minerals and metals.


Innovation in transformation


Once sufficient quantities of gold are gathered, they can then be transformed into objects of various kinds. How the gold is used has inspired many different techniques over time that have lasted through to today. The use of gold leaf is over 5,000 years old. Ancient Egyptians developed techniques to hammer gold into a thin layer, which created just the same appearance as the solid material but with a more economical use.

Gold leaf can also be finely ground into gold paint combined with a pigment to create ‘shell gold’. Again, another economical use of gold which means that the gold, in its leaf and shell forms, can be used in as varied works as wooden sculptures to gilded porcelain to illustrated manuscripts; such as the British Library’s Harley Gospels.

But the value is not just in the commodity, it’s in the artistic creation. Many jewellers have registered designs for unique pieces made of gold and other precious metals. A well-known brand like Bulgari have a number of watches registered as a design, presumably as they are unique signature pieces of great value to the brand and its design heritage. Here is one such UK registered design:

Extravagant Bulgari gold watch with diamonds


Main illustration for design number 80800720005000


Registered design is an intellectual property right that gives companies or individuals the right to protect the appearance of a product, such as its shape or pattern. These are ordinarily for more than one piece that is in production.

But what about one of a kind creations using gold? Can they also acquire extra protection and value?


The golden rule of copyright


Each of the works on display in the Gold exhibition is a unique work of craftsmanship and art. Among the most modern is an Art Deco binding by Pierre-Émile Legrain (1889– 1929) of Colette’s La Vagabonde Paris, 1927. Like nearly all of Legrain’s work, they are one-off, original creations and so are automatically protected by copyright at the time of creation. You can call it the golden rule of copyright: if you create an original work it’s automatically yours to own (or sell). However, as Legrain died over 70 years ago, his work is now in the public domain so can be copied and reused. However, this doesn’t lessen the value of his originals, which sell at impressive prices at auction due to their recognised skill and scarcity.

Intricate art deco style artwork using circular shapes. Gold in colour with accents of blue and white.

Pierre-Émile Legrain binding on Colette, La vagabonde Paris, 1927. British Library, C.108.w.8


All that glitters isn’t exactly gold


Gold is so valuable and treasured that anything associated with gold, almost unconsciously takes on this value, conveying a meaning that taps into our shared cultural experience and memory. This is where the modern world of branding has lifted this golden association and taken it into new places, in every kind of trade conceivable!

What do you think of, when you hear ‘golden arches’?

A search on existing registered trade marks is a fascinating look at how everybody wants to be associated with all that’s golden. There are over 1,000 trade marks that begin with the word, ‘gold’. From estate agents to media companies, the tourism sector to restaurants, to name but a few.

This goes to illustrate just how we love all things golden, that the value of a trade mark and its reputation is enough for businesses to invest in their brands with the hope of one day selling or licensing their name. This is IP alchemy taken to another level!


Why gold will always hold its value


But it’s not just the value of gold as a commodity, it’s the versatility of gold that exponentially increases its value. Its value may be in a beautiful jewellery design, a one-off work of art that features gold, an invention to find more gold or the power of association that makes us love a brand or business.

Gold carries a symbolism seen in every culture and time. It’s been considered sacred and it’s been considered profane. It’s inspired the best of our creativity (and sadly the worst of our greed). It is truly timeless and its varying forms are endless.

So next time you see anything golden, remember there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to its value. There’s creative alchemy, and sometimes a little IP.

Jeremy O'Hare, Business & IP Centre IP expert

 

14 July 2022

A week in the life of Laura Sheeter, co-founder of Chalk & Blade

To celebrate the British Library's Breaking the News exhibition we wanted to get behind the scenes of news-breaking podcast producers Chalk & Blade, with a rare 'Week in the Life of' blog!

Founder and Creative Director, Laura Sheeter spent more than 10 years working as a news reporter in the UK, USA and former USSR - reporting on everything from the fate of abandoned Soviet military bunkers to the villages with only grandparents and grandchildren left behind in the exodus of Eastern European workers to the rest of the EU, the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the rebuilding of New Orleans in the years after Hurricane Katrina.

After a brief career shift, working as a Russian to English translator, Laura and her business partner, Ruth Barnes, set up Chalk & Blade - one of the first podcast-only production companies in the UK - in 2016, before podcasting appeared to be a business at all. Soon the time came to grow their business, so they joined our scale-up programme, Innovating for Growth. 

"The British Library’s Business and IP Centre was the first place, Ruth and I went to learn about how to set up a new business. It’s since become a bit of a North Star with us returning to its resources whenever we encounter new opportunities and challenges.

The sessions with the marketing and brand teams have helped immeasurably with the visibility of the business, particularly embarking on a new redesign of the website and relocation of the offices. The Chalk & Blade team is equipped with SEO-super charged ideas and branding tactics to position ourselves as the premium destination for podcast making."

The company makes premium branded content for brands and organisations including Net a Porter, Adidas and the UN, the hugely popular TV companion series Obsessed With for the BBC (now also a show on BBC3), and award-winning, critically acclaimed narratives including In Search of Black History with Bonnie Greer (audible), The Messenger (audible), Hunting Ghislaine (Global) and Taking on Putin - an independent production with John Sweeney.

So what goes into creating all this ear candy? Read on to find out.

Monday

It’s a new work and the first in our shiny new Chalk & Blade offices. While the rest of the world came to a standstill over the last few years, the podcast industry has seen a huge boom. IAB saw an ad spend of $1.4 billion in the space last year alone. With such demand across originals and branded content, we’ve been busy growing and developing the team and the relocation was all part of this investment in the next phase of the business.

Previously in a shared co-working spot on Old Street, we’re now settling into a Shoreditch warehouse space with our own front door and freshly brewed organic coffee on tap (high on the list of requirements during the multiple recces!). A new week gives me a chance to check in with a lot of the team’s projects and look ahead to line up meetings with potential creative partners, commissioners and journalists all bursting with great ideas that could lead to a project.

the Chalk and Blade team in their office

Tuesday

The team is in full swing juggling a multitude of shows this summer. In any one week, we’ve got a BBC show recording for TV and our first foray into visual podcast production (a fascinating experience and, yes, branded cushions are a must!), drafting and refining a very personal show which requires careful briefing, a narrative podcast in pre-production (our office walls are currently decked out with story arc ideas) and talent meetings to unearth some welcome fresh voices into the mix.

Behind the scenes of a Peaky Blinders podcast shoot

Wednesday

The news tells me that we’re gearing up for a heatwave here in London so this afternoon after school pick up I take the boys to get ice-creams (they both choose waffle cones like the sensible sorts, they are). When my co-founder Ruth and I set up the company, we were both parents and so we’ve always been very open about having to juggle the demands of a busy production schedule alongside homework/baking a sponge for the school summer fete or taking the dog for a spin around the park. This is something we’re also incredibly aware of for our team too and want to offer all of them the same flexibility, whether it’s heading to a spin class on their lunch break or needing to take a duvet day when they’ve had a tough week.

Thursday

I get a text from my colleague, and Chalk & Blade’s Development Lead, Jason who is at the Children’s Media Conference meeting with other production companies and commissioners this morning. Behind the scenes, we’ve been scoping out opportunities for audio ideas for kids. We’re really excited about inspiring young imaginations through podcasts, both as audio experts and as parents who know the value of great content for our kids.

Behind the scenes of podcast shoot with Riyadh Khalifa

Friday

The final episode of our podcast series with investigative journalist John Sweeney, Taking On Putin, is out in the world and I couldn’t be prouder of the team! I first worked with John as his Executive Producer on our hit podcast Hunting Ghislaine so when he suggested we follow Hunting Ghislaine with a series about Vladimir Putin, I was all in. We actually started work on Taking on Putin nearly a year ago. At the time I had to keep checking with my business partner, Ruth Barnes, that it wasn’t too niche or geeky. Russia wasn’t fashionable, and those warning about the threat Putin posed were seen as paranoid, crackpots or warmongers. We never expected it to be headline news.

Taking on Putin has shown the true value of telling serious stories deeply, with character and humanity, because when the world takes alarming turns we need to understand not only the what, but have a trusted guide explaining the why of what’s happening too.

And that’s precisely the kind of stories we want to hear and tell through our podcast productions at Chalk & Blade.

BTS Killing Eve

29 April 2022

Spotlight On... our IP experts!

To mark World IP Day this week, we're shining a spotlight on the intellectual property experts of the Business & IP Centre in London to learn about their favourite inventors, weird and wonderful IP queries they've helped to solve, and more.

Neil Infield, Business and IP Centre Manager

Portrait photo of Neil, wearing a suit on yellow background

If you come into the Business & IP Centre at the British Library you'll see Neil's friendly face! He's there to guide you through the complex material we have. Since joining the British Library 17 years ago, Neil has become an expert on trade marks and has supported thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs develop their IP. Let's hear more from Neil now.

What's a weird and wonderful IP related query you’ve had?

"I met with someone who wanted us to arrange a meeting with the head of Transport for London. His invention would remove air from underground tunnels, which would remove air friction from the tube trains. This would massively reduce energy consumption on the underground system. We didn’t resolve the issue of how passengers would breathe on the trains."

What form of IP should every business have?

"I’m a bit biased as I deliver the workshop on Trade Marks. But on the basis that if you are successful, you will definitely have competitors, you need to be able to differentiate yourself from them. And owning a distinctive registered trade mark is the way to do it."

What piece of classic/pop culture will have a big impact when it comes out of copyright?

"I guess the biggest name to go into the public domain will be Micky Mouse next year (2023). But it will be only the original version of Micky (think Steam Boat Willy) will be coming out of copyright. You can find out who came out this year on Wikipedia 

Who is your favourite inventor or invention?

"I think I will go for inventors I have actually met, but I can’t get below three people!

  1. Mark Sheahan, our Inventor in Residence at the Business & IP Centre for over 15 years. He has helped hundreds of inventors through his free, one to one advice clinics.
  2. Ian Harrison, who I met at my first British Invention Show in 2006. His Milli Grip adjustable spanner is sheer genius. And I am the happy owner of both the original and updated versions. You can see Ian demonstrate the spanner here.
    Like many great inventions it hasn’t had the success it deserves. It is currently available through Monument Tools.
  3. An equally brilliant invention is the Kikka Digga developed by Nick Skaliotis. I first met Nick demonstrating his tool at a local agricultural show at Plumpton College. In conversation while buying an early version of the Kikka Digga, I discovered he had already been helped by the Business & IP Centre. Again this product is still waiting to mainstream, but if you read this review on Amazon you (like me) will wonder why every keen gardener doesn’t yet own one."

Seema Rampersad, Senior Research and Service Manager

Photo of Seema in a public setting

Seema has been with the Business & IP Centre for 9 years and has built a reputation as one of our top notch presenters and speed-mentors. She has worked as an information professional for over 25 years, most of this time has been as a business librarian in the corporate sector. 

What's a weird and wonderful IP related query you’ve had?

"We frequently get asked for patents from the 19th century which are not available to find easily or free on the internet. We usually must research some aspects of the query using our specialist resources and even patent indices to find the patent number, year and actual patent with drawings. Some of the 19th century inventions are baffling but also interesting such as one on a physiognotrace for drawing portraits. There was one international government department from another country who were extremely pleased when I provided them with a culturally significant patent which they had previously spent about 10 years trying to trace. I found it in about 10 minutes using our patent resources!"

What form of IP should every business have?

"Trade marks and copyright are forms of IP that most companies have for trading and doing business. As a member of staff who uses a lot of digital content as well as a consumer of content in everyday life, I am reminded of copyright very often. Copyright for creative works is an automatic right but I still would recommend that you are explicit that the right belongs to you and your business to ensure that your copyright is protected and not infringed. I also recommend that you do your due diligence and research copyright owned but others in the onset of your startup to avoid infringing the rights of others."

What piece of classic/pop culture will have a big impact when it comes out of copyright?

"The book Winnie the Pooh came out of copyright in 2022 and there are various artist pieces of works in music, sound and films that are out of copyright which I am less familiar with. However, music like Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' and songs like 'Long Road to Tipperary', 'Til we meet again' and 'Pack up your troubles in an old kit bag' are still being sung freely nowadays with Eliza Doolitte doing a remake of the latter in 2010. 

Who is your favourite inventor or invention?

"I am an avid Apple Inc fan from my iMac, iPhone, Apple Music and I still aspire to get an Applewatch one day. These items have truly revolutionised the way I work, socialise, relax and consume content. I particularly like that Jony Ive, Chief Design Officer (CDO) at Apple, is from my neck of the woods in London. His journey to greatness is truly remarkable as an industrial designer. I also thank Apple for making me more connected in my personal and professional life with these innovations. Not to mention our amazing successful customers who inspire us with their motivations and business ideas in the Business & IP Centre."

Jeremy O'Hare, Information Expert

Photo of Jeremy on white background

Next up we have Jeremy, who has worked at the British Library in a number of roles since 2006. His background is in business information and was previously a Relationship Manager for our scale-up programme, Innovating for Growth Scale-ups. If you've attended some of our webinars, you may recognise him from his intellectual property workshops and one to one clinics.

What's a weird and wonderful IP related query you’ve had?

"Without revealing too much as a lot of people I see require confidentiality, I have worked with performing artists such as dancers and musicians who compose, choreograph and create pieces that become a live art installation. So the IP creation with multiple creators and collaborators (as well as producers) can become very complex but absolutely fascinating. It also demonstrates how IP is in so many different endeavours and is not just about inventions and brands."

What form of IP should every business have?

"I think every business should have at least one trade secret. And I’m saying that in a broad way, such as what is the process to do things that’s better or cheaper than anyone else? Do you have a special network that provides an advantage or have you innovated something so new and unique with value that you can build a business off it? Whatever it is that you wouldn’t want to lose that helps your business should be named and valued."

What piece of classic/pop culture will have a big impact when it comes out of copyright?

"Most of George Orwell’s work is out of copyright from last year, so expect a whole range of work coming out based on his work. There’s already an Animal Farm game. Watch out for adaptations of his established works on stage, film and literature. It’s interesting to note that some of his recently discovered work, may be still subject to copyright restrictions which is why copyright can be a little confusing at times."

Who is your favourite inventor or invention?

"I love looking at the history of patents and how certain inventions have come to create the world we live in. I do think the invention of the first jet engine invented by Frank Whittle, paved the way for the world we know today (GB347206 Improvements relating to the propulsion of aircraft and other vehicles). We can travel to destinations once the preserve of only a few, form closer business relationships, bring long separated families back together and to form new relationships! The world is so much smaller because distance is not an obstacle. It’s just now the price of an air fare!"

Steven Campion, Subject Librarian (Business and IP)

Photo of Steven on a natural background

Steven works alongside Business & IP Centre colleagues as the curator of the IP collection. He has worked at the library for 9 years and can often be found in the reading room helping researchers access our world-leading collection of historical IP documentation.

What's a weird and wonderful IP related query you’ve had?

"I quite enjoy a ‘what is this thing’ enquiry. It’s amazing how often a mystery object will have a patent number somewhere on it."

What form of IP should every business have?

"Always protect a strong business name or logo with a trade mark. Plenty of information on our web pages on how to do this – or pop into your local BIPC for advice."

What piece of classic/pop culture will have a big impact when it comes out of copyright?

"Micky Mouse – but only the version as depicted in Steamboat Willie, as the short film will enter the public domain in January 2024. Later iterations of the character will still be in copyright, and Disney have many trade marks on the character (and many, many, lawyers), but I’m interested to see what happens."

Who is your favourite inventor or invention?

"My favourite inventor is Melitta Bentz who invented the coffee filter (and with it the coffee connoisseur’s favourite – pour over coffee) in 1908.

Before Bentz, coffee was usually brewed by pouring ground coffee into hot water and then waiting for the grounds to settle to the bottom. Sieves and cloth bags were available but they either let too many coffee grounds through, or would be so narrow that the coffee would be cold by the time it was filtered. Bentz’s solution was simple yet brilliant – a perforated brass cup lined with a piece of blotting paper from her son's exercise book.

Bentz became one of the first female German patentees and would go on to found the still hugely successful Melitta company. We have a Melitta brand pour over coffee set in our house and every time I see it I am reminded that we all have the potential to have an idea that can not only make our own lives better, but perhaps also change the world a little for the better as well.

…My favourite invention however is Lego. My bank balance is testament to this."

 

Got an IP query of your own? Head to our website to learn more about how we can support you and get in touch with our IP experts now!

25 April 2022

Meet Nick Hart, founder of Storm Skin

Like many budding entrepreneurs, Nick, the London-based founder of Storm Skin has never been short of ideas, but as a first time entrepreneur, he had always hesitated when it came to launching. We are happy to say that with our help, Nick was able to gain the confidence and tools needed to take the plunge and launch his bicycle cover business. We spoke to him to find out more about his start-up journey.

Head shot of Nick Hart

“Storm Skin was born out of personal frustration. As an urban cyclist with limited space, I have no choice but to store my bike outside. A bike cover is an essential item to prevent your bike rusting and seizing up. However, the only bike covers available to buy were cheap, flimsy and prone to ripping. What’s more, they were poorly fitting and tended to spend more time on my next-door neighbour’s hedge than covering my bike. So, we built a bike cover that worked. 100% waterproof, easy to fit, durable, unrivalled protection from wind, rain and UV. Simple. 

Green Storm Skin bike cover over a bike

My first interaction with the BIPC was at Start-Up Day in 2018 and since then they have played a pivotal role in the development of Storm Skin. The Start-Up Day event inspired me to move beyond daydreaming about running my own business to taking steps to make it happen. Once I had taken the decision to proceed, I booked a one-to-one session with an expert from the BIPC. We discussed the lean start-up methodology, and I was able to learn more about the electronic resources available at the BIPC in the British Library. Over the following months, I regularly visited the library, using Mintel databases to research my consumer and market. 

They also supported me with exploring opportunities to export my product into the EU. This included providing links to resources as well as workshops run by their partner organisation (Enterprise Europe Network). The information the BIPC provided demystified the complex process of exporting, particularly the new rules and regulations post-Brexit. 

Another key area that the BIPC supported with was constructing my IP strategy. I attended a workshop with expert IP lawyers, which provided me with more information on trade mark protection, design registration and patents. Armed with this info I was able to decide the level of protection I needed, whilst remaining within my budget.

Finally, I was also helped with the sourcing of my product. Through their monthly Inventor’s Club I was able to meet Bob and Richard, two product experts and serial entrepreneurs, they explained the basics of sourcing products from target pricing to prototyping. Through Richard, I was also able to meet Katy, who helped me to approach factories with my idea.

The best business advice I was given was that innovation comes in many forms. Incremental innovation is as valid as revolutionary innovation. It is not always necessary to create something completely new. Many great business ideas are improvements on existing products. In my spare time, I like to spend time with my family. I have two children under five, who keep me busy and help give me perspective when I’m having a tough day. 

The book that most influenced me was the FT Business Start-Up guide. This book has a step-by-step checklist for setting up a new business. I found it invaluable, allowing me to break down the process into bite-size tasks. The book also ensured I didn’t miss anything (product protection liability anyone?).”

Is your business idea still a daydream instead of a reality? Visit our workshops and events page to see how we can inspire you to take the next step. 

16 March 2022

The Women Breaking Barriers in Business

Female founded start-ups represent a growing share of investment activity – in the UK in 2011, only 11% of start-ups were women founded and by 2020, this number had risen to 32%. In the male dominated space of entrepreneurship, women founders are often underestimated and overlooked; while we have made progress, there’s still more to be done. To mark Women’s History Month, we’re delving into the experiences of two entrepreneurs we’ve supported to learn how they overcame discrimination in business.

First up is Innovating for Growth alumna Eleanore Richardson, who alongside her mother, Teresa, owns Fulham Scalp and Hair Clinic.

Eleanore on the left with mum, Teresa on right in their clinic in Fulham

“My mum certainly has some stories of working as a black female entrepreneur and as I have entered the business with her in the last five years there are a few things that have brought me back down to reality in terms of the challenges that women face in business.

My mum has worked in the hair industry for the past 45 years. She moved from working in a salon to working from home as a hairdresser when she started her family; part-time availability for hair stylists wasn't a realistic career and banks wouldn't lend her the capital to open her own salon. She worked out of our utility room and bathroom for 30 years and with that income, sustained two children (and our many after school activities), a mortgage and bought a flat in Portugal.

Over those years, the banks slowly offered my mum an overdraft for her sole trader account but she never used it because she had always associated debt with poor financial management.”

When Eleanore was studying for her A-Levels, Teresa also stepped back into her own studies and re-qualified as a Trichologist. Soon after qualifying, she found a retail space that she could run her clinical practice from. However, even though she was a successful business owner for the past 35 years, she was asked for a guarantor to support her retail lease application. Financially independent and in her fifties, she didn't find this appropriate, but was forced to compromise by signing an eight-year lease with no break clause instead.

Upon realising that their business was making enough money to register as a limited company instead of a sole trader, Eleanore and Teresa went to several banks and opened a business bank account. Whilst one bank was happy to offer them a sole trader account with a £12,000 overdraft, the only business account they were keen to offer was with a £2,000 overdraft. They eventually went with another bank that offered a measly £6,000 overdraft and meant that their cash flow was still too tight to invest in growth.

Several years later, Teresa was ready to move clinics and they were in a position to develop their clinic hair care range into a product range ready to be sold to retailers. Despite presenting a business plan in an effort to increase their £6,000 overdraft, the bank turned them down. This made no sense to Eleanore, “I had been offered bigger overdrafts as a student earning nothing, yet here was a successful business that made money every year and had never had to dip into an overdraft, had grown organically year after year, and yet credit options were non-existent.” They postponed development of their range for three years out of fear that the investment would deplete their cash flow, and there were no obvious alternatives to financing that weren't fraught with high interest rates.

Fulham Scalp and Hair has also been operating in Luanda, Angola, which is Teresa’s birthplace. There she has a loyal customer base who have grown with her over the years but many customers and onlookers still don't understand how a business like theirs can generate enough interest and enough revenue to fund a satellite clinic in Luanda. “Rumours of my mother having a wealthy benefactor are always amusing, but depressingly remind me that the expectation for women to run a successful, international business is still questioned.

Last year an investor in Angola who was keen to buy a stake in our Angolan business propositioned us. When negotiations began, it emerged that he was only going to accept a majority stake in all of our business holdings internationally and was going to establish his own solicitor as a business consultant with a 5% stake. The mind boggles at how foolish they must have assumed an older black woman and her younger daughter must be.

This I find is the most common theme being a woman in business, and it hasn't really changed from the time of my mum starting her own business through to me joining and leading it. Women continue to be underestimated in their own businesses, and this seems to be particularly brutal for women of colour or for very young (looking) women. For mum she had been underestimated by so many of the services and employees previously hired, that it was a relief to work with her daughter who she could completely trust and not be on her guard with. Personally, I have had to correct solicitors, landlords and accountants on their own work and have even had one rep from an organisation ask if I need to chat with my "mummy" before signing off on membership.”

Our next business is The Fermentation Station, founded by Amy and Sam who received support from BIPC Liverpool in relation to their trademarking. We spoke to Amy to learn how her experience as an entrepreneur has been different to that of her partners’.

Amy (on left) and Sam on blue backdrop

“Being a female business owner has its advantages and disadvantages. In Liverpool, having access to support through The Women's Organisation provides many advantages to being a female business owner in the city, but I believe this is a privilege that many don't receive.

Whilst it wasn't impossible to be a female business owner 30 or 50 years ago, the challenge was much greater than what we see in 2022. Things have certainly come a long way but we still have a lot of progress to make in how we view women in business.  I often think my Nan would have achieved even more remarkable things during her working years had gender roles been different back then. She was an outstanding woman with a genetic eye condition that she never let stand in her way.”

It is also important to encourage young girls into entrepreneurship, when Amy was in high school the only future presented to her was one of academia. “We were told that it was a safe route into employment that meant that we didn't need to rely on a man - can you guess I went to a single sex school! Whilst I am eternally grateful for the solid upbringing they gave me, the option of becoming an entrepreneur was not one that I was encouraged to explore. I think often this causes 'impostor syndrome' as we feel we aren't skilled for the role, whilst men are more likely to take the leap without second guessing whether they’re qualified to do so."

Having been a Company Director for six years between The Fermentation Station & H2A, Amy has built up confidence to present herself as a business leader and leave the impostor syndrome at the door. When asked about whether she has noticed a difference in the way she is treated by investors, suppliers or clients in comparison to Sam she pointed out that unconscious bias is always at play.

“I believe that many think that Sam is the driving force behind our business – that's until I open my mouth, and he is often granted commendations for behaviours that I perform regularly. When we have been challenged with difficult customers or stockists, who are unprepared to acknowledge or accept my response, I have now resorted to responding to them by pretending to be Sam; you would be surprised how quickly their tone & response changes when they believe it's a man they’re speaking to.”

Overall though, the advantages of being a female founder outweigh the disadvantages, Amy has been the company director of a mother-daughter team and a male-female team which have both been incredible experiences for her. “I think it's completely dependent upon the personalities of your fellow directors or founders, and with both businesses I held close personal relationships. Sam and I work well together not because we are different genders or sexes but because our working styles complement each other.”

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