THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

184 posts categorized "Entrepreneurs"

21 June 2019

Help! How do I change careers when I don't know what I want to do?

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If you're one of those people who have this question running around their heads right now, trust me, you're not alone! Having worked in the recruitment and career coaching space for over a decade, feeling stuck is a normal part of your career journey. So, here are four quick tips to help you get started.

Arit Brits pic

Hit the snooze button

Often, we do know what we want to do. We have just got used to telling ourselves that what we desire is not for us or we're not capable of achieving it or are not worth having it. Hit the snooze button on the imposter in your head and allow yourself a moment to dream.

Take yourself somewhere quiet, with a pen, piece of paper. Turn your phone off, no children, flatmates, partner or friends. In your quiet place, close your eyes, and ask yourself the question; "If I woke up tomorrow in a career, I enjoyed what would I be doing and how would I feel?" Allow yourself to live in the world you see. Take in everything from the people around you, the sounds, the colours, what you're wearing, doing and more importantly, how your world makes you feel.

After five minutes (or longer) open your eyes and without hesitation and ignoring any of the "what ifs" or "you don't haves..." that may invaded your mind, write what you saw.

Then ask other questions; am I working part-time or full-time, local or international, company/industry? Employed or self-employed, a large or small company, who am I working with? Who is my audience/customers? The more you dig, the more gold you'll find.

If you struggle with answering the question, ask yourself "what do I not want to be doing?" Make a list of the pros and cons of your past role(s) including whether you liked the office, the perks – the little things matter too. Knowing what you don't want is half the battle.

Visualisation is a powerful exercise to unlock your subconscious mind. It will allow you to see beyond where you are now and helps to build your internal motivation to take the necessary actions to achieve your desires.

Create a vision board

Now you have identified what you desire; it's time to select images that represent those desires and create a vision board (aka dream board). This fun and straightforward process is a powerful visual of what you're aiming to achieve.

You can use a cork board, Pinterest, or a sheet of A3 paper. It's up to you.

Essentially, what you want to do is fill it with images, scriptures, motivational quotes, that reflect what you saw in the visualisation exercise. For example, you might include the salary you want to earn, the city you wish to work in, the job title etc.

Some choose to formulate their vision into a statement written in first person narration speaking as if they are already living their dream career. That's fine too. Just place it somewhere you will see it daily to remind you of where you're headed and keep you focused. 

As Corrie Ten Boom says: 'always live according to your vision, not according to your eyes'.  In short, the things you see daily are temporary, keep focused on the end game.

Set SMART Goals

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time based. Saying for example, "I want to become an influencer on social media" is too broad. 

A SMART goal is more precise:

By 2nd May 2020, I will be a well-known social media influencer in Health & Fitness for women. I will achieve this through the creation of a YouTube channel where I will produce four videos each month, as well as publish one article per week on my website. I will acquire the services of a freelance social media expert to curate content for my Instagram and Twitter platforms and research four brand partnerships to increase my profile. This will reinforce my 10+ years of experience in the field and allow me to help more individuals develop healthier bodies and minds, which in turn makes me feel fulfilled.

Face the fear and do it anyway

One of the common reason people stay stuck in careers they don't like is because of fear – whether that's fear of the unknown, of failure, lack of opportunity, being able to cope financially. To quote Nelson Mandela, "the brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who overcomes that fear." Diarise one action each day that challenges your fears. It could be as small as making that sales call or booking an appointment with your boss to discuss a promotion. The more you practice daily acts of courage, the less afraid of fear you will be.

Arit Eminue, a multi-award-winning entrepreneur, business and career coach

Arit is passionate about helping individuals to and take ownership of their careers through employment, entrepreneurship or a mixture of both. Arit designed Power Up! a free four week programme (the next one taking place in July) designed to help individuals to Power Up! and create a life and career that fulfills and excites them. The course mixes career coaching with accredited diploma units.

Connect with Arit on Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn using the handle @AritEminue.

Power Up! INSTAGRAM

10 June 2019

Food Season at the Business & IP Centre

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With the British Library’s Food Season coming to a close, we take a look back at the past few months and the events the Business & IP Centre has celebrated with, including panel talks, inventors’ club, speed mentoring, workshops and one-to-ones for budding foodie entrepreneurs, or those who wanted to grow their existing business.

The UK’s food and drinks sector going from strength to strength. In 2017, consumer spending in the sector exceeded £219 billion with food and drinks exports worth more than £22 million to the economy. With almost 7,000 micro, small and medium businesses active in the sector last year, there’s no shortage of brands eager to take a bite out of the market.

Expert Impact’s Profit with Purpose: The Tastemakers II heard how Rubies in the Rubble (Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni), LEMONAID, The Dusty Knuckle Bakery and Ben & Jerry’s became successful social enterprises. Here’s a little taster of the evening…

Our own Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Recipes for Success followed with the founders and co-founders of Eat Natural, Riverford and Pip & Nut, moderated by food journalist Victoria Stewart. Here are some highlights from the Q&A, with questions from audiences both in London and around our National Network, as well as those watching via our live webcast.

With work/life balance being a main motivator for a lot of entrepreneurs (whether or not that ends up being the reality), finding a happy medium between business and non-work time can be challenging. Pip Murray, founder of Pip & Nut still struggles, even with products in over 5,000 stores in four and a half years, “The first couple of years I was like a headless chicken. It’s inevitable it [the business] will take over everything. Since building the team, it’s given me headspace to enjoy my weekends. There’s only so much you can keep going at that pace and something needs to give. I’m very much involved in everything. There’s still an element that sucks you in, but you just need regular breaks.”

Guy Singh-Watson, founder of Riverford, decided to make the company employee owned and he became one of 650 co-owners. Guy said, “I strongly believe in giving people as much autonomy about how their day goes, what they’re doing and how they do it. Giving them the ability to grow and get better at it. The third motivator is purpose. In agriculture, the work is very very demanding, and I think fewer and fewer people are going to want to do it and we have to make sure we keep the best ones.”

The panel of founders also highlighted the need to not being afraid of trying things, not waiting for perfection and just going for it. Praveen encourages, “If you have an idea, just go for it. You don’t know what’s going to happen until you speak to consumers. If you believe in it, you have to give it a go. We love failing – it happens all the time.”

The panel finished with their most rewarding moments in business…

  • Riverford - the day we became employee owned 👥
  • Pip & Nut - seeing our products on the supermarket shelves for the first time 🥜
  • Eat Natural - getting the first crop of honey from our own beehives 🍯🐝

You can see all speakers’ videos and the Q&A on our YouTube channel, including questions on influencers, ethics, marketing and getting into supermarkets.

03 June 2019

A week in the life of... Keira O'Mara, founder of Mama Designs

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Keira O'Mara is the founder of Mama Designs, launched 10 years ago whilst Keira was on maternity leave after having an idea for a discreet breastfeeding cover and not being able to find one to buy. Keira used her redundancy money to create one and started her business with no experience whilst juggling a baby and a new full-time job. She now has a range of award winning baby products which are sold to major UK retailers, direct to parents and are exported worldwide. They operate as a small business, with a lean team and lots of outsourcing. She also offer small business mentoring and has just launched an online course for small business owners Grow Your Business on a Budget. In the early stages of the business Keira used Business & IP Centre Birmingham for an IP session and has also spoken at an Inspiring Entrepreneur event at Business & IP Centre Liverpool.

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Monday I love that Mondays never fill me with the fear that working for someone else used to, in spite of it being our busiest day. I start the day with some exercise (although a gentler version since I am pregnant with number three). My children are at the age where they can mostly sort themselves out in the morning and with no school run this morning, I started work at 8.30, from my kitchen table. I have a home office but always seem to revert back to the kitchen table! I always start the day checking my business bank account and looking at the previous day’s sales. After responding to some emails and catching up with Vicki, who works for me part-time doing admin, I did a Facebook Live for ‘Mothers Meeting's’ on my Top 5 Instagram Tips, which goes really well in spite of being cut off midway due to Wi-Fi issues and the postman ringing the doorbell halfway through! I even get a new mentoring client as a result, which is an added bonus. I start writing up a blog post and work on editing an email marketing sequence that I am getting set up for subscribers and customers. My work day ends at 15.00 when I collect my youngest from school and after that, work is catching up on any urgent emails and tying up any loose ends.

Tuesday Work starts at 9.00 after the school run. I post on Instagram every morning and usually plan my posts ahead, although sometimes tweak the copy. I then reply to any comments for the next 20 minutes to ensure that my post gets maximum exposure. Check my bank and track orders as normal. Our new colours of Snoodie (our dribble bib) arrive this week from our factory in Turkey, so today I write the listings, collate the best images from a lifestyle shoot I did with my friend’s baby last week and send it all off to our web designer. I spend most of the day watching videos and finalising the additional content for my new business course. The videos were filmed a few weeks ago but this is the first time I have seen them. I also finalise the downloadable planners that will accompany the course, working out how to use the course platform and starting to upload the content and videos. I decided to create an online business course after celebrating our 10th year in business and regularly being asked for my advice and when I was going to write a book or a course. Today is a slightly longer working day as my daughter is at football after school and use this extra time to catch up on emails.

PicMonkey Collage

Wednesday Today starts a bit differently as I have a hospital appointment for my pregnancy, which involves a lot of waiting around but I will still be on email and use this time to listen to a business audio book. I am currently listening to Chillpreneur. I spend the whole morning at the hospital. I then catch up with Lisa who manages our finances and logistics and works Wednesday – Friday. This always ends up being a long conversation and we have lots of planning to do, discussing our factory order schedule and making some plans for the next few months. 

Thursday The day starts as usual, with exercise, Instagram post and tracking sales. Today I catch up with a new factory we are working with. We have some new products they are going to be producing for us and some existing products that they are going to take over production of. There are lots of details we need to confirm with them but I am really excited about the new stuff and working with them! I have a mentoring client tomorrow so I prep for that. This involves going over the information she has sent me, writing down any questions that come up and making some recommendations and advising on potential opportunities. The Snoodies launch today so I write our email newsletter mentioning that and post additional stories for Instagram and Facebook to accompany the main post. I warned the warehouse we use that they may be busier than usual, so they are expecting it.

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Friday On Fridays I plan the Instagram schedule for the week ahead. Instagram is a key part of our business, we have almost 50,000 followers and get a lot of sales this way. Planning ahead makes my life a lot easier, as well as making sure that the feed looks as good as possible visually. I also arrange for Vicki to send out Snoodies to some of the influencers we collaborate with. I add listings to our Amazon account for a new line, our art prints (which I have been meaning to do for ages but never seem to get round to!). I do some more planning for my course launch, which is getting closer and I am equal parts very nervous and very excited! I have a great mentoring session (via FaceTime) and my client is really pleased with the ideas, suggestion and motivation. A lovely end to the week, followed by the fact that Friday school run means it is treat day and I finish early and have some time (and some chocolate!) with the children.

Weekend I have done my fair share of weekend working, but now I try and avoid it and keep the weekends as family time.

10 May 2019

How to build a brand?

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Michael Murdoch, CEO of The House, one of the Business & IP Centre's workshop partners, gives some top tips to help you build your brand...

Build a brand and sell your story Michael Murdoch workshop image 2019

Why is Branding important?
In today’s modern world it’s more competitive than ever, so brands need to do more to stand out. It’s no longer good enough just to have a great product or service and a talented team, the brand needs to connect on an emotional level too evoking feelings which are often intangible.

Storytelling is key, as it has been since the dawn of man (and woman), as it’s the most effective way to communicate messages, build trust, connect, coerce and convince the listener to ultimately believe. This must be consistent across all touch-points with the audience and honest as authenticity is paramount. Just think about your favourite brand and why you love them? John Lewis, Apple, Airbnb and Innocent often come to mind, but it could be anything.

What are the most common challenges?

  1. Budget is tight. Many start-ups have so many things to pay for and little investment or revenue to play with. But good branding does not need to cost the earth. Focus on the Brand Story, the strategy and thinking behind to style, and the rest will fall into place. If your message is clear the look and feel will be easier, quicker and therefore cheaper to produce. And the best bit is that strategy is about time and thought, so if you truly believe in what you’re doing and you have an experienced guide, you’ll be able to get things in order pretty quickly and affordably.
  2. Form over function. Too many start-ups focus on the styling of the brand before they really understand what they want and need to communicate. This often means that the brand does not quite connect with the audience, despite it looking good. It does not set itself apart from the competition and doesn’t have a strong brand position, so again, think strategically and take time to get this right before the pretty stuff happens!
  3. Start-ups often look for perfection overnight. If funding or sales of a substantial amount are not in place, don’t be afraid to try minimum viable products for your brand. This could be as simple as using online logo generators or working with a freelancer in another country. The key is to make sure this is not the end of the road and that plans for success are made. Start-up life is a journey, it often take 1–2 years to establish a new start-up (and that’s quick) so use this time to experiment and iterate so when the world is really looking, you are ready.

Top tips when building a brand?

Start with your Value Proposition 
The first step of budget friendly brand building is understanding your Value Proposition before designing anything. This is simply the offer you have e.g. your product or service and the customer segment you want to attract. What is your gift and who will receive it? From this, a designed identity and other visuals will be more appropriate and easier to create.

Conduct Market Research 
You’ll want to get things right first time so follow the old rule, measure twice and cut once. Conducting research like online surveys, focus groups (with 10 people and some pizza), one-to-one interviews, start talking with your audience via social media or just simple desktop Google searches, help to line up your ducks in a row so you know the audience and your customer problem to solve inside out!

Get Inspired
You may need a professional designer to complete your project, but by finding examples and understanding what works and what doesn’t, you’ll help speed up the process and hence reduce costs. The better the brief, the more likely it is your brand will be effective and the less time you’ll spend getting there.

Be Brave 
You need to take risks to do great things. This might be as simple as networking to make the right connections, or speaking in public at events to stand out from the crowd. Try not to list too many tasks as incremental improvements win the day…there is no such thing as an overnight success.

Focus on your Wow!
The things you decide to emphasise as your differentiator can depend on many things, including your industry and your work so far. Some examples could include amazing statistics, case studies, the number of happy customers, testimonials; it could also be an impressive innovation or award, or even the expertise of your leadership or staff. Whatever it is, be different. Make it easier for your customer to make the choice over you or your nearest rival…if it doesn’t matter it’s just a 50/50 coin toss.

Michael Murdoch

Michael founded The House creative agency in 2009 and has been a Brand Strategist for nearly 20 years working with emerging and established organisations around the world like NHS, MTV, Diabetes UK, Sanyo, Fairtrade and Nokia to smaller startups like Franklin Scholars, Mixcloud and Olive Branch. Michael has won awards for his work and helps clients find their full potential, taking them step-by-step through their projects in partnership with them. Graduating from courses at Central Saint Martins, UWE and Oxford University, Michael loves working with entrepreneurs and hopes to pass on his skills and expertise on to help them be the top 10% of organisations that succeed.

To view all of our upcoming events, including The House's next workshop, visit our events page

02 May 2019

Start-ups in London Libraries: Business support on ten London borough high streets

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The British Library’s Business & IP Centre has launched a major new initiative, Start-ups in London Libraries, a three-year project to support London entrepreneurs from all walks of life get their business idea off the ground.

Where can I find this service?

The project is launching in the boroughs of Bexley, Croydon, Greenwich, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

Who is this for?

Open to early-stage entrepreneurs, including start-ups, pre-start-ups and those who have simply dreamed of being their own boss, the new services will provide a grass roots solution to business support by equipping visitors with the skills, information, confidence and connections they need to turn their ideas into viable businesses.

In a launch event at City Hall today, Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said: “For the past 13 years, our Business & IP Centre has worked tirelessly to try and democratise entrepreneurship across the country. From fashion designers to digital innovators and social enterprises, tackling homelessness in our capital, the wonderfully eclectic cohort of businesses that we have supported through our National Network shows that all libraries have the potential to be hubs where ideas of any kind, dreamt up by anyone, can become a reality. We are delighted to be awarded ERDF funding to continue breaking down barriers to entrepreneurship across some of London’s most diverse communities.”

What will the libraries offer?

The participating libraries will offer free, walk-in access to business information resources including COBRA (the Complete Online Business Reference Advisor), a programme of live webinars, practical fact-sheets and market research reports.

What if I need further business support?

Further support is available at the Business & IP Centre in the British Library, which is home to over £5 million worth of market research reports and IP intelligence including the UK’s national patent library, as well as a dedicated scale-ups programme, Innovating for Growth, offering £10,000 worth of support and tailored advice to help London-based SMEs grow.

I’m not based in London, what help can I get?

The project is modelled on the Business & IP Centre’s National Network of 13 Centres located in major UK libraries.

Did you know: Over the past two years, the Business & IP Centre has helped create more than 1,800 new businesses and 3,600 new jobs. Of these businesses, 64% are owned by women and 42% are owned by people from a black and Asian minority ethnic background, compared to just 20% and 5% of UK business owners respectively.

To find out more about Start-ups in London Libraries or to book on to a workshop, click here.

01 May 2019

National Pet Month: Pawfect pet businesses

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National Pet Month was set up to raise money for UK pet charities and promote responsible pet ownership. We caught up with three Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni whose businesses are formed around our furry friends.

According to Mintel, the pet industry is going from strength to strength, with pet services one of the fastest-growing areas, reaching £717 million in 2017, as pet owners are looking for more ways to treat their pets.

One business in this sector is Longcroft Cat Hotel, the UK’s first luxury hotel group for cats, founded in 2010. Longcroft Luxury Cat Hotel Group is the vision of founder and cat lover, Abi Purser, who recognised the demand for a higher standard of feline boarding in the UK. It all began with a chat over a coffee between Abi and her mother, which developed into the concept for the first five-star luxury cat hotel. Abi, struggling to find suitable accommodation for her own beloved cat, Norman, and felt that the industry approach to cat boarding was outdated. Cats were too often housed in small cages or kept in veterinary surgeries. Owners struggled to find adequate care for their beloved pets when they went away. After beginning in Abi’s back garden, with space for six feline guests, the business has now expanded to 20 hotels, which Abi runs as a franchise and has won awards including The Guardian’s Most Innovating Home Business. This rapid growth led Abi to apply for Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups.

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Longcroft Cat Hotel after their win with the Business & IP Centre's Nigel Spencer and Ian Gibbs, head of commercial insight at the Guardian

Abi explains, “Demand for Longcroft’s five-star level of service quickly outstripped the number of rooms available, so we sought support and guidance for the best way to grow the business, how to develop a successful franchise and open more hotels following the same model. The global pet care market has grown 3% on average over the past five years. In the UK specifically, there has been an explosion in the pet care market, and change in culture. There has been a strong trend towards premiumisation, which is reflected in the success and growth of the Longcroft brand.”

The trend for luxury and a premium experience for pets could be for a number of reasons, but Abi believes certain groups are key to this, “Millennials have emerged as a major driver for growth in the UK pet care market, more likely than others to view their cat as a member of their family and willing to spend more on them, i.e. trading up the quality of pet foods, matching owners’ own dietary habits. Tech savvy customers are also better informed and have access to a greater breadth of services and reviews than ever before. They consequently demand a higher quality of experience for their pets as well as greater convenience.”

To keep ahead of the competition and to ensure the cats’ experience and welfare is as high as possible, Longcroft offers a range of features which benefit both the guest and their owner. “Longcroft has rewritten the rules on feline accommodation, our innovative and forward-thinking approach limits the number of feline guests in any of our hotels offering a far higher human to cat ratio. Animal welfare is the number one priority, which gives owners complete confidence their beloved pets will be well cared for.

“Longcroft offers a home-from-home experience and provides one-on-one handling and care from hotel owners for every cat. The five-star, fully licensed accommodation offers each feline their very own climate-controlled bedroom, leading onto a private, safe, garden play area, complete with multi-storey viewing platforms. Each suite provides the highest standards of hygiene and luxury, which includes Longcroft’s bespoke wrought iron cat beds with soft pillows. Hotels put owners’ minds at rest by sending them regular updates and photographs of their feline friends enjoying their kitty retreats. Longcroft offers a tailored service with a host of added extras, including a cat chauffeur service, room service with a choice of dishes from the ‘A La Cat Menu’, kitty pampering experiences and the Milky Whiskers Turn Down Service.”

Longcroft Letchworth

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is another Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni who is putting welfare at the heart of their business. Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is a cat café, where guests can dine with 14 rescued felines in wonderland-themed tea rooms. To ensure the cats are puur-fectly happy, the Chief Cat Carer monitors best cat care practices and trains all staff.

Founder, Lauren Pears explains, “We employ a committed and caring workforce who love the cats and are driven to safeguard their best interests. Policies are necessary, but the key is having people who will enforce them and who will follow them willingly and with an understanding of why they matter.” The surroundings are also extremely important to make sure the cats are happy and happened to be one of Lauren’s favourite moments in business so far, “We took a week off to build a paper mâché tree in the basement for the cats. It has become a beautiful defining symbol of the café that we are all super proud of, and it was also wonderful to have that time with the team and create something special together. When it’s business as usual we don’t get that kind of time together as we’re always quite busy.”

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It’s not just the staff who love interacting with the cats, customers can also see a benefit as Lauren states, “Cats are an icebreaker! I think the gift the café gives people is the ability to be distracted and unselfconscious. Guests tend to chat with each other and are more open and friendly because they’re starting from a shared love of animals. It’s a rare place in London where people are naturally inclined to chat away with strangers!”

Another business catering for the pet market is CT Vets, a mobile service providing visits for pets in their own homes. After working as a vet for more than 20 years, the founder, Martina Emiliani, has met clients who were unable to bring their pets in or who had pets so scared of new environments, that they developed the idea to offer a more comfortable way to see the vet. This brings multiple benefits to both the pet and the owner as Martina confirms, “It suits all types of owners, including those who have mobility issues, and we are the only chance they have to take care of their pets. We spend up to an hour to address all of the owners' concerns and we provide free unlimited follow-up calls by phone or video. Another benefit is that pets are safer, they don't risk meeting infectious animals, they don't have to move if they are in pain/uncomfortable, if they have diseases which deteriorate with stress (cardiopathic for example) it is absolutely contradictory to put them in a carrier or a car and bring them anywhere, and the list goes on… Ultimately, pets and owners are happier and less stressed in the environment of their home.”

Vet near me

Martina started using the Business & IP Centre for different workshops and made the switch between vet and entrepreneur. Once her business was up and running, the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme became vital in helping CT Vets scale up, “I didn't know the impact that this programme would have on my business [when I applied]. Since completing the programme we have reorganised all protocols, hired two new members of staff, changed management system, rebuilt the website, focusing on a better user experience, we have started sending emails for clients, and we are launching live events, alongside other significant changes. All of this in the last six months!”

National Pet Month - top tips

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

If you are already running a business and are looking to take it to the next level, our three-month Innovating for Growth programme can help turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more here and register your interest!

24 April 2019

A Week in the Life of... Hugh Duffie, co-founder of Sandows

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Hugh is one of the co-founders of Sandows, who have been instrumental in introducing cold brew coffee to the UK since launching in 2014. Cold brew is a type of coffee drink, in much the same way as an espresso, cafetière or a flat white, and the process involves infusing ground coffee in cold water overnight. This long, slow method draws out an unexpectedly smooth and refreshing flavour that’s caffeine charged to boot.

Australian-born Hugh moved to the UK at 18 and started working in restaurants, where he trained to be a barista and bartender. He left to specialise in coffee and met Luke Suddards at TAP Coffee in Wardour Street, where he developed the roasting and café management skills that have served him well at Sandows, which the pair started in 2014, initially working from an Islington café’s basement.

Hugh

Sandows ambition is to make great cold brew something you can find everywhere and Hugh sees Sandows as a creative expression of the pair’s vision for great coffee - trying to take care of quality with humility, whilst engaging people with distinctive design and simple explanations.

Sandows produce a range of products from premium glass bottles in the style of whisky flasks that sit in specialist cafés, luxury retailers and members clubs, to cans that sell in more mainstream retailers. Hugh is an alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme and will be a speaker at the upcoming Thinking Outside The Pots talk, so we asked him to tell us about a week in the life of running Sandows…

Most weeks are pretty different and it can be fluid which I like, but here’s an example of the kind of thing I normally do. My morning routine is probably the only really consistent part of my day and though I used to cycle every day, I actually find my (pretty short) commute really helps clear my head and set me up for better focus. I’m very much the kind of person who hits snooze half a dozen times - have to admit I’m not really a morning person, it’s no wonder coffee is a big part of my life. I usually wake up and deal with anything urgent email-wise whilst still in the comfort of my bed. I get up and take a shower and head to the Overground for about a 30 minute door-to-door trip which will usually feature listening to a podcast or some music, working through a long read or firing off a few memes to friends in one of the WhatsApp or Instagram groups I’m in. I just about always stop off at Lanark Coffee on Hackney Road for a chat and a coffee. This year I’ve been trying to keep my intake to just two coffees a day, usually before midday, whereas previously I’ve had virtually no limit and found myself feeling very wired/weird after my 6/7th coffee.

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Monday I get in to our office, part of a small ‘village’ of adapted shipping containers by the canal in Hackney, and set myself up for the day. Recently that’s meant some cereal and a brain function nootropic and then it’s straight into it. Mostly chasing up recent leads, preparing for calls or email pitches for potential new customers, or thinking about marketing and what we need to be executing on this week.

Tuesday I tend to schedule meetings for Tuesday/Wednesday so I can try and get ahead on the Monday and have a bit of room to give sales another push later in the week. At the moment there’s a lot of work trying to balance day-to-day execution with piecing together our long term plan in the form of a pitch deck, aiming to show potential investors that we have a clear plan for growth whilst also demonstrating that we have delivered on plans previously.

Wednesday Likelihood is that I will have a meeting or two booked and given our office is in a shipping container leaving it a bit exposed for conversations, I’ll sometimes arrange to meet elsewhere to avoid disrupting everyone. These meetings could be with mentors, wholesalers, freelancers we work with, investors, potential investors or even sometimes Luke when we need to walk around some of our stockists, take stock of where we’re at visually and talk through our plans as we walk.

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Thursday As we approach the end of the week I’m always checking in on current cash flow, sales for the week and progress towards our monthly goal and usually chasing those leads again from Monday. I don’t like emailing people a load of times and hassling them so I try to keep my tone really jovial and if we’ve met and had a laugh together (always my goal) I’ll throw in a joke or meme to try and elicit a response. Thursdays are a big day for launches and industry events and we straddle both coffee and alcohol industries across our various products (for example our Espresso Martini Mix is stocked by a lot of bars and we work with many alcohol brands to promote it) so often times I’ll find myself representing the brand after the working day finishes, meeting people and explaining what we do and seeking out new opportunities. I guess as a founder your work is so associated with your identity (life) and your lifestyle is so dictated by your work, so for me the answer is to ensure I’m enjoying work and life. That means working with people I get on with, not taking life too seriously and trying to share my enthusiasm for what I do. My whole philosophy is a bit like that question ‘how do you eat an elephant?’ where the answer is ‘one bite at a time’. I just try to move things forward every day and accept that it ebbs and flows and be grateful that I have the opportunity to control my own lifestyle so much and express myself through my work every day.

Friday Fridays we put our heads together as a team and go over the week’s activity, re-align on everything that’s happened and ensure production and sales are in sync. On a monthly basis Luke and I will need to put together an investor update for our lead investors and we present the data (financial performance), talk through successes and failures, team news, share the content that has been shaping our thinking and confirm our plan for the month/s ahead. We finish up with a few drinks and generally wind down with perhaps fun food Friday or some Friday tunes or both if we’re lucky. I’ll usually leave the team once we head our separate ways and meet with friends and have a few drinks. Given my family are in Australia, I look to my best friends to fill that place in my life and so investing in those relationships is really important to me.

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Weekend For a long time (nearly three years) Luke and I worked seven days a week and it was a case of fitting work into every waking hour to push the brand along. We reached the point of burnout and for the most part, Luke and I now avoid work on the weekends to take that time to decompress, gather our thoughts and really establish some balance and get inspired by doing new things. I love going to the cinema or exhibitions at the Design Museum for example, but I can be lazier sometimes and end up just watching Arsenal play and then stay at the pub for the other football games on that day. I love dropping in to our stockists on the weekend and seeing people experiencing our brand, but I guess I acknowledge that building a beverage brand is about quality interactions as much as quantity and that getting that right means patience and stamina over a prolonged period.

23 April 2019

IP Corner: Reach for Gold - Intellectual Property and sports

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Patent application and grants are published every week and it is always interesting to see what is coming through the system and potentially on to the market.

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This years’ World Sports Day is on 6 April and World Intellectual Property Day is on 26 April, so I thought I’d take a look and see how many of the March 2019 patent publications were related to sport. There were 15 relevant patents in total including some interesting ones…

US2019083870A is a published USA application for an ‘In goal ball return or collection device” which details a flat device for soccer (football to you and me!) practice. Rather than covering the whole goal mouth this device is apparently intended to cover the lower part of the goal and to lie at an angle thereby allowing the ball to potentially bounce back to the player or to be easily retrieved. This is intended to save valuable practise time usually spent in retrieving or chasing loose balls.

EP3132778A1 is a European patent application that designates GB for patent protection. The inventors are Spanish and the invention claimed is for a “Wheelchair accessory for playing soccer”. The idea basically consists of a pair of manually-operated levers, one for each hand, which are attached to the wheelchair and have devices at the bottom for retrieving and shooting a conventional ball.

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Amongst the 15 patent specifications published there are also a couple of GB applications GB2566646A, “Method and apparatus for playing a sports game”. The proposed game, consisting of at least two wickets and an inflatable ball, sounds like a derivative of cricket! Then there is GB2566799A “Sports Aid” which is basically an enclosure for sports practice.

It’s going to be a case of wait and see to find out if any of these patents do get granted.

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Patenting innovations relating to sports is not new, the earliest granted patent I could find relating to football boots is GB11854 of 1887. This was granted to a Harry Howe a boot manufacturers’ warehouseman from Leicester, and it was titled “Improvements in and appertaining to boots or shoes used in playing football and the like”.  His idea was to add a roughened, corrugated or grooved surface to the toe of the boot to help ensure that when the ball is booted a ‘sure kick is obtained’.

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However, football isn’t the only sport that I found patent documentation for, there is a great patent from 1894 for a new innovation in clay pigeon shooting. A certain Hugo Fuchs of Vienna, Austria was granted a British patent in 1894 for “An improved pigeon or object to be used as a moving target in shooting sports and practice”. His idea was that the ‘pigeon’ should be made out of paper or cardboard rather than the traditional glass or clay. He maintained that by filling his discs with coloured powder or soot the ‘hit’ would be as visible as a shattering clay or glass pigeon would be and his innovation would be much safer. Personally, I’d rather be hit by paper or even soot than a lump or glass or clay!

Patent searching, if you have an innovation in mind, is a must because if an idea has been patented at anytime, anywhere in the world it cannot be re-patented. So if your new idea happens to be steel toe-capped football boots, sorry that’s already been done!

If you do have an invention in mind it would be worth visiting your local Business & IP Centre, there are 13 in total around the UK details of which can be found here.

You can also download copies of our free intellectual property guides including A brief guide to patents and patent searching or if you wish you can attend one of our free workshops or webinars on intellectual property and intellectual property searching. Just take a look at our workshops and events page.

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

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

18 April 2019

National Gardening Week with Natalie from Acacia Facilities

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National Gardening Week falls at the end of April and we took the opportunity to catch up with Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni and current mentor for the Innovating for Growth: Mentoring programme, Natalie Taylor, founder of Acacia Facilities, a landscaping service for businesses and individuals throughout the UK.

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Acacia Facilities specialises in interior and exterior landscaping from design to finish, including garden, pot and replica plants, living walls (very Instagram-worthy), fresh cut flowers and seasonal decorations alongside maintenance services.

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After growing up in a family of avid gardeners, Natalie had inherited the green fingered genes (her grandmother’s maiden name was fittingly, Green) and was destined to work with nature. After becoming inspired by the benefits of having indoor and outdoor plants, both in personal and business spaces, and spotting a gap in the market, Natalie set up her business in 1996 to improve wellbeing and transform spaces with plants and maintenance services.

Finding the gap in the market can be a difficult task, but for Natalie the best piece of advice she received was to “break from the norm. Look at your interests and problems in your sector of business and ask yourself the questions: Are they things people, other than you, are interested in? Do people spend money on these activities? Are there problems present that people need solving? Are these things that make people happy? If any, all or some of your answers are a ‘yes’, then you have a niche which could be profitable.”

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Natalie is also proud of how Acacia differentiates themselves from their competition, “we pride ourselves in offering a personalised service to our customers. We will provide bespoke services to customers’ needs. We are always ready to assist at all times during our business agreement. Our customers are not just a number we know each customer by name.”

Word of mouth has been extremely important to Acacia, with 80% of business originating from recommendations, which highlights the importance of the personal touches. Not to rest on her laurels however, Natalie applied and was successful in getting on to the Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme to help take the business to the next level, using the specialist tailored business support in area such as marketing, branding, intellectual property and more.

One of the most memorable jobs in her career, as Natalie explains was for the Shrek première, “we were asked to create a swamp style effect with plants and flowers at Somerset House. The outside grounds of such an historical building was huge and took a lot of planning, but the finished product looked amazing and exceeded the customer’s expectations and ours!”

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

If you are already running a business and are looking to take it to the next level like Natalie, our three-month Innovating for Growth programme can help turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more here and register your interest!

15 April 2019

What happened next? Start-up Day revisited

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September 2018 saw our biggest Start-up Day yet, a day of free talks, workshops, tailored advice, speed mentoring and more, not just in London but throughout our National Network. Our flagship event is designed to help the thousands of people around the country who have a business idea, but aren’t sure how to turn the idea into a reality.

The day is about encouraging and empowering people from all walks of life to start and grow businesses. Six months on, we’ve caught up with some of the people who attended or who were involved with the talks and events, about what the day meant for them…

Madeleine Barnes won the Start-up Day prize draw competition and since then has attended workshops including Networking for success and Online marketing masterclass. Madeleine attended the event as she wanted to find out more about marketing as she is in the process of further developing The Craniosacral Practice in Highbury, Richmond and soon in Barnes, which offers Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (CST), a gentle way of working with a light touch that interacts with deeply subtle rhythms and impulses in the body to assist with self-repair.

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Madeleine came to the Business & IP Centre because she “was looking for some practical and alternative ideas for direction and strategy. I also love talking to people about CST and hearing their discoveries along their journeys, so any opportunity to meet people suits me. I came to the Business & IP Centre to explore strategy, ways to educate and to be amongst other people starting businesses, as other friends have for theirs.”

Julie Boadilla, Reference Specialist at the Business & IP Centre since 2007 took part in the speed mentoring on the day, an opportunity for people to talk to specialists in particular businesses or areas, to help them answer some of their business queries. It’s also an opportunity to hear from the experts’ experiences and learn from them.

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Julie explains, “It’s a great opportunity for people who are interested in starting a business. There is a specialist per table, made up of experts from within the Business & IP Centre reference team and our delivery partners, who can talk about their industry, or more general business topics, such as IP.”

Madeleine had CST in her twenties for RSI and persistent headaches but it was a treatment with her six-month-old son that drew her in entirely. She'd had an interest in nutrition, Ayurveda and Homeopathy, for many years so it was an easy choice to develop her intrigue in CST and to embark on the three-year training course, achieving accreditation and becoming a practicing therapist, "the biggest present I've ever given myself!".

However, Madeleine continues to learn through the challenges of growing a business, “Life as a CST practitioner is unpredictable, but word spread. Some people come for five or six sessions to address an acute condition and others come for weekly constitutional sessions. Volunteering at a charity, helping people suffering from addiction, was an invaluable experience in the early days. I set up in Richmond at Neal's Yard which has grown and grown. I also occasionally do home visits which aren’t as easy for the practitioner but are enormously beneficial for people who are homebound. Having had hyperemesis gravidarum (the extreme sickness that also hospitalised HRH Duchess of Cambridge during pregnancy), I have known the loneliness of confinement. I am passionate to spread the word as I know how much CST can help!”

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Challenges haven't stopped Madeleine from being able to grow her business, “There’s always more to do and further to go!” which involves CPD, keeping in close touch with fellow CSTers (particularly helpful for referrals), seeing her own CSTer plus consulting with her supervisor on a regular basis, allowing her to grow her depth of understanding. It’s also involved finding her niche in a field where every client is different and has a different experience, and each practitioner brings their own unique touch, supporting clients past anxiety, low energy or chronic pain to live their lives to the full.

Anis Qizilbash, who delivered the talk on How to charge your worth, echoes the importance of the impact on your customer. “One tip for people to charge their worth is, instead of looking at your expenses, costs, overheads and then coming up with a price, ask yourself, ‘how is your client’s life transformed after buying your product/service?’, or ‘what difference does your product/service make in their life?’ Continuing down this line of questioning gives you the confidence and certainty to charge more.”

Anis is a delivery partner for the Business & IP Centre and runs monthly workshops on selling and mindfulness and started her business, Mindful Sales Training, after listening to start-ups and freelancers about their fear of selling and was inspired to help them. Her talk at Start-up Day aimed to give confidence to those who didn’t think they were the ‘right type’ of salesperson, but more generally, Anis highlighted the benefits of attending Start-up Day. “It’s a rare opportunity to get inspiration, build a network, and receive actionable insight for you to take the leap to start that idea.”

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The day was packed with tips to take away with you, Anis’ advice for entrepreneurs who are demotivated or lacking in confidence would be, “avoid looking at social media because it usually makes you feel worse when you’re feeling so vulnerable. Instead, look back to how far you’ve come; look forward to the lives you’ll touch with your business; look within, remind yourself why you started your business or want to start a business.” For Anis, the most rewarding part of her career is hearing the feedback and success stories from the people she’s helped. Stories like, “after hearing your talk I increased my rates by £100” or “I made my first sale!” or “thanks to you I realised it was in me all along, not something I expected from a sales coach”. “These comments fuel me and makes me want to do more for more people.”

Start-up Day will be back in 2019 - we'll announce when booking goes live later in the year.