Innovation and enterprise blog

26 February 2020

Meet our delivery partner: Elaine Powell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are the workshops aimed at?

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

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

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

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

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

Elaine and workshop attendees

So what is covered in your workshops?

Pitching With Confidence Workshop

During the workshop you will learn:

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

At the end of the workshop you will:

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

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

Presenting With Confidence Workshop 

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

During the workshop you will learn:

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

At the end of the workshop you will:

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

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

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

I look forward to seeing you there.

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

20 February 2020

Learning new languages through music with Bilingual Beats

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

Bilingual Beats class

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

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

Bilingual Beats nursery

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

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

Bilingual Beats class

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

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

18 February 2020

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

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

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

Heather Lyons

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

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

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

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

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

Children at Blue Shift Coding workshops

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children at Blue Shift Coding workshops

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

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

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

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

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

Blue Shift Coding workshops

14 February 2020

The rise of flexitarians and veggie butchers

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

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

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

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

Vegan Trade Journal

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

Veggie Butchers screenshot

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

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

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

03 February 2020

The story behind proofreading

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

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

Co-founders Peter and Rosie

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

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

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

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

The Proofreading Company logo

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

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

28 January 2020

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

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

Amanda, I Can Make Shoes

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

Lauren, Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium

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

Chloe and Abigail, Buttercrumble

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

Joe, Krio Kanteen

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

Mickela, HR Sports Academy

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

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

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

2. Take more time out for self care

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

Natalie, Acacia Facilities

Natalie

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

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

27 January 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's Your Skirt? on runway

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

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

What's Your Skirt

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

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

What's Your Skirt? model in skirt

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

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

24 January 2020

New business services around the Business & IP Centre National Network

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

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

BIPC Birmingham

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

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

BIPC Brighton & Hove

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

BIPC Cambridge & Peterborough

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

BIPC Glasgow

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

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

The Mitchell Library

BIPC Hull

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

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

BIPC Leeds

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

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

Leeds Central Library

BIPC Liverpool

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

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

Gary Millar

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

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

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

BIPC Manchester

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

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

BIPC Newcastle

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

BIPC Norfolk

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

BIPC Northamptonshire

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

BIPC Nottingham

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

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

BIPC Sheffield

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

BIPC Worcestershire

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

17 January 2020

How to start a business in 2020 if you don’t know what to do?

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Anshul, founder of Academic Underdogs, started his business after recognising his desire to help people who had experienced similar problems to him and how much he enjoyed seeing the impact his work had on his customers. Since he began his business, Anshul has graduated from our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme and has continued to grow his offering.

Academic Underdogs books

“What business should I start if I don’t know what to do?” and “How do I start a business with no money?” are two of the most common questions that land in my inbox.

Before starting my own business, Academic Underdogs, I also asked the very same questions to many successful entrepreneurs, but their answers left me feeling inspired but lacked the detail that I needed to take action.

Unfortunately, many of them were so far along their entrepreneurial journey that they couldn’t really remember those critical decisions they made in those early days, weeks and months.

I don’t blame them as after all, according to decay theory, we all tend to forget details in our short-term memory and only remember headline events in our long-term memory.

Thankfully, I recorded my decisions and every step I took in those few months in a journal and summarised them for you in this post.

How my business idea developed

On A Level results day I walked into college optimistic and hopeful. Standing in line, my teacher licked her fingers, flicked through the sheets and handed me my results.

D D D U

…Brilliant!

I joke about those grades now, but at the time they really really hurt. There was nothing I wanted more than to perform well and get into a decent university, but those four letters shattered my dreams.

For the first time in my life I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, and I’d just lie there for hours with a stream of negative thoughts running through my head. My parents had to physically pull me out to go downstairs and eat.

Looking back, it was probably a short spell of depression.

Little did I know then, but failing my A Levels and experiencing this trauma was a huge blessing in disguise. Without it, I wouldn’t have built the business I have today.

No one, not my parents and teachers, anticipated what would happen after receiving my dismal results. In a moment of random luck, I met someone who had been in my shoes a few years earlier. After a short conversation with him, something in my head changed and I felt quite confident that I could improve. I couldn’t articulate why that happened, but it did.

Somehow, the sting of those bad grades combined with direction from this older mentor created the perfect conditions for change. I created a written plan on how I was going to secure the grades I needed to get into university. Plans and goals were nothing new to me and I’d made plenty of them before without acting on them. But this time it was different.

Many of my bad habits went out the window and I became more productive. My understanding of topics improved the more I worked, grades improved and belief system completely changed. A year later I walked into college on results day and walked out with straight As. Many of my module marks were above 90% and I had secured a place at a top university. It was one of the biggest turnarounds my teachers had ever seen.

Then, at university I went on to achieve first class honours and an award by the dean of students for achieving one of the highest degree scores in my year group. Lots of people achieve good grades, though right?

My achievements may not seem that special to some, especially those who got As and A*s on their first go. However, for a kid who had low self-esteem and was told to consider other options at the age of 17, achieving these grades felt like coming back from 6-0 down to win the champions league final!

How I turned the idea into reality

Three years passed since I graduated, and I was working at a proprietary trading firm in London. My job involved taking speculative bets in the financial markets, and later, programming software that traded various futures contracts like the German 10-year Government Bond, EUROStoxx 50 and FTSE 100.

After one horrific month where I lost several months of profit in a few days, I took a couple weeks off to execute an idea that I’d been sitting on since school. I wanted to help students who had failed their A Levels.

My initial idea was to start a blog, then after word vomiting 5,000 words into Microsoft Word, I realised how much I had to say on this topic. After teaming up with my best friend, this ‘side project’ eventually became a full-blown book called How to ACE Your A-Levels.

How I got my first customer

Filled with grammar and spelling mistakes, we published the book on Amazon as an eBook and waited.

Two days later we got our first sale and a few weeks later, we got our first review…

Amazon review for Academic Underdogs

This changed everything.

I wasn’t sure if the book would actually be valuable to anyone, up until this point. Louise’s review was the first indication that I was on to something. I hadn’t spent a penny on the venture so far, but now with proof of concept, it was time to invest.

How I launched my first marketing campaign

My target market spent hours scrolling through social media every day. So, I discarded all the marketing strategies that had nothing to do with social media marketing, like offline advertising using leaflets.

After creating a list of online marketing strategies, I systematically tried each one until I found one that worked. Facebook at that time had a very engaged user base in the UK, and over 300,000 17 year olds used the platform. Delivering paid ads here offered the best rate of return, but my campaigns didn’t achieve the sales numbers that I wanted.

This is when I decided to create a video campaign to promote How to ACE Your A-Levels. But there was a problem. Agencies were quoting me £2,000 - £5,000 to create the video. By searching around, I found a DIY animation software called Sparkol Video Scribe that you could use to create whiteboard explainer videos. Using this tool, I created this video…

The audio was rubbish (recorded it on my phone), it looked a little amateur and had a spelling mistake – but it worked!

My story resonated with a lot of students. The video generated hundreds of thousands of views across YouTube and Facebook, and around £50k of sales. Creating the video only cost me £12.

How I grew the business

After the success of the first book, I wrote How to ACE Your GCSEs and a three-part series called ‘Level UP’ for university students. My marketing campaigns reached over four million students and generated over £300,000 in sales two years. By leveraging the success of the books, I created a set of workshops and a one-on-one mentorship programme for schools.

I now spend most of my time creating online content, driving traffic to my website and delivering programmes to schools.

Create a product that alleviates a problem

If you want to start a business, but don’t have an idea, start one that alleviates a problem, especially one you’ve had in the past. Not only will this create a psychological tailwind that helps you through the inevitable challenges that come with growing a venture, but you and everything you touch will become relatable. People are more intuitive than you think. Your copy on the website, sales pitches, products and brand will show that you ‘get it’.

There is a silver lining with emotional trauma or any other kind of trauma. That is, once you have been through it, you join an exclusive club with others who have been through it too.

Try this… go find someone with that has experienced similar trauma to you and have a conversation with them. You will naturally want to advise or help them in some way and you will leave that conversation feeling fulfilled. Not that momentary fulfilment you get from a Netflix binge or praise from your manager, this is enduring fulfilment. Helping others leaves a glow of satisfaction that sticks around for a few hours after you’ve done the deed. Now imagine writing a book for all those members and receiving hundreds of reviews and emails thanking you for your help. Each one will provide a dose of motivation. Then imagine creating a service or a piece of software that can add even more value to that group. Hundreds of emails turn into thousands. How would you feel then?

Sitting on your hands for too long? Try selling information

If you are a little risk-averse and short of cash, selling information is a great ‘gateway’ business. It doesn’t cost a thing to write and publish your thoughts online. Whether it be a blog, book or course. Even if you don’t make a fortune, you will learn a lot and your attitude to risk will change. I no longer hesitate to invest cash into an experiment that may or may not work.

Mug with begin written on it

How to start a business that alleviates a problem

  1. Write down all the traumatic events you’ve experienced in the past – highlight those you are proud of overcoming
  2. Go to your local library - Grab your essentials, your laptop and leave your phone at home (no excuses - give someone the library telephone number in case of an emergency)
  3. Word vomit 5,000 words about your traumatic experience and how you overcame it

While writing, did you reach a state of flow where you lost track of time? Did you enjoy telling your story? If so, schedule in another session at the Library because you just might be on to something.

Once you’ve written 20,000+ words, drop me an e-mail – anshul@academicunderdogs.com

To find out more information about the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, visit our website.

11 December 2019

Meet our delivery partners: Bob Lindsey

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Bob Lindsey, founder of Thames Productions, runs one-to-one workshops for entrepreneurs at the British Library's Business & IP Centre, for innovators seeking advice on their product ideas and what to do next. He also runs a workshop on How much will it cost to get my new product to market.

Bob Lindsey

Bob Lindsey’s background includes, manufacturing, product design, and marketing. Originally a student/apprentice at the Ford Motor Company, he obtained a honours degree in Mechanical Engineering at City University. After working in Zambia (in copper mining) he studied for an MBA at Sheffield University, specialising in marketing. Subsequent experience included general management of manufacturing plants in the UK including responsibility for product design. After a spell in New Zealand (advising on capital project in pulp and paper manufacture), he moved into consultancy covering managerial and technical matters, and running training programmes on new product development. He won a DTI SMART award for developing a new industrial process and designed new products and sold manufacturing licenses. He knows all the challengers of turning that gem of an idea into a successful, profitable product.

Bob says, “I’m happy to meet innovators in my one-to-one sessions who are at any stage in the process, whether they’re at the ideas phase, right through to them having full demonstrable prototypes. There are many steps to that often tortuous journey, and I can advise on many aspects of it, including working out the likely routes to market. Attendees can ask all the questions which have been in the back of their mind, often for a while. I have learnt most of the obvious mistakes, and also the rare ones. I can share my experience to reduce the probability of clients repeating them.

“The British Library themselves provide excellent workshops on Intellectual Property (IP) and this is an area I can also cover in the context of the product areas being discussed. Manufacturing might often involve the adherence to mandatory standards which have to be met, and which might not be so obvious to those starting out in this field.

“In recent months I have seen some of the perennial favourites; food and drink products, hair treatments, skincare products, fashion and footwear and travel items. But there have also been household items, lifestyle products and interesting medical devices. Over the years there have been pet-care products, personal hygiene, and even adult toys. In addition to physical products I can discuss the provision of services or APPs."

In 2020 Bob will be running the workshop How much will it cost to get my new product to market, where all the hidden and surprising items of expenditure will be highlighted, particularly during that difficult start-up phase when sales might be small, but where the costs are high. In this workshop he will cover:

  • Market testing
  • Researching IP opportunities (and impediments)
  • Product safety standards
  • Prototyping
  • How to commission a designer, together with a framework of professional charges
  • How to source tooling
  • How to source a manufacturer
  • The challenges and extra costs of sourcing those small start-up batches and what it is like to sell to a professional buyer in the retail market.

In the workshop, Bob will look at case studies of successful entrepreneurs who have got their products to market, but whose eventual journeys were not as they had originally planned. If applicable, Bob will also be able to suggest other people attendees could be talking to, including specialised designers and IP advisors.

You can also see Bob at the Business & IP Centre's monthly Inventors Club at the British Library, which meets on the last Monday of the month. This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to float their ideas to gather feedback. Bob says, "sometimes what you feel is a great idea, might not have the support in the wider market. This is a good opportunity to network with fellow entrepreneurs.”

You can find out more information about Bob's workshops on his website. To find out what workshops and events are taking place at the Business & IP Centre, visit our website.