THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

65 posts categorized "Information"

07 July 2019

A week in the life of…Emma Richards, Business Outreach Manager at the IPO

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The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is a government department responsible for granting Intellectual Property rights including Trade Marks, Registered Designs and Patents.

Emma has worked for the IPO for 20 years after studying Business and Marketing in the University of Wales in Cardiff. She is experienced in delivering and advising on all aspects of Intellectual Property. She has worked in the Business Outreach Team for the past 12 years and travels the UK giving advice to SME’s and individuals who want help with their IP strategy.

Sunday Instead of packing the school bags ready for the madness of the school run, I’m packing my case and loading up the car to prepare for a busy week ahead. Leaving my husband with a long list of things to do, I give the kids a big cwtch and head to the other side of Newport to collect my colleague, Nick. We are heading off to Shrewsbury this evening and after a long car journey we finally arrive at the hotel at 20.30. After a quick bite to eat we retire to our rooms for an early night.

Monday I know the idea of having a hotel breakfast appeals to many people but the novelty soon wears off and the waist line tends to suffer! Nick has the right idea, he’s already been to the gym by the time we meet at 8.00 (I prefer the extra sleep myself). We’re fuelled up and ready to head over to the Shrewsbury Growth Hub. Today we are delivering an intellectual property workshop to a group of new businesses who are keen to learn the value. New to IP? Watch our short video below:

As many presenters will know, the curse of the Powerpoint is always ready to rear its head and it’s in full force this morning. With time ticking on we decide to continue minus the slides in true experienced improvisation mode.

Despite the problems with the IT, we delivered a successful workshop and after lunch I got ready for some one-to-one sessions and Nick headed off to the train station, no rest for the wicked as he was heading off to London.

After the last one-to-one session, I went back to the hotel and headed off for a run. Running in a strange location is always a bit risky, especially in the rural areas of the Shropshire countryside. After a few dices with death, I decided the safest place for me is in the swimming pool! Trying to time calling home is tricky with three young children and a husband at the end of his tether, but thanks to the wonders of the 21st century I am able to Facetime and admire the carnage! Then it’s a quick bite to eat and off to bed. Rock and roll!

Shrewsbury

Tuesday I head off to the Growth Hub again this morning to meet with another colleague. Today’s session is slightly different as the audience is now made up of business advisors. Whether a business is just starting out or already trading, IP should always be considered as part of their business plan. Our short video helps explain this in more detail:

Thankfully the IT is playing ball today and after lunch we get ready to meet local businesses. We invite two local businesses to explain their business to the advisors and during an interactive session they discuss the potential IP problems and opportunities and offer suggestions. It was a great afternoon, bringing together the role of the advisor and business and where IP fits into business planning.

I gather all my things and head off to my next location, Birmingham. Following another swim and challenging Facetime session with the kids I fall in to bed ready for the day ahead.

Wednesday This morning I am heading off to Aston Villa FC for the Midlands Expo.  I meet my colleague there who is based in the region and hoping to make contacts for further business support. The exhibition is targeted at SMEs in the area, so I am hoping to give lots of valuable IP advice today.

I start the day off with an IP talk to delegates, giving them an overview of IP and why it is important for them to consider. During the course of the day I speak to a variety of customers with many trade mark, copyright and designs queries. At 15.00 I am ready to head home and press my favourite button on the sat nav. I finally arrive home at around 18.00, but the fun doesn’t stop there! I’m faced with three excited children wanting to fill me in on the last three days in ten minutes and an exhausted husband who has clearly lost the will to live. I run the bath, start the conveyor belt of shampoo and pyjamas and get them off to bed feeling the happiness of this crazy normality.

After the craziness has calmed down my husband and I do the abridged version of the last few days and I am happy to head off to my own bed.

Thursday Today I’m heading in to the office, so after the madness of the school run I join the traffic. Being in a job that takes me out of the office most of the time, means I am in demand when I’m here. I find my day busy with meetings and planning and before I know it, it’s home time. The usual tea time/ bath time ensues and then I head off to meet my brother for some food and a theatre show.

Kids

Friday It’s my non-working day so I enjoy a nice long run, followed by a nail appointment. Having a non-working day is really important to me as it allows me to catch up on everything I’ve missed out on during the week while I’ve been away. I always make sure that we eat as a family on a Friday evening and we chat about the week we’ve had. After our meal we kick back and watch a film together before the chaos of bath time. With the kids safely in bed and allocated babysitter in place my husband and I head off to our local for the pub quiz and a bit of well-earned quality time together.

A week in my life is hectic, to say the least but a weekend with the kids…well that’s another story entirely! I end the week feeling I have made a difference and look forward to my next business event on the calendar.

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.

23 October 2018

Start-up Day 2018 in London and around the country

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Start-up Day helps budding entrepreneurs from around the country feel confident and provide tools to start a business and turn their dreams into a reality. Not only did this year’s event take place at the Business & IP Centre in London with almost 400 people attending a busy programme of talks, speed-mentoring and one-to-one advice sessions; there were 13 Business & IP Centres participating nationwide, where more than 720 individuals attended the day.

With an all-day line up of talks, our speakers in London covered everything from how to understand the UK market right now (Mintel market intelligence analyst Jack Duckett explained the latest trends) to becoming a successful entrepreneur and key strategies to employ when starting your own business (as experienced by Tangle Teezer ex-CEO Matt Lumb). The priceless advice our twelve speakers shared with the audience throughout the day was also live webcast, so you could tune in from anywhere in the world to watch... and listen!

Start-up Day

Our audience didn't just listen, they also had the opportunity to engage in interesting discussions with the speakers

But that's not all: speed mentoring sessions with experts from Santander, Mintel, Google, Intellectual Property Office, Companies House and more covered practical aspects of setting up and running your own business, preparing attendees for the grit behind the glamour of entrepreneurship. To further empower current or future entrepreneurs, we also ran one-to-one advice sessions and tours of the Business & IP Centre itself, making the third edition of Start-up Day in London our busiest yet.

Business & IP Centre Sheffield

Sheffield on brand with Start-up Day decorations!

This is the second year Start-up Day has taken place across the National Network, allowing local entrepreneurs to be part of the presentations and talks at each regional centre, as well as the attendees being able to watch live broadcasts from London, all for free, as praised by one participant, “Left feeling so lucky and grateful to have access to this free information. Thank you for all your hard work organising this!”

Three Rivers Gin at Business & IP Centre Manchester

Three Rivers Gin at Business & IP Centre Manchester’s Start-up Day

Of the attendees up and down the country, 40% were planning to start up a business and 39% were either self-employed or the owner of a business. The majority of people said that lack of finance and the business idea itself were the main reasons behind them not starting a business in the past. A fifth of respondents stated that making a difference was the main motivation for wanting to start a business, with being their own boss and having a better work/life balance also high on the list, one attendee said “Superb event, kind people… after two years as a carer this event has given me many ideas - but mainly hope for my future.”

Start-up Stars Liverpool

The Women’s Organisation’s Cynthia hosting a panel of Start-up Stars, including Natalie and Jeni from SIREN, Sarah from SLMC Consulting and Amy from Drone Factor at Business & IP Centre Liverpool.

Start-up Stars Hull

Dr Max Gowland from Prime Fifty, Terry King OBE from Chapter3, Ralph Keeton from Ghost Walks Hull, Vikki Johnson from Fusion Laser Cutting, Andy Steele from 360 Accountants, Rob Lewis from 54 Degrees North and Vicky Cartwright from Diva Cupcakes at Business & IP Centre Hull’s Start-up Day’s Start-up Stars.

If you missed this year’s Start-up Day, all speakers’ videos from London are available on our YouTube channel and our blog with our top tips is available to read. To see all of our upcoming events and workshops, visit our website.

07 August 2018

If the Shoe Fits… Finding your Business Niche

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Finding your niche in any market can be tough; who is your customer? What do they want? What are your competition doing? Amanda Overs, graduate of the Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth: Scale-up programme and founder of I Can Make Shoes, set up a shoemaking school after being unable to find a course to make shoes, without the need for heavy machinery.

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I Can Make Shoes workshop

“I was sick of being told ‘you can’t do it like that’” (by traditional shoemakers). With the demand for slow fashion and a resurgence of sewing and crafting, Amanda decided to put a positive spin on the negative backlash and eight years later has gone from running classes in her living room by herself to employing five part-time members of staff and running workshops almost every day of the year in both London and New York.

Research was crucial in finding out exactly who I Can Make Shoes’ customers were. Amanda says, “There has been a lot of trial and error over the years, but what I have found is the fastest, most efficient way of doing research is to actually ask your customer what they think. I regularly do surveys when I have a new idea to see what my audience think of it and recently started a Facebook community so that I can see for myself what it is that my students and customers really want and need.”

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I Can Make Shoes now run workshops in both London and New York

Amanda is always looking at ways to improve I Can Make Shoes’ offering and the business is always changing and improving. Something Amanda says is “key to staying ahead of the competition”. Not only do they run workshops for members of the public, they also have online shoemaking instructions, sell components, and train designers from major high street brands such as ASOS, River Island and Adidas.

The Innovating for Growth programme has helped Amanda take I Can Make Shoes to the next level, “It’s helped me to step back and reassess the business as a whole and identify the key areas of potential growth. I started in a bit of a whirlwind and have been treading water ever since, so to have fresh (very experienced) eyes and non-biased opinions on my plans for the future has been absolutely priceless”.

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"Fail fast, learn faster and move on to the next thing.”

What tips does Amanda have for finding your niche? “Trust your gut. Don't over think every detail. Fail fast, learn faster and move on to the next thing.” Amanda lives by her rules, due to popular demand she will be offering a new sneaker course launching soon...

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 Amanda, our three-month Innovating for Growth programme can help turn your growth idea into a reality. Applications are now open, so find out more here and apply now!

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This programme is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the British Library.

01 August 2018

IP Corner: Patent databases, which one is right for you?

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Here at the British Library's Business & IP Centre we meet many inventors who are starting out on their journey through to patenting their inventions. The majority understand that their first action should be to search to see if their proposed invention is truly ‘new and innovative’ as it must be in order to obtain patent protection. What inventors will be searching for is known as ‘Prior art’ which is basically anything that shows the proposed invention is already known and is therefore not new. Prior art doesn’t have to be a patent, it could be a newspaper advertisement, a magazine or journal article or even a product on sale in another country. 

Most inventors will have heard of, and some may even have used, the Espacenet database. Espacenet is a patent search database containing data on over 100 million patent documents worldwide. Searching the database is fairly intuitive, but if needed there is a very informative Help section to aid the novice searcher. Espacenet is a great starting point for any would be inventor and is freely available via https://worldwide.espacenet.com.

What is generally less known by inventors is that here at the Business & IP Centre we subscribe to another search database that our registered readers can use for free. This database is the Derwent Innovations Index or DII as it is also known. 

DII is a search database that provides access to more than 30 million inventions as detailed in 65+ million patent documents. Once a search has been run, clicking through from the results list, users are able to view details of the relevant patent including any patents and/or articles cited as ‘Prior art’ against it. For most patents there are also links through to Espacenet to view the full published specification.

Espacenet also does this, so what are the advantages of visiting the Business & IP Centre and using DII

Well, it should be remembered that patents are technical documents which are written in such a way as to meet all the relevant criteria for obtaining a patent but, by providing only the most important information, give nothing away. 

With Espacenet you are searching the patents as published; the title or abstract, bibliographic data, description and claims all exactly as written in the original documents. This can make keyword searching problematic, not everyone will necessarily use the same keywords to describe the same subject, and often searchers will need to resort to classification searching to ensure they are searching in the correct technical area. Add to this the fact that patent titles can be slightly ambiguous and patent searching can become slightly more difficult.

With the Derwent Innovations Index (DII) what happens is that when a patent is published a member of the DII team who is experienced in the particular technical area covered by the patent takes the patent specification and does the following:

  • Writes a more concise title that describes the invention and its claimed novelty
  • Then writes an abstract giving a 250–500 word description in English of the claimed novelty of the invention
  • Finally, DII also add their own ‘Class codes’ and ‘Manual codes’ to the records: Derwent Class Codes allow the searcher to quickly retrieve a particular category of inventions whilst Derwent Manual Codes indicate the novel technical aspects of the invention.

To give you a quick example of this, the title of patent WO2018064763 on Espacenet is ‘Compactable bicycle’ as shown below:

Espacenet example
Espacenet Patent search

Whereas on DII the title is written as:

Derwent Innovations Index
Derwent Innovations Index

The Espacenet bibliography and abstract looks like this:

Espacenet bibliography
Espacenet bibliography

Whilst the DII bibliography and abstract looks like this:

DII bibliography
DII bibliography

Note: DII highlights, Novelty, Use and Advantage within the abstract.

Another advantage DII has is that using the Advanced search option searchers have the ability to ‘build’ a search by searching keywords, classifications, inventor/applicant details etc. and then adding search sets together as desired.

DII advanced search
DII advanced search

Searchers then click on the live link in the Results box to view the results list from where they can select relevant patent records to save to a Marked list. Searchers can then email the results from the Marked list to themselves to view later if they wish.

With the Espacenet database searchers can download and print out copies of the front pages of relevant specifications (known as covers) or they can select titles from their search results list to export to either CVS or XLS. Copies of full patent specification can also be downloaded and printed out if desired.

Both Espacenet and DII are extremely useful for searchers. Each database has their own strengths and weaknesses, but if you visit the Business & IP Centre we will be happy to discuss your needs and show you how to get the best from both databases.

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.

21 August 2015

Spotlight on … The Decorators

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The Decorators is an exciting young business made up of four friends who met at uni. They turned their passion for working with space into an experiential design business. Here founding partner Carolina Caicedo shares advice for starting and growing a successful company after completing the Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth programme. 

0. The Decorators
Portrait of The Decorators, photo credit: Dosfotos

How did you come up with the concept or idea for your business?

The four partners met doing an MA in Narrative Environments at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. The course was all about multidisciplinary teams working collaboratively on projects. An opportunity to do an interactive installation at the trade show 100% Design in London came up just at the end of our final year in 2010 and we decided to take it on together. The project was a success and showed us that we worked well together and that we could produce more interesting things by working together rather than individually.

You started your own business at a young age – what advice would you give to other young people hoping to do the same?

I would say look to learn about how to run a sustainable business as soon as you start. Train yourself in all the different hats you’ll have to put on. We set ourselves up as a collective to begin with, we were much more interested in the delivery of creative ideas, than in understanding what it takes to run a business. We learnt the hard way that simply focusing on producing a good service or offer is not enough to sustain a business. I would also recommend finding a business mentor, be it someone with his or her own business or a business coach. All four of us set up The Decorators straight after finishing our MA, with little time spent in industry at times we felt we were reinventing the wheel unnecessarily. Others have done this before you so learn from them.

1.Ridley's at night
Ridley’s at night, photo credit: Dosfotos
2.Daytime at Ridley's
Daytime at Ridley’s, photo credit: The Decorators

How did you finance your business at the early stages?

We financed the early stages of the business by taking out a small start-up loan through the University of the Arts London. It helped us take on a studio.

What main obstacle have you had to overcome?

Our main obstacle has been mindset. We have had to shift our mind-set to see ourselves as business owners rather than just designers or creators. With that shift we have experienced a loss of resistance towards the less sexy and fun aspects of running a business.

11. The Decorators' Radio at V&A Museum
The Decorators’ Radio at the V&A Museum, photo credit: The Decorators

 

10. Italian Mobile Garden at Alexandra Palace
Italian Mobile Garden at Alexandra Palace, photo credit: Dosfotos

What do you like the most about running your own business?

For me it is how empowering it feels to be running your own business. It is empowering to be shaping and creating the kind of work you want to do, who you do it with and the culture in which you do it. The self development required to take a business forward is also empowering.  It sets you in good stead for whatever may come next.

Which entrepreneurs inspire you?

We are inspired by the recent surge in start-ups that are putting wellbeing and social values at the heart of their business. I have found the watching the rise of Headspace very interesting and it is particularly inspiring when you know how hard it is to get a business going. I am also much more interested in hearing the behind the scenes stories. I listen to the podcast Start-Up, which follows the journey of businesses that are starting up. We usually only get the final success story but it is much more valuable for me to hear about the journey and the struggle to get something to work.

6. Screening at Adult Architecure Cinema
Screening at Adult Architecture Cinema, photo credit: Dosfotos

 

9. Chrisp Street on Air - Boxing at the Market
Chrisp Street on Air - Boxing at the Market, photo credit: Dosfotos

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Self development is the most important thing in starting up your own business. Developing a can-do and positive mindset is what will get you through the inevitable hard times.

 

We are now taking applications for the next Innovating for Growth programme find out how you can apply today.

ERDF Logo Portrait Colour Web

11 August 2015

6 Tips for Pitching to Investors

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Listening to the “Dragons” on the BBC2 TV show Dragons’ Den is a good insight into the way your investors may be thinking when you present your ideas, plans and proposals to them. As all good scouts know, you must Be Prepared, i.e. be fully prepared for some intense questioning before investors will entrust you with their money. Here are our 6 tips for getting your pitch right.

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1.      Know every aspect of your finances – and your research data

Numbers must add up but, more than that, every figure that you use must be validated. You can’t simply base your first year growth rate on a competitor’s established business or make assumptions based on ‘gut-feel’.  That is a certain way to get rejected at the very first stage.

How much money do you need and how will every penny of it be invested? What are your start-up/capital expenditure and initial running costs? Are these based on firm quotations from relevant suppliers? Know the best and worst case scenarios for your projected costs.

Who are your customers, what is the size of your potential market and how long is a typical purchase decision process? Why would your product be selected? What steps have you taken or are you planning to maximise the reach of your marketing and sales campaigns?

Importantly, when will investors begin to see a return and how much? What exit options have you considered? You will need to substantiate your claims with independent data.

 2.      Rehearse your pitch – and practice thinking on your feet

Enthusiasm and confidence are by-products of knowing that you are thoroughly prepared for any question – even if it’s one you hadn’t previously considered.

“He who hesitates is lost” has never been so true therefore you need to keep a clear head and be able to deliver a well-rehearsed pitch that briefly covers all important points. Practicing your delivery with a mentor or business associate, rather than in a mirror or with a close family member, may be helpful in a number of ways. Get them to ask questions, too.  The tougher the questions the better prepared you will be.

 3.      Understand your investors and be open with them

Before you set the level of your pitch, find out about your investors, particularly what business areas they have interests in. If they offer advice, you need to listen because they are the ones with huge amounts of money and, presumably, some proven business acumen. As with all advice, you should take it on board, mull it over and act on it as appropriate.

Don’t try to hide pertinent facts and if you are not sure of the facts, don’t make them up!

 4.      Be honest with yourself about the value of your business

Excluding assets, the value of your business is calculated on its worth and profit potential to someone else and nothing to do with the amount of time and money you have invested getting to the current point. An entrepreneur will have devoted considerable resources to bring the venture to this point, and that is often considered as personal sweat equity.  Investors appreciate this, but they will take it for granted and tend to focus instead on future cash-flow requirements rather than legacy costs.

 5.      Keep calm and be yourself.

It is easy to put yourself under pressure when big opportunities arise but keeping calm and not panicking will enable your mind to work clearly and your mouth to deliver a clear response!

Knowing that you are well prepared is a major calming factor but, if you are prone to nervousness, practice some calming techniques that will help you through the pitch – perhaps deep breathing or subtle rhythmic tapping of your thumb against your finger.

Let investors see the real you – the person who is driving the business. Believe in yourself and just be you. Investors are real business people, and they want to work with ambitious, driven and practical entrepreneurs.

 6.      Don’t forget to close!

When you’re finished presenting make sure that ask for the investment – that’s the real purpose of the meeting isn’t it? At this stage the investor may have some additional questions for you. Some may be business-related, others more personal in nature. They’re essentially trying to get a feel if they can work with you as a business partner. So don’t take this approach personally and answer their questions to the best of your ability. And then ask for the investment again.

 

The London Business Support Service is a valued Partner of the British Library in London. We conduct 1-2-1 confidential business clinics on the first Wednesday of every month at the Business & IP Centre at the British Library. Our business clinics are suitable for any type of business in any type of situation, and our experienced business advisors are here to provide you with cost effective business support services that result in tangible and measurable benefits to your business.

 

04 August 2015

How to research your local area

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In the Business & IP Centre we often get enquiries about how to research a particular geographical area. With an increasing interest in ‘keeping trade local’ and in the provenance of products, many start-ups are choosing to establish and market themselves as ‘local’ businesses - for instance working with the community, or sourcing suppliers from the nearby area. Others are simply interested in finding out more about their area in terms of customers, competitors and marketing opportunities.

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Luckily there is a wealth of information available on specific localities and entrepreneurs can use this information to pinpoint their target market and tailor their promotional activity. For instance, a retailer of high-end luxury goods might want to focus their business in an affluent area, in order to attract high-earning local customers. A new restaurant might think twice about opening on a street with lots of established competition – but it may benefit them to know about nearby markets and food-sellers who could act as suppliers. A fashion designer could research local events and networks where there’s potential to sell or promote their products. Below are a few of the resources you can use to research your area.

At the British Library Business & IP Centre

Local Data Online (access via terminals in the Business & IP Centre)

Local Data Online gives data and insights for locations, business types and companies. Its searchable map tool lets you select a specific area and examine the overall retail make-up, identify local businesses, or check the geographical spread of an industry or company. It also gives addresses and contact details for individual shops, lists available vacant units, and gives a demographic profile of the area.

You can search for a specific location, company and/or retail category, and information is displayed on easy-to-read maps and diagrams. Extra information for locations includes vacancy rates, the mix of independent shops vs. chains, crime statistics, average earnings and house prices. 

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COBRA (access via terminals in the Business & IP Centre)

COBRA is an encyclopaedia of practical information for starting, running and managing a small business. Included in the database are a number of ‘Local Area profiles’, covering towns and regions throughout the country. A Local Area Profile will typically include information on sources of business support and advice, financial support, workspaces, business networks, business directories, libraries, local authority trading licences, business rates and HM Revenue & Customs.

Company databases: FAME, MarketIQ, Kompass, ORBIS, OneSource (access via terminals in the Business & IP Centre)

Our company databases are searchable by location, meaning that you can create lists of companies operating in a specific geographical area.

Grantfinder (access via terminals in the Business & IP Centre)

Gives details of 4,000 grants, loans and awards, searchable by geographical area.

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Other Sources

Business & IP Centre National Network

The Business & IP Centre National Network provides entrepreneurs and SMEs across the country with free access to a wealth of databases, market research, journals, directories and reports. There is a programme of free and low-cost one-to-one advice and workshops delivered by trained staff and business experts on a range of topics including starting up, business planning, marketing and intellectual property. Find a Centre near you.

Your local library

Many libraries will hold local information, newspapers, directories and data.

Social media

Social media can be a powerful research tool. Lots of local groups, associations and businesses will have a presence on social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter - or try searching Twitter for name of the area you’re interested in to get rolling updates of what’s going on in the area. 

Council websites

Your local council can provide helpful information about doing business in your area. Some councils also run business support programmes. 

ONS Neighbourhood Statistics

ONS Neighbourhood Statistics allows you to find detailed statistics or a summary report for specific geographic areas. Covers areas such as crime, economics, education, health, housing, income, lifestyle, population, migration, physical environment.

Official Labour Market Statistics (NOMIS)

NOMIS allows you to find detailed labour market (population, employment, economic activity, qualifications, jobseeker’s allowance claimants) statistics for specific geographic areas.

Data for Neighbourhoods and Regeneration

Data for Neighbourhoods and Regeneration identifies and signposts datasets available for neighbourhoods on areas like population, deprivation and income, employment, economy and enterprise, education and skills, health and disability, housing and households, crime and community, environment, access and transport.

Netmums

As highlighted in an earlier blog, the website Netmums has comprehensive listings of small businesses in a local area, from garden services to website design.

Google Street View

Google Street View is invaluable for seeing what a neighbourhood actually looks like, street by street.

Social Sciences databases

A number of the Social Sciences databases can be helpful to those looking to research a particular area. In particular the local government and statistics databases may be of use.

FreeimagescomSille Opstrup
Image: Freeimages.com/Sille Opstrup

London-specific

  • London Datastore: Greater London Authority (GLA) one-stop shop for statistics and reports on London, spanning topics from culture to crime. The Community page provides visualisations based on the data.
  • Whereabouts London: Website using open data to profile London areas.  Clicking on a locality on the map will give you information on local demographics.

 

Sally Jennings on behalf of the Business & IP Centre 

29 July 2015

Top tips on online accounting for small business

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Books are migrating to e-readers, music is being streamed and accounting is now happening in the cloud. This is the quiet revolution that accountants whisper but dare not speak aloud. Accounting software is dead; it’s online and upwards to the clouds. Online accounting has arrived.

Cloud computing

It may sound a touch over the top but it’s true. As a business, how you manage your books pretty much manages everything else. Your accounting is an important engine in your business. A well-oiled efficient system will reap rewards; a slow burner with too many miles will underperform and slow you down.

This is where online accounting in the cloud is so significant. Consigned to software history is the accounting package sold ‘out of a box’ installed onto your desktop, run on a local drive and perhaps backed up onto a different drive. It was fun while it lasted but now SMEs have multiple choices when it comes to doing their books.

And here lies the problem. Business owners are generally uncertain about how to choose an online accounting package that works for them. But help is at hand, outlined below are some helpful tips to help you decide on how to choose the best package.

Why choose online accounting?

It’s easy to say the future is online but what are the actual advantages?

  • Firstly, you can access it anytime, anywhere and aren’t bound to the PC in your office and you don’t need to keep installing updates
  • Being on the cloud means information can be easier to share as well
  • It can save considerable time and keeps your records up to date

The question then is which online accounting package to choose? There are numerous packages you can subscribe to out there. Xero and Quickbooks are making inroads but there are lots of others too. There are well over thirty providers of online accounting, so choosing the right one for you can feel overwhelming. The best thing to do is to narrow your focus by asking yourself a few of the following questions:

  • How long has the software been around? In other words, is it market tested?
  • Is the software UK compatible? Can it deal with VAT? You will need a system that works effectively for VAT returns.
  • Can it work with multi-currencies (if you need to trade overseas)?
  • Can it integrate with other software easily (known as API) such as CRM or invoicing programmes?
  • Will it securely connect into your bank account? This can be very helpful when it comes to bank reconciliation and looking at a live picture of the financial state of your business.
  • What is the level of customer support? Are you able to call or use chat while online?

Having confidence in the provider you choose is important as they will be presenting all the data and running all the reports for you. Reports are your window into what’s happening with the numbers in your business, so it’s vital you can see what’s going on clearly. It’s best to see if your accounting software can run any of these types of reports clearly and effectively:

  • Profit and Loss reports
  • Balance Sheets (divided monthly)
  • Company snapshots
  • Debtors and Creditors
  • Product and Inventory reports (if needed)
  • Employee and payroll

Test, test, test

Most of the major online accounting platforms will give you a free trial. Riz Wasti from 2E Accountants and participant on the Innovating for Growth programme recommends you test the software first to see how it works for you. He suggests doing the following:

“Most online software offer 30 days trial period. That’s your opportunity to test the software before relying on it. Use your real transactions, bank payments & receipts, sales invoices, bills and expenses, etc. Softwares will also have a Demo Company setup with data already entered. That’s your opportunity to play with the software”.

Migration to your online platform

Once you’ve selected the best online accounting package for you, do allow for time and some cost to migrate across from an existing platform. As ever, the devil is in the detail (and the numbers). Riz advises that:

Migrating data from an existing system can be complicated. It’s best to do it in stages, for example starting with sales invoices and bills in batches of months and reconcile bank statements for each month entered. The payment allocation process can be time consuming. Bank data can be uploaded in one go separately to sales and bills, but then bank payments need to match or be allocated.”

All the more reason to do all the research you can on finding the right online accounting package for you. The effort is sure to be well worthwhile in the medium to long term for your business.

If, like most business owners, you sometimes feel confused about your finances in the business, the Business & IP Centre has help available: from how-to guides on running your business, to workshops including “Get Cashflow Confident” with our ‘numbers coach’, Johnny Martin.  

 

Jeremy O’Hare is a Relationship Manager for the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme, which provides £10,000 of fully-funded and tailored advice for businesses looking to grow. Since joining the British Library in 2005 he has worked with countless businesses, facilitating advice and research as well as providing workshops and information advice for start-ups and established businesses. 

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28 July 2015

How to Get Press Coverage for Your Small Business

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Jessica Huie MBE, an entrepreneur with 15 years media experience, founder of JH Public Relations and Color blind cards and partner to the Business & IP Centre, gives her advice on how start-ups and SMEs can generate PR for their business without spending a fortune.

JHPR
Jessica Huie Public Relations

 

However brilliant or progressive your product or service, if nobody knows about it then your business will struggle to make sales, and a business without sales is doomed to fail. This is where PR can have a massive impact. Not so much a luxury as imperative for any business owner who wants to make their idea get off the ground, PR helps businesses to connect with their target audience, to mould a brand, establish differentiation from competitors, attract buyers and investors and can position business owners as experts in their field. If you truly mean business with your start-up venture, then you need to think seriously about public relations.

PR, which is in part marketing through third-party endorsement, is an extremely successful way to generate business and it complements the other, more ‘obvious’ forms of marketing. Today’s consumer is savvy. They see through blatant (and expensive) advertising campaigns. PR subtly increases awareness of a company and its products and services by positioning them in the public’s consciousness, not by waving it in front of their faces.

Believe in your brand

In order for your start-up business to get valuable press coverage, you first need to make sure you are confident about your brand and its ethos. The public is never going to fully comprehend your business if you, yourself, are not clear as to what your business brand is, its values and what it has to give. Your brand needs to be a clear and definite concept. Therefore, when introducing your brand, whether in a press release or when pitching to a journalist, lead with any vital information and impressive assets, this positions your business instantly.

Be authentic

Once you are confident in your business values, it is crucial to communicate that personally – nothing is more powerful than authenticity in PR and if you are sincere and passionate about your brand, both the media and the public will be receptive to this. Humans are social creatures; they buy into people not products. Having a visible figurehead rather than relying on nameless branding helps customers to understand the ethos and culture behind your business. Ask yourself what the motivation behind your company was, and your business vision for the future. Give your customers an understanding of the entrepreneur behind the brand and make sure your personal and business principles align; audiences can see through branding messages that do not correspond to behaviour. PR, through mediums such as case studies, media coverage, advice columns and blogs, is your tool for demonstrating your commitment to your brand values.

 

 

Authenticity
JHPR

 

Position yourself as a thought leader

So, how do you behave like a figurehead? A simple way is through positioning yourself as thought leader and by marketing your expertise. You, as an individual, can share your valuable perspective, insight and experience. This is not just advantageous in terms of commercial success, but also in terms of investment. By building a strong visible profile, you make you and your brand unique, differentiating your business from other commercially viable investment opportunities. Profit and turnover speak for themselves, but business commitment and vision do not. A business with a strong figurehead and management team who represent the fundamental business values are powerful assets and are most effectively communicated through a PR campaign.

 

 

Thought leader
JHPR

 

Absorb the media

To secure media coverage, it is also of upmost importance that you immerse yourself in the media. This means both being aware of the media sectors your business fits into and staying on top of current affairs and their relevance to your business.Every story reported in the media represents a PR opportunity depending on your business. Staying abreast of current news means you can be reactive, relevant and forward thinking in your PR strategy, creating press releases that participate in debates or that offer opposing opinions or solutions to contemporary problems.

Plan your PR strategy

Yet, at the same time, PR should be a calculated strategy, taking into account any important dates that may impact customers’ activity. Create a 12-month plan including dates such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Halloween and think about how your brand and commercial activities can ‘latch on’ to these events, increasing your chances of securing media interest. The importance of forward planning cannot be overstated – be aware of media lead times so you don’t let a PR opportunity pass you by.

Look for possible partnerships

Collaborating with like-minded brands, which share your business values and target market, is another way reach a broader audience and create interesting PR angles. The first step in brand partnerships is to truly understand your customer. Spend some time researching your customer in depth: where do they live, how old are they, what are their hobbies, their occupations and incomes? Once you have a clear image, you can then seek out ideal partners for cross-promotion. Partnerships are crucial when it comes to business growth and, for small businesses, this involves collaborating with larger or more established brands for common benefit. The story of the Big Friendly Giant is a popular one and does not fail to attract media attention.

 

 

Partnerships
JHPR

 

Perfect your press release

Yet indisputably the most successful tool at your disposal to get press coverage and media interest in your business is a well-written press release, one that grabs attention and leaves a lasting impression. Ensure it is professional, includes all the essential (but relevant) information and use the first paragraph to sum up your news angle and tell the journalist why it’s worth the page space. Statistics that support your angle, any awards or accolades your business has won, celebrity fans or endorsers should all be in those first few lines. Demonstrate your confidence in your brand and your story and substantiate the fact that you are great!

If you are committed to raising your personal or business profile, then you should commit to PR. However, it is an investment and in most cases there is no instant, tangible return on your investment. Persevere and view it as part of your strategic business journey. You have to foster this relationship as you would any other; getting your business in the media of your target audience is just the start. A customer’s buying journey begins with awareness, followed by familiarity, then to purchase consideration and finally loyalty. If you are consistent in your PR efforts, awareness of your start-up business will increase with each new media platform that endorses you. Your business will become visible, it will enter your customer’s mind and, most importantly, it will stay there.

 

Jessica Huie, MBE is the Founder of JH Public Relations and runs regular workshops in the British Library’s Business & IP Centre.