Innovation and enterprise blog

27 March 2020

A message from the BIPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isabel Oswell

Head of Business Support Services

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.

25 November 2019

Meet Warda Farah - owner of Language Waves and Start-ups in London Libraries participant

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Warda Farah is a speech and language therapist. Her company, Language Waves, has a particular interest in providing a fully-accessible and culturally diverse speech therapy service. She has recently taken part in the Start-ups in London Libraries programme in Greenwich. 

Warda had done the research, confirmed her business idea (speech therapy that was accessible to everyone who needed it and, most importantly, took into account culture and family background) was solid and sought-after and registered her business. The next step was to tie the various ideas she had for Language Waves together to form a future-proof plan and ensure she could achieve her ambitious vision. And so she participated in the Start-ups in London Libraries programme to help her get her business idea off the ground: ‘It helped me to develop my scattered ideas into a coherent business plan. I was able to figure out how I could package my approach, get a better understanding of my target audience and most importantly how I could monetize my idea.' 

The Start-ups in London Libraries programme is comprised of workshops which guide participants through the complexities of starting up a business, registering your company, protecting your intellectual property and conducting research. Off the back of these, Warda and her business partner, Joan-Ann were able to trademark their training manual. SiLL participants can also get one-to-ones with their local borough Champions who can offer specific advice. Warda said her one-to-ones with Greenwich Champion, Loretta, were among the most eye-opening experiences on her business journey: ‘I see her when I’m at different stages of the business. Her feedback helps me plan, focus and set realistic expectations for myself. Also her belief in my business has motivated me as she has brought out the best in me.’

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Warda with the SiLL Greenwich Champion, Loretta

As part of Start-ups in London Libraries, Greenwich have developed a strong business community, with a network that meet once a month to brainstorm and share knowledge. Warda says: ‘I think it’s a really exciting time, I meet lots of people who want to start their own business and I always refer them to the SILL programme and Loretta. This is because it’s so accessible well set up and you know that you are getting advice and support from people who know what they are doing.'

'A lot of people do not know where to start but the Start-ups in London Libraries programme is very clear, you just need to put the work in. You have to be strategic, specific and focused and not give up. The people that I have met at the Greenwich Network so far all seem very motivated and it’s great to be around this energy. I’m excited to see how everybody’s business does.’

And so are we!

Q&A with Warda:

Can you tell us a bit about how your business started? What inspired you? 

I won a Lord Mayor Scholarship and studied Speech and Language therapy at City University. It was during this time that I noticed the lack of diversity in the profession. 95% of speech and language therapists are from white middle class backgrounds which raises the issue of therapy not being tailored to take culture and background into account. This is a profession that has to represent the diverse population it serves in order to be effective and, from what I could see, this wasn’t happening. I was extremely surprised that there was not discussion of how to make speech and language therapy services accessible and culturally diverse, so I began my research.

It is clear and evident that there is a cultural mismatch between therapists and BAME clients and instead of labelling parents and children as hard to engage we should be reaching out them and being innovative with how we deliver our interventions.

We have three key aims that we are working towards:

  1. A world where a child’s ethnicity, socioeconomic status and parental background is not a barrier to receiving quality speech and language therapy assessment and intervention.
  2. We want the wider public to have a better understanding of what a communication difficulty is and the long-term consequences this can have on the child, family and their community.
  3. We would like the speech and language therapy workforce to represent the diverse population it serves.

You are a young entrepreneur - what have been the benefits of this and what are the challenges?

As a young person this is probably one of the best times to start a business - there are so many pots of funding and support that is available to young entrepreneurs. You have to be willing to look around, go to events and find out what support is available to you.

In addition to this if you are lucky enough to still live at home and not have any dependents you can focus solely on your business with less distractions. 

However the downside to being a young entrepreneur is that I think Millennials like myself are so used to instant gratification that we may be impatient with how long it can actually take to get a business off the ground and making money. This is why realistic expectations are so important and reviewing of your business plans and goals should be a regular occurrence. 

In my own personal experience being a young black woman in business has at times been incredibly tough, I feel like I have to really sell and prove myself to show that 1) despite my age I have the experience , 2) despite my gender I can be just as tough as the men if not tougher, 3) despite the fact I may face bias based on my ethnicity I do not let it stop me. 

You have to learn how to use people's assumptions and negative stereotypes of you to be your USP.

What advice would you give anyone looking to start up a business?

Start now. I know a lot of people who feel that all of the conditions need to be right before they begin their business but I believe an entrepreneur is the person who sees an opportunity and goes for it. Time waits for no man and there is no such thing as perfection. When we began Language Waves we made lots of errors which helped us fine tune our processes, better understand our audience and even developed our thinking. We are still making errors but we see them as learning opportunities.

I would also say don’t start a business because your main aim in life is to be a millionaire. There is a long and arduous period when you are working hard e.g. going to meetings, negotiating contracts, networking, creating content and you are not financially compensated, in fact you can be worse off than when you had a 9-5.

During this period remember that you are setting the foundation and ground work for your business. Many people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they would’ve achieved in 3 years, this is the long game so be patient and continue to work through the pain.

What would you say to anyone thinking about starting up a business?

Join the SiLL programme - it's what made me feel like I could really start and run a business

What are the key things you have learnt while starting up your business?

A couple of my most valuable lessons have been:

  • Your customer and ideal client is key, you need to know the needs, likes, dislikes and habits of this group to ensure you target your product at them.
  • Know your value and do not be ashamed to talk about money. Your specialized knowledge is what people will pay for.
  • Make decisions quickly and be slow to change them. Joan-Ann and I have the saying “lets sleep on it and discuss in the morning”.
  • Quantum leaps exists, do not be scared of them. Sometimes opportunities will arise which you feel you are not ready for, just do it you will surprise yourself.

To find out more about Language Waves visit https://www.languagewaves.com/

For more information on Start-ups in London Libraries, visit bl.uk/SiLL

The Start-ups in London Libraries project is generously supported by the European Regional Development Fund, J.P. Morgan and Arts Council England.

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21 October 2019

Start-up Day 2019 – How to spot the key UK market trends right now with Mintel

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Start-up Day promo banner

Did you know you can access Mintel reports at the BIPC for free? If you need to do some market research, but aren’t sure where to start, Jack Duckett, Associate Director at Mintel, gave Start-up Day attendees some great pointers…

Jack Duckett from Mintel on the stage at Start-up Day

The importance of market research

Ask yourself, who is our core customer and how can we engage with them? How can I contextualise my offering? Market research can reinforce your offering. Place emphasis on what products you offer. Market research helps businesses to understand what is happening right now, and what might happen tomorrow.

You can use market research to show the importance of your product and its sector’s growth to potential funders.

Innovative ideas

Start-ups are in a great position to get ahead of the market as they are responding to problems in an innovative way.

What’s happening elsewhere, other than your immediate sector? You can contextualise your product. Start-ups are often in a bit of a cocoon and you can become blinded by what is going on around you. You have to understand the market around you.

Customer experience

You know your customer, you understand your customer in a way so many big businesses struggle to. You understand them as you created your product with a need, you created your service around that need. Understanding that you have an affinity with your customer. Nourish that connection. It’s the most important part of your start-up.

Nourish the experience

Don’t just focus on a low price, offer something else, offer an experience.

Ethics in business

You need to be bold about highlighting the ethical parts of your business.

Continue reading "Start-up Day 2019 – How to spot the key UK market trends right now with Mintel" »

27 June 2019

Positive ageing: include seniors in the wellness revolution

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Mintel is the world's leading market intelligence agency. For over 40 years, Mintel's expert analysis of the highest quality data and market research has directly impacted on client success. Here, Mintel takes a look at how the food, drink and wellness industries are encouraging people to age positively...

The "senior" demographic is a label often assigned to people of retirement age who may be slowing down or suffering from health problems. Due to the modern reality of longer lifespans, however, this group actually represents a very broad spectrum of the population. As lifespans reach 100 years and older, the perception of "seniors" as one cohesive group of consumers has become outdated.

Today, many people work and live longer while being wealthier, healthier, better-informed and more active than previous generations. This carries with it significant opportunities for food and drink companies to find new ways to target older consumers.

As the senior population continues to grow, it is crucial for brands to recognise the full potential of marketing to older adults and tailor campaigns accordingly. Challenging stereotypes of this age group is key, as is reflecting how products and services can be relevant to them specifically.

Food and drink products targeting seniors still limited in Europe

Despite a rise in the world's ageing population, "senior" claims in food and drink have so far seen limited use. From 2014 – 18, less than 1% of global food and drink launches targeted seniors (aged 55+) overtly with on-pack claims, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). Japan and China dominate global food and drink launches that target seniors, reflecting a less stigmatised attitude toward ageing: Japan accounted for a third of launches with senior claims from 2014 – 18, followed by China with 30%. While Europe has seen a slight increase in products with senior claims from 2016 – 18, the few launches do not reflect the region's large share of older consumers. Formulations will need to increase as the United Nations predicts seniors will make up almost 35% of Europe's population by 2050.

Bakoma Senior Active Peach Flavored Drinking Yogurt (Poland): Leading Polish dairy company rolled out a senior-friendly yogurt range in March 2018. The yogurt and yogurt drinks are lactose-free and enriched with calcium and vitamin D.

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Seamild Blood Maintenance Nutritious Oatmeal for Middle-Aged and Seniors (China): Functional cereals can target busy, health-conscious seniors. This hot cereal contains Australian oats, pumpkin, bitter buckwheat, spirulina, fiber and vitamin C.

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Proactive approaches to health can come in many forms

Besides senior-specific claims, Mintel's 2019 Global Food & Drink Trend ‘Through the Ages’ predicts that general ‘healthy ageing’ will be the next extension for products that offer more holistic, proactive and ongoing wellness solutions.

For older demographics, this means products will not necessarily have to carry the sometimes-stigmatised "seniors only" positioning; meanwhile, brands will be able to rely on many of the same claims that appeal to younger consumers - thus resonating across all age groups. Areas to focus on include gut, bone and joint health, as well as ingredients that could improve cognitive health. Food and drink can serve as sources of essential nutrients for prevention and positive ageing, such as prebiotics for gut health, MCTs for brain function, lutein for eye health and collagen peptide for joints.

Brands could also take inspiration from scientifically proven healthy eating patterns for a new wave of positive ageing claims. For example, the Mediterranean diet has shown potential to link with brain health claims in food, drink and supplements.

Asda Mackerel Fillets (UK): This skinless and boneless product is high in omega-3, which helps maintain normal function of the heart. Despite the correlation between nutrients in fish and heart health, less than 2% of products launched globally make related claims. 

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Adrien Gagnon Royal Jelly & Ginseng Ampoules (Canada): This supplement contains 2,000mg of maca and 200mg of ginseng to support cognitive function and reduce mental fatigue. Keeping brains healthy reduces a person's risk of cognitive decline with age.

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Trimona Plain Bulgarian Yogurt (US): This product states that it is "a staple for health and longevity in Bulgaria for years" on the back of the pack, describing how it prevents ageing, rather than reacting to it.

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Longer careers require energy and brain health

 Longer lifespans are driving consumers to work full- or part-time beyond traditional retirement age. Turning 65 years old no longer means trading in the office keys for a set of golf clubs. Increasingly, seniors are opting to delay retirement and stay in the workforce because they want to, because they have to, or a bit of both. As adults work longer, products that provide energy, brain health and, in the era of computers and smartphones, eye health, will be needed.

Eye health is impacted by lifestyle, including eating habits. Good eye health can therefore be supported by consumption of food and drink with nutrients such as vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids.

Meiji's Gold Advance Malt Flavored Milk (Thailand): The dairy drink contains ingredients to help with bone health, nervous system health, brain health and memory as well as vitamin A to help with eyesight.

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Jenny Zegler, Associate Director - Mintel Food & Drink

With offices in London, Chicago, Belfast, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Munich, New York, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Toronto, Mintel has forged a unique reputation as a world-renowned business brand. You can access Mintel reports at the Business & IP Centre free of charge with a Reader Pass. 

02 May 2019

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

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

Where can I find this service?

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

Who is this for?

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

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

What will the libraries offer?

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

What if I need further business support?

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

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

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

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

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

01 April 2019

A week in the life of... Frankie Fox, co-founder and Head of Innovation for The Foraging Fox

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To celebrate the British Library's Food Season, this month's Week in the life of... follows Frankie Fox, the co-founder and Head of Innovation for The Foraging Fox, a multi award winning producer of all natural condiments sold across the UK, Germany, The Netherlands and North America. Frankie is an alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme.

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Monday Starts with feeding the chickens and then the school run, dropping off the kids before racing into London to an office in Shoreditch for a feasibility exercise with an external consultant on some particular NPD (new product development) we have been looking at. This involves looking at the whole of market in our major territories for a class of products where we have gathered data ourselves and from our major importers. We look at the products themselves, whether they can be made within our brand values, potential manufacturers for these products, price point, competition, distribution and most importantly the size of the market, potential market share we could gain. It certainly feels a far cry from where it all began with our Original Beetroot Ketchup which started as a kitchen project with the children to teach them to cook with a surplus of beetroot and apples. We spent three years in the family kitchen developing this product, testing it out on family and friends. During which time I took pictures of all the condiments shelves in all my favourite stores looking for a market opportunity for our all natural flavoured ketchup. Once I was convinced there was an opportunity we worked on branding the branding and finally by booking a small producers stand at a trade show with a box of handmade samples to get proof of concept that there was actually a market before launching the company in earnest. 

There are always emails to catch up on. My co-founder and a member of team are exhibiting at a trade show in New York and so it’s nice to hear how it’s going and I need to catch up with the manufacturers and suppliers on upcoming production runs for our existing product ranges, and calls with the rest of the team on various different ongoing day to day business. However, I need to dash back as it’s parents evening for my youngest and I make it to her school just in time to meet my husband before sitting down with her teacher.

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Tuesday I start the day by dropping the kids at school, early doors as usual and go for a quick run through Hatfield Forest on my way back. It’s hard to fit exercise in around work and family commitments, so I like to make it part of my daily routine as much as possible. Running is time efficient and I like to be outdoors as much as I can as it really helps to clear my mind for the day. On a purely spiritual level, starting your day in an ancient forest puts everything into perspective!

I am working in the kitchen today on NPD (new product development) on adding products to an existing range and ideas for a new range altogether. This means a lot of time spent on research and time spent in the kitchen developing recipes by trial and error. I put music on whilst I work in the kitchen, and get all the ingredients and utensils out and plan what I am going to do. It pays to be really organised at this stage, and I fastidiously note down and to keep track of any changes I make with each version of any recipe. This is the favourite part of my job. At the moment I’m learning about a new type of preservation process, which is absolutely fascinating and I have spent hours on YouTube and looking at and trialing various recipes and ideas. I always feel a huge sense of excitement whenever I initiate a new range idea. The process from product inception to the shelf of a supermarket can be a long drawn out and painstaking process which is very involved and you need to invest a lot of time throughout the process so you need a lot of energy and passion for the product to take it through to market. When I am happy with a kitchen recipe for a product and have done the basic costings and understood price points by doing a feasibility exercise I will source and take the recipe to a manufacturer where we will work on manufacturing costings and their kitchen recipe to replicate my kitchen recipe. We have a confidentiality agreement in place with anyone we work with (read more about Trade Secrets in this Irn Bru case study). This next stage can go on for months, one product had so many countless kitchen version from the factory that weren’t quite right I started to feel so despondent that this product would never reach the shelf. It did, and I am really glad that we were so thorough and patient with this stage of development. When you are happy with their kitchen trial, then it can go on to the factory trial stage, which is a smaller scale version of full scale production the factory itself. This is when you may find you will need to tweak the recipe and method again to suit the machines, cooking and the factory processes. It’s always trial and error at each and every stage with larger volumes at stake but we are always learning. 

I clear the kitchen, fill the fridge and shelves with my samples, file my notes, shower and get into my evening wear as I am attending an awards ceremony tonight. However, my daughter is competing in her first swimming gala after school today so I need to be there for that first as it’s on my way. I look rather overdressed standing at the poolside cheering my daughter and her school on in a bright red cocktail dress and heels - but she was amazing and so were her whole team so I am bursting with pride and have no time to be self-conscious as I have a train to catch! The event is the Chef’s Choice Awards at The Shard in London, it’s a Food Service Catering Awards event to celebrate the best products in the catering industry. We have created a new food service format for our range of All Natural Beetroot Ketchups to reach a new audience of customers - to date our offerings have only been available in a retail glass format.  We decided to enter the awards to support the launch in this market, raise awareness for the products and the brand with wholesalers and food service customers and ultimately boost sales! Our OOH (Out of Home) salesperson is also attending the event with me to ensure we make the most of the event, speak to all the right people and get and convert these leads into sales. It’s a fun evening and we strike up conversations with other suppliers and wholesalers. To our absolute joy we win the Condiment Category and amazement we win the overall Product of the Year! I’m grinning ear to ear on the train home, everyone is asleep when I get home and so I leave the award out on the kitchen table for my husband the kids to see in the morning and we can celebrate over cereal.

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Wednesday Drop kids into school, a quick run and then catch up with my emails and calls the team about the awards ceremony and decide who we need to follow up with and how. We put together a press release with quotes from the judges to send to relevant media contacts and potential leads. Interview with The Grocer magazine for their piece on the win.

Thursday Drop kids early and dash into London to meet the team in White City, the day is spent in and out of internal meetings. My co-founder and I tend to start the day with a management meeting, then we have a whole team meeting which gives us an update on what everyone is working on. Then we have a specific sales and production planning meeting afterwards to discuss sales figures and stock levels in all territories to manage stock and plan productions. 

Friday Back in the Shoreditch office to do an in-depth taste testing session and follow up on the Monday NPD (new product development) meeting. Our monthly Board call to discuss work in progress and priorities. No day is the same and as a founder of a start-up business I have done every role at some point from bookkeeping, packing boxes, trade shows to in-store sampling sessions, so you care passionately about every single detail of the business even if you now have team members doing these functions. I always want to be there to support them in any way I can. It may be Friday but you never really clock off but it’s nice to look forward to spending the weekend in the garden, digging over the vegetable beds with the chickens pecking for worms - chitting potatoes and planting strawberries plants in the polytunnel with the kids and planting new raspberry canes in the fruit cage. Back to where it all started in the garden with the kids. Spring is my favourite time of the year, full of potential and endless possibilities.

18 February 2019

12 tips for starting up a fashion business

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As London Fashion Week is coming to an end and to coincide with the new season, The British Fashion Council, who organise the bi-annual event, have released figures from Mintel showing the fashion industry directly contributed £32.3bn to the UK GDP in 2017.

This represents a 5.4% increase after 2016; a growth rate 1.6% higher than the rest of the economy. Womenswear represents 51% of the fashion market, with menswear accounting for 26%.

However, despite the importance of the sector, it is one of the hardest to succeed in, due to high start-up costs, sizeable competition and the diversity of products available.

So it’s essential for anyone starting up a fashion business, to have a business plan in place outlining their strategy, and to understand where their fashion brand or idea sits in the overall marketplace.

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Fashion Angel is a fashion business accelerator offering mentoring, workshops (including at the Business & IP Centre) and access to funding to both new and established fashion industry entrepreneurs. Alison Lewy MBE, Fashion Angel founder and author of Design, Create, Sell – a guide to starting a successful fashion business, gives some top tips for anyone planning to start a new fashion business:

  1. Develop a business plan before you start – a business plan is your personal roadmap outlining your goals, visions and objectives and not just needed for raising finance. It will be central to your business development and be a useful tool to measure your progress against your projections.
  2. Don’t underestimate your start-up costs – fashion business start-up costs can be high so avoid nasty surprises and list all your potential costs. Include the cost of your sample collection, stock, equipment, marketing materials, website, IP and professional fees, insurance, and of course any deposits required for rent or utilities.
  3. Research the marketplace – find out about the size of the market for your type of product and whether it’s an expanding area. The British Library’s Business & IP Centre is a very useful resource for this as has numerous up-to-date fashion sector specific market research reports you can access for free. Identify your key competitors and analyse their business and marketing strategies. This will help you define your competitive edge and what differentiates your brand from other similar products.
  4. Create a strong brand – your visual branding and brand story are central to the way the public perceives your label. Your customers should develop an emotional connection, and brands that create a strong identity are the ones most likely to endure.
  5. Profile your target customer/s – conduct primary research to understand your customers’ buying and lifestyle habits and create profiles for each type of potential customer. Keep this information in mind when you are designing your collection/products and setting your prices. Remember, you are not designing for yourself!
  6. Plan your product range – offer a focused tight collection to start with, and do it well, rather than try to please everyone. It will be easier to produce too! You can diversify and expand once you have built your reputation and have sales history to base decisions on.
  7. Identify your sales channels – think about your route to market and how you will reach your customers. Do you plan to be a wholesale business selling to retailers? If so how will you manage this? If selling direct to the consumer, are you planning to open a bricks and mortar shop or will it be online or both?
  8. Work out a marketing plan – you may have an amazing product and lovely website, but how are people going to know about it? The marketing strategy is a key element of any business plan and should detail how you will promote the business, and budget needed accordingly.
  9. Adopt a realistic pricing strategy – your pricing must be in line with similar offerings in the marketplace. Unless you are a well-known luxury brand, every product has a ceiling price that customers will pay.
  10. Offer excellent quality and customer service – this area allows a small business to shine and can give you a competitive advantage. Reputation takes a long time to build but can be destroyed very quickly. Customers expect value for money whether you are operating at the value or luxury end of the market.
  11. Keep a tight control of your finances – monitor your cash flow on a regular basis, this will help you foresee any potential problems arising and allow you to find solutions, rather than suddenly being faced with not being able to pay your bills or suppliers.
  12. Take advantage of any networking opportunities – you’ll need all the help you can get, so make sure you tell everyone you meet what your business does. Always carry business cards with you and always ask for one, so you can start to build your own database of useful contacts.

Starting a fashion business isn’t easy, but with passion, drive and a clear vision it can be one of the most exciting and rewarding industries to work in.

To see all of the Business & IP Centre's upcoming workshops, click here.

Fashion Angel

02 March 2018

A fashionable way to start your business

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London-Fashion-week-logo-300x225London Fashion Week has just finished for another year and is more international than ever, with over 50% of the designers born outside of the UK. The week is a great opportunity to show off their collections to global retailers, as well as getting coverage in the mainstream media and fashion press. In addition to helping new designers with their start-up businesses the show organisers offer British Fashion Council's programme with a range of business advice and seminars.

The fashion industry in the UK currently contributes a staggering £66 billion to our economy. With London Fashion Week adding £30 million to London every year.

Perhaps not surprisingly fashion is one of the most popular topics to research within the Business & IP Centre. And we have a great deal of valuable information and advice available. Have a look at our Fashion Industry Guide to get a flavour.

Mintellogo_900x550For example our Mintel report UK Design Fashion 2017 shows that men spend more on designer clothes than women, because although men shop less, they buy higher value brands. Also 56% of men agreed that wearing designer fashion makes them feel more confident, compared to 49% of women.

The report says that casual clothing and footwear are now the products that drive the designer market. This is a result of a move to less formal wear than in the past for visits to restaurants and trips to the theatre.

Young people between the ages of 16 and 24 years dominate expenditure in every category of designer fashion, from underwear to shoes. This is due to the importance of social media, where celebrities can influence young people to emulate their lifestyles. Just look at how celebrities crowd the front rows of the top fashion shows.


Ibisworld_logo2The IBIS World retail clothing report also covers the rising importance of social media and how it is expected to boost demand for fashion. The new breed of social media celebrities have a significant influence on their followers.

Instagram has become the key social media platform for fashion. “With more than 200 million on Instagram connected to fashion accounts all over the world, Instagram has become a global destination
for people to experience this stylish industry unlike anywhere else.”

As well as market research and related fashion information in the Centre, we also run regular workshops and offer one to one advice clinics via our partner Fashion Angel.

Don’t forget, we are here to help realise your fashion dream!

Seema Rampersad and guest blogger Polly James

 

14 November 2017

Polly McMaster - Dressed for Success

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During 2017’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, The Business & IP Centre hosted our flagship Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time event. Amongst our panel of innovative entrepreneurs was Polly McMaster, the co-founder of The Fold, a contemporary womenswear label created for the professional woman. Founded in 2012, Polly’s vision for a feminine brand that created stylish yet appropriate outfits for the working environment and smart evening wear has gone from strength-to-strength. Today this high-growth brand can be found in over 20 countries and counts the Duchess of Cambridge and Samantha Cameron as customers. With such impressive progress in just five years we caught up with Polly to hear how The Fold has been able to achieve such traction in the market in such a short space of time.

Polly McMaster - The Fold
Polly McMaster, Co-Founder of The Fold


The Fold is described as ‘a contemporary new label that embraces and inspires the modern, professional woman’. How did you identify this gap in the market?

This was me! I worked in consulting and private equity – where a suit is the dress code for men. I really struggled to find clothes that made me feel confident, stylish, smart and contemporary. I did a lot of research with other working women and found that this really touched a nerve with so many of them, so it was a very compelling thought to create a brand that was relevant to women like myself and addressed that problem.

Have you always had a passion for fashion? And if so, did you think this passion would eventually become your profession?

Absolutely, way back to school days where I did dress-making classes in the evening, and made my own clothes, to Art A Level and work experience in an amazing couture brand. However, I am definitely quite left-brain / right-brain and also love problem-solving, analysis, etc. – so I took an unconventional route to fashion via science, business strategy and investment. It’s helped me have a more rounded view of the business, but it’s amazing to be able to bring together so many areas that I’m passionate about.

The Fold Image 2
Polly wearing one of her designs

Fashion is a consistently popular area for new start-ups, but starting and growing a successful fashion business is tough. Whilst the UK is a centre of design creativity, fashion businesses often face a high failure rate. If you could give one piece of advice to a budding entrepreneur entering the fashion world what would it be?

I entered this world with a completely different perspective, and I think that has been helpful. I approached it from quite a commercial angle – which was to provide an amazing product to a niche group of women after identifying a gap in the market. That has influenced everything in the business from both the creative side through to the business side. By having that clear vision, it’s helped us to be more competitive. It is a very tough industry, and it also takes a lot of resource in terms of both cash and expertise to navigate it. As we’ve grown, I’ve certainly leant on the support of very experienced Chairman, investors and advisors who’ve helped us learn, adapt and survive!

What has been your proudest achievement in your business journey to date?

Recruiting a great team and great investors have been the most important thing in the business. I’m really proud that we’ve created a brand that has attracted so many talented people, and that I get to work with them every day. That feels like huge progress and makes the future very exciting.

I’m also really proud that we dress amazing women for work every day – it’s very inspiring to receive messages from them to say that they nailed a job interview, or gave a powerful presentation and felt that they’d had an extra confidence boost from wearing The Fold. That’s when I know we’ve done what we set out to do.

The Fold Image 1

What do you think the future holds for The Fold and Polly McMaster?

The Fold still feels like it’s at the beginning of its journey! We have a lot of exciting plans – we are opening a new store concept next Spring, and also continuing to build our online presence in both the UK and the US. Our customers are truly international so we are excited for The Fold to become a global destination for working women. For me personally, I’m learning every day, and loving balancing being a mum with running the business. I’m excited to grow with the business through the next chapter!

Watch Polly's talk at Global Entrepreneurship Week's Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time here: