The British Library‚Äôs 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: ‚ÄúFor 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‚Äôs most diverse communities.‚ÄĚ
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‚Äôs 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‚Äôm not based in London, what help can I get?
The project is modelled on the Business & IP Centre‚Äôs 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.
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 3:04 PM
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.
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‚Äôs nice to hear how it‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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.
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‚Äôs 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‚Äôm 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‚Äôt 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs Choice Awards at The Shard in London, it‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôm 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.
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‚Äôs 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.
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 3:36 PM
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‚Äôs 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.
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 ‚Äď a guide to starting a successful fashion business, gives some top tips for anyone planning to start a new fashion business:
Develop a business plan before you start ‚Äď 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.
Don‚Äôt underestimate your start-up costs ‚Äď 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.
Research the marketplace ‚Äď find out about the size of the market for your type of product and whether it‚Äôs an expanding area. The British Library‚Äôs 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.
Create a strong brand ‚Äď 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.
Profile your target customer/s ‚Äď conduct primary research to understand your customers‚Äô 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!
Plan your product range ‚Äď 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.
Identify your sales channels ‚Äď 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?
Work outa marketing plan ‚Äď 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.
Adopt a realistic pricing strategy ‚Äď 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.
Offer excellent quality and customer service ‚Äď 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.
Keep a tight control of your finances ‚Äď 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.
Take advantage of any networking opportunities ‚Äď you‚Äôll 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‚Äôt 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.
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 12:09 PM
London 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 programmewith 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 Guideto get a flavour.
For 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.
The 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. ‚ÄúWith 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.‚ÄĚ
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‚Äôt forget, we are here to help realise your fashion dream!
Seema Rampersad and guest blogger Polly James
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 1:03 PM
During 2017‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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, Co-Founder of The Fold
The Fold is described as ‚Äėa contemporary new label that embraces and inspires the modern, professional woman‚Äô. How did you identify this gap in the market?
This was me! I worked in consulting and private equity ‚Äď 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. ‚Äď so I took an unconventional route to fashion via science, business strategy and investment. It‚Äôs helped me have a more rounded view of the business, but it‚Äôs amazing to be able to bring together so many areas that I‚Äôm passionate about.
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 ‚Äď 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôve grown, I‚Äôve certainly leant on the support of very experienced Chairman, investors and advisors who‚Äôve 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‚Äôm really proud that we‚Äôve 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‚Äôm also really proud that we dress amazing women for work every day ‚Äď it‚Äôs very inspiring to receive messages from them to say that they nailed a job interview, or gave a powerful presentation and felt that they‚Äôd had an extra confidence boost from wearing The Fold. That‚Äôs when I know we‚Äôve done what we set out to do.
What do you think the future holds for The Fold and Polly McMaster?
The Fold still feels like it‚Äôs at the beginning of its journey! We have a lot of exciting plans ‚Äď 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‚Äôm learning every day, and loving balancing being a mum with running the business. I‚Äôm excited to grow with the business through the next chapter!
We often get enquiries in the Business & IP Centre about how to research digital trends. Such as mobile phone usage and social media growth.
Fortunately, we have access to eMarketer research, which is the first place to look for research about marketing in the digital world. eMarketer PRO is relied on by thousands of companies and business professionals worldwide to understand marketing trends, consumer behaviour. And to get hold of essential data on the fast-changing digital economy.
eMarketer is unusual for a market research publisher in how much information they give away for through their free newsletters.
But the only way to get hold of their full content is to come into the Business & IP Centre in London and access eMarketer PRO.
Here you will find:
Over 200 new reports each year with data, interviews with subject matter experts, and original analysis to provide insights, understanding and context on the most important topics in digital.
Aggregated data from over 3,000 sources of research in the data library.
Over 7,500 proprietary metrics about the digital marketplace, including media trends, consumer behaviour and device usage.
The ability to create customised charts and tables to help tell compelling stories with data.
Coverage across 100 countries, including proprietary metrics for 40 core countries.
eMarketer PRO will help to:
Answer specific questions and access data about digital related topics. Such as how much time do millennials spend with online video? How many smartphone users are there in the UK? What are the key UK digital trends for 2017?
Get deeper insight on digital topics. Such as what is programmatic advertising? What are the pros and cons of developing mobile apps vs mobile websites?
Research topics related to Advertising & Marketing, B2B, Demographics, Email, Industries, Measurement, Mobile, Retail & Ecommerce, Search, Social Media, Video
Benefit from eMarketer Forecasts using eMarketer Estimates up to 2020 for hundreds of Metrics.
To give you an idea of what you would find, here are some extracts from a typical eMarketer report.
UK Digital Video and TV 2017: Who‚Äôs Watching, How They‚Äôre Watching and What It Means for Marketers.
Nearly two-thirds of the UK population will watch digital video content in 2017
There will be more digital video viewers than smartphone users in 2017
Short-form content isn‚Äôt necessarily the preserve of the young; older groups are viewing increasing amounts
In terms of platforms, YouTube dominates the short-form space and has massive overall reach
For long-form VOD, the BBC‚Äôs iPlayer service dominates, but Netflix is gaining ground
So what does this mean for Marketers?
Pre-roll ads don‚Äôt work and are mostly disliked on digital channels
However, pre-roll is still where most of the money is going: 59% of digital video ad spending in H1 2016 went to pre- and post-roll inventory
Social is one area that seems like a good environment for video ads
Engagement with a video ad on social media often leads to a purchase
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 12:41 PM
Henry Collins ‚Äď Business & IP Centre work experience intern ‚Äď recently talked to entrepreneur Peter Ford, founder of Mr Pen, about spotting and filling gaps in the market. Mr Pen is a family-owned and operated mail order business fountain pens and accessories.
How did you get started?
Like any entrepreneur, I saw a gap in the market and filled it. In this case it was by founding a speedy mail order pen operation known as Mr Pen. Mr Pen provides 17 different types of nibs for fountain pens. This is an area long ignored by the large companies who, over time, have stopped catering for this unique operation due to supposed lack of demand for this niche market. However, my business research, and the success of the business, has proved that there is a market for this product. In Mr Pen‚Äôs headquarters in Ruislip we buy pens from contractors in China, Germany and the UK and grind the nibs and provide a customised engraving service for customers.
What‚Äôs the ethos of your company?
The company ethos is about providing very high quality products for an affordable price. The fact that we do not sell through retail outlets means that there are no increased costs on top of the price and, as a result we can sell our products for the lowest price possible. We have not had problems with counterfeiting which many of the larger pen brands have. From one small pen business it has expanded across a range of products including watches, hearing aid batteries and custom presents for special occasions. Our engraving machines are also adapted for use with the watches, meaning that the business has been adaptable and changed with the demands of the customer.
What are your top tips for anyone starting a business?
When starting a business plan you have to be incredibly honest with yourself and not fool yourself with inflated projected revenue figures
Breaking even in the first year is incredibly important as most businesses do not survive past this point unless they achieve this
Treat your customers well because goodwill goes far ‚Äď this applies even if you may be cheated by unscrupulous people once in a while!
What entrepreneur inspires you?
Lord Sugar has been an inspiration to me as he has changed his business direction so many times and has proved very adept at being adaptable, which something I have also had to do.
If you want to spot a gap in the market, why not come to the British Library‚Äôs Business & IP Centre and use the extensive business resources and expertise available. Our extensive market research databases enable you to explore potential market gaps whilst our rnage of one-to-one advice and guidance enables you to develop and protect new products to fill these gaps. For example, our sessions with Bang Creations support you to exploit market gaps through developing and commercialising your product or invention whilst keeping costs to a minimum. So come in and visit us soon!
Henry Collins on behalf of the Business & IP Centre
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 9:07 AM
In the Business & IP Centre we often get enquiries about how to research a particular geographical area. With an increasing interest in ‚Äėkeeping trade local‚Äô and in the provenance of products, many start-ups are choosing to establish and market themselves as ‚Äėlocal‚Äô 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.
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 ‚Äď 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‚Äôs potential to sell or promote their products. Below are a few of the resources you can use to research your area.
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.
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 ‚ÄėLocal Area profiles‚Äô, 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.
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 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‚Äôre interested in to get rolling updates of what‚Äôs going on in the area.
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‚Äôs 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.
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.
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.
Starting your own chocolate business is something many of us only dream about. Amelia Rope is one woman who has immersed herself in the chocolate industry and has come up with new and innovative flavours to tantalise our taste buds. But how does one become a chocolatier or even begin to make the dream of owning a chocolate business a reality? Amelia is a current participant on the Business & IP Centre Innovating for Growth Programme and we had the chance to ask her some of our questions.
Photo credit: Lucy Young
Hi Amelia, where did the idea come from to start your own business?
I have always wanted to have my own business from a young age. Looking back I think I always wanted freedom and independence from anyone controlling me financially. During my 20‚Äôs and early 30‚Äôs I was a PA for small businesses, large corporates, hospitals and doctors surgeries. I qualified as a massage therapist, studied nutrition, herbal medicine and qualified as an aromatherapist and my last ‚Äėproper‚Äô job before starting my business was as a Practice Manager. It took some time to finally get where I am now ‚Äď I founded Amelia Rope Chocolate in September 2007 and now my chocolates are sold in hotels and department stores across the UK, in the US, Dubai and Malaysia.
I appeared on Masterchef twice - I am definitely not a chef but it gave me the courage to contemplate life amongst food. Also having a life-coach helped me believe in myself, and encouraged me to take a risk which helped me convert from a Practice Manager to a chocolatier. Another key turning point was when a well-known food editor flippantly said I could be the next Juliette Binoche (I don‚Äôt think they had any idea I would take it literally!) and when my chocolate diamond geezer Patrick Reeves, who believed in me so much, put in a commission for 1,000 chocolate bars to get me kick-started. I was then lucky enough to meet Ewan Venters (then Director of Food Halls, Selfridges) who spotted my first two bars and stocked them in Selfridges.
Photo credit: Mary Wadsworth
Tell us about what makes Amelia Rope Chocolate so unique
I believe small businesses are unique in that they allow the personality of the business owner to shine through in their products, and this allows them to really make their mark in their industry. Chocolate confectionary is generally a completely crowded market. However, when I entered the premium chocolate bar market there were very few of us ‚Äď in fact it was not such a flooded market then as it is now as there isn't as much space in this area. When you look at the brands in this sector you will see each of our own characters/individual stamps coming through. I love splashes of colour, design and have always had a very distinct palate for what I like to eat, loathe and crave. Put all of these together, and a mind which whirls around with lots of ideas, and I suppose you will get something different! Some of my recipes are traditional, but the end flavour I believe is different. Perhaps this stems from the way I create my recipes which are as if I was developing an aromatherapy blend. My love of sea salt influences my flavours and chocolate is such a good medium to carry salt: especially milk and white chocolate.
How did you know there was a market for your premium chocolate bars?
By complete luck! My bespoke products just hit the spot with consumers immediately after a press drop off to most of the national newspapers and magazines. My business featured in Stella Magazine, and it just rolled on from there. The chocolate bars were my most effective product to market in the range. I also went to the Business & IP Centre, whenever I had time to learn about trends, markets and begin to think of strategies and I still visit the Centre today when researching markets and developing my business plans.
Photo credit: Mary Wadsworth
What hurdles have you had to overcome in your journey so far?
The main hurdle is lack of funding to really propel forward at the pace I want to. My aim was to crank it up and have an opportunity to sell out within five years. It is also difficult to achieve a good work/life balance ‚Äď for so many years I worked every day and for crazy hours. I found I let go of friends, family and relationships because my business consumed me. Now I take time off at the weekends (unless it is the busy seasonal times or I am travelling on business), go out at least 2-3 times a week in the evening and go to the gym regularly. Mentally and physically I feel so much better as a result. I have very high expectations of myself and all the people I work with but each hurdle has been worth overcoming to get where I am today.
How did you first hear about the Innovating for Growth Programme?
On twitter and I immediately went to the website to explore more. I was amazed when I won a place and it has delivered way beyond my expectations. It has given me a chance to really focus on my business. For some time I have wanted to strip my business right down to its core, cross-examine it in a critical way and then to put appropriate pieces back together, alongside bringing new facets in such as streamlining my production. With a team of experts and one-to-one sessions my learning curve has been intense, tough and challenging at times, but I have learnt so much and feel in a much better position with my business than when I started. Life is about learning and transforming ‚Äď with Innovating for Growth I have begun to do both and I can‚Äôt wait to see how much further I grow with the help of the programme to build a good, effective team to support me and my business and grow significantly both in UK and globally.
Photo credit: Mary Wadsworth
What tips would you give to any entrepreneurs looking to scale up?
When you set up try and bear in mind that your product may be a hit, which will lead to scaling up. Have a plan about how your product can do this, the costs involved and how it will work for your brand. Applying for Innovating for Growth can certainly help anyone on this journey. Be prepared to have a good stash of cash too!
If, like Amelia, you want to scale up apply for Innovating for Growth today.
Innovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 11:59 AM
The digital publication of this book by Benedict Dellot, published by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) on May 2014, attracted my attention when it was featured last month on the ‚ÄúSmall Business and Entrepreneurship‚ÄĚ section of the Management & Business Studies Portal. It is a research study report, available for everyone as open-access material and there is no need to be registered as user of the portal to access it.
The report looks at the reasons behind the rise of self-employment and microbusinesses in the UK, and is a very interesting report to read as it highlights the profiles of the main users of the Business & IP Centre. It is an output of the project named ‚ÄúThe Power of Small‚ÄĚ, which seeks to better understand the growing community of self-employed and microbusinesses, and was launched by RSA in collaboration with Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade goods and vintage items.
The report focuses on the individuals involved in the self-employed community, trying to answer questions such as why so many people are turning to self-employment and what this means for them personally. It segments the self-employed community into six ‚Äútribes‚ÄĚ, from Visionaries all the way through to Dabblers (see Figure 1), presenting a typical case for each ‚Äútribe‚ÄĚ. The author considers this typology crucial for policymakers who can then create effective interventions and policy solutions that will improve the livelihood of the self-employed community.
The report highlights the following main research findings and recommendations:
Most people choose to be self-employed for greater freedom, meaning and control, defying the myth that those who started up in the recessionary period of the last five years did so to escape unemployment.
The biggest increases in self-employment have been in professional occupations (one of the highest skilled groups), defying the myth that most of the newly self-employed are low-skilled odd-jobbers.
Very few that started up in the last 5 years have taken employees, so there is need to stimulate growth and recruitment in the self-employed;
Despite the majority agreeing that the economy is getting better and the country is heading in the right direction, very few agree that the government adequately supports the self-employed and that the welfare system is fair to people in their position; there is need for urgent review of government policy on self-employment, from welfare and taxes, all the way through to education and housing.
In the next phase of the Power of Small project, attention will be focused on the wider economic and social implications of the growth of the microbusiness community. This report ‚Äď the first of three - gives a good understanding of what it means for the people directly involved, but questions remain about the impact of a growing microbusiness community on major issues that affect us all, such as productivity, innovation, jobs growth, inequality and living standards.
Irini Efthimiadou on behalf of the Business & IP Centre London
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 11:00 AM