Innovation and enterprise blog

Introduction

This blog is written by members of the Business & IP Centre team and some of our expert partners and discusses business, innovation and enterprise. Read more

12 July 2021

Meet Judy Chicangana-Matthews, founder of Delmora

We are shining a light on one of our fantastic, fashionable Start-ups in London Libraries (SiLL) businesses, Delmora, founded by Judy Chicangana-Matthews. Demora offer a variety of beautiful jewellery items and accessories for women. We spoke to Judy to find out more about her business journey and her experience with the SiLL programme.

Judy, founder of Delmora

Can you please tell us a bit about your business and how it came into being?

Delmora is a brand that helps women turn a 'good look' into a 'great look'. How do we do that? We sell the best jewellery and accessories for women's outfits. I always say "we" because I foresee Delmora expanding into a company that offers many jobs and does great things for its community. At the moment, it's just me doing the production, packaging, quality control, marketing and so on. But behind Delmora's progress, it's not just me. There are a lot of people and small businesses behind the curtains. For example, my husband that motivates me during those difficult moments as an entrepreneur, all the Delmora suppliers (at the moment, 85% of our suppliers are British) and finally our partners, we donate a part of our net profits to the Charity LAWA based in London.

What was the inspiration for Delmora?

My father and aunt are entrepreneurs, and I always had the idea that I would follow in their footsteps, so I studied business. I remember once I suggested to my father that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and he told me that he wanted a better future for me. He wanted to see me working in a big office for a big company. So, I shut down my dreams, believing that being an entrepreneur wasn't good enough. Now, looking back I am grateful for the advice, but I suggest to any parents listening, please support your children and help them try to achieve their dreams.

I choose jewellery because:

  • It is my passion
  • That market doesn’t have many barriers to entry which is good, but it also makes it super competitive
  • The initial investment required wasn’t too high
  • I found suitable suppliers quickly

Why did you want to start up a business?

Independence and support. I am looking for financial freedom and being able to manage my life in a way that I can care about myself. While working in offices, I was tired of doing nothing but working for someone else. I used to dream about having a hobby such as painting or crafting. I love working with my hands and creating new things. That is how I found out that jewellery would be perfect for me.

My second motivation is supporting others. When I was living in Colombia, I was a lecturer in a university that aimed to help people that couldn’t afford private, professional education. It was great! I worked there for 6 years, and I felt fulfilled because I was doing something good for others. One day I realised that I was not achieving my dreams. The working conditions made it almost impossible to dream about having a house or having enough money to travel for holidays. I had the same car that my father gave me before graduating from University. So, I realised that I needed to help myself first to be able to help others. I decided to launch Delmora and look for that financial independence to help myself at the same time as I help others. Currently, Delmora is supporting the charity LAWA based in London. My dream is that in the future, I will be able to help many girls that are living through domestic violence or any other type of abuse.

How did the SiLL project help you in setting up your business?

SiLL is a terrific project because it's available to anyone. Even if you don't have your own business and you have an idea. That is how I started the programme; Delmora was just an idea when I decided to attend the masterclasses. Although I have a business background, I didn't know where to find information or how to address the British market. That was the most significant help. Learning about COBRA and how the library supports businesses with industry guides and multiple resources such as Mintel and Euromonitor reports, helped me to create my marketing strategy to start Delmora.

In the marketing masterclasses, I learnt how to approach the different e-platforms with good content and how to reach my final customer. As Delmora has a presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest, that was super important. There is still so much to do, but this was an excellent starting point.

What was the most helpful part of the SiLL project for you?

Learning about all the free tools that the Library offers to entrepreneurs. After I enrolled in the project, I started to be more interested about the activities, webinars and seminars that the Library provides and I have attended the ones on Intellectual property, marketing and how to take photos with an iPhone.

I am an avid consumer of the market reports to educate myself about the behaviour and product preferences of my customers. When I go to the Library, I spend hours taking notes and reading all this info.

The masterclasses are also very helpful as they teach new trends that help entrepreneurs to improve their processes.

Can you tell us a bit about the business community that is developing as a part of SiLL

I love when I’m around other entrepreneurs as you can learn from other business’ experiences. Also, being able to share your experiences is therapeutic and make you realise that you are not alone. SiLL facilitates those conversations and networking. I always look for other small business that could potentially be my suppliers.

Making black Tshirt

What was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your business/plans to start up a business? How did you respond? 

The impact was huge. I launched my first product at the end of February and then in March, Covid hit. In the beginning, people were buying the essentials such as food and toilet paper, so jewellery was considered a luxury. Nowadays, many people are concerned about their jobs and how that is going to impact their finances.

Covid also affects my KPI’s in terms of delivery. I use the service Royal Mail 24, and I have had severe delays on the delivery of the parcels. To compensate my customers, sometimes I offer discounts as a part of the customer service. This practice has seriously affected my margins, so surviving has been very difficult.

My response has been offering discounts to my customers and creating programs to increase the brand’s recognition. For example, I offer the Delmora Club discount to all my customers in which the members have exclusive access to special discounts and pre-launch of our collections. We also recently created the program named “Delmora Brand Champion” that aims to get more positive reviews around our online presence.

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

Do it. I was petrified before I started Delmora as I had a good job with a steady income, and I felt my professional future was promising. I had job interviews in big companies, and I was starting to love the London nightlife with cocktails/wine on weekends and shopping during my free time. So, starting a business required for me to save money and Goodness knows when I will take a steady pay cheque again however, I really enjoy being my own boss and working for myself instead of using my talents to line the pockets of other business owners.

When I started, fear was always a factor but I'm glad I went through that phase and decided to create Delmora. It gives me a purpose and the learning has been immense.  After a year, I have spent all my savings and I am not at the point of taking a salary yet. But the reward has been incredible experiences, and I have known incredible people that are going through the same.

Also, it is good to remember that the options are endless. If an idea doesn't work, there is always another idea that could be the one, but you will never know if you don't try.

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

Before I started my business, I took the Clifton Strengths Test, which reveals your main strengths. One of those for me is that I am a Learner. That was a big revelation because I wasn't aware of that, but I have since realised it is true. This has been crucial for me as an entrepreneur.

When I started, I thought that a bachelor's degree, a postgraduate diploma, an MBA and a qualification in Project Management would be enough. But I had to learn Photography, Photoshop and I am in the process of learning Illustrator and how to shoot videos.

I also thought the most difficult thing would be negotiating with suppliers, but that was the easiest part. Establishing processes and organising all the info to give the customer the best possible experience is very difficult. For example, every time I sell something, I need to go through a long quality control procedure involving a 30-point check list to ensure the customer journey and service levels are excellent and consistent. It is easy to get lost in the countless files and e-files that I manage.

Another example is when I receive raw material, I need to assign a code to every unit, and I need to fill in a file that records all the updated stock, which is crucial when I am planning a new collection. Also, I need to put that info on my cash flow to monitor where the money is going.

Key points, I would say, organisation and the willingness to learn have been skills of paramount importance that I have developed during this process.

What would you say to anyone looking to go to a SiLL workshop / talk to their local SME Champion?

It is a great help. All the masterclasses and tips will help you at some point. I would advise you to organise the information by subjects, and then you can come back as and when you require. I was always taking notes and filing the info I got from the programme. For example, I haven’t done my Canvas business plan but thanks to the programme, I know I have the template and all my notes ready to start it.

 

I think it is vital to say thank you to all the people that have helped entrepreneurs throughout their formation and to the Bexley Library and British Library for offering these programs and making them available to anyone. Thanks to Bexleyheath library for the time and effort invested as well as to the instructors for sharing all the tips and information. Finally, thanks to you Ioanna, because you have been an approachable person from the beginning of the programme showing a sincere interest in helping us.

 

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.

SiLL logos

28 June 2021

Introducing Katherine Tinoco, founder of ArtPerÚK

This week we're shining a light on Katherine Tinoco, founder of ArtPerÚK a business created to share Peruvian culture with the wider community in London and the UK through the art and enjoyment of dance. ArtPerÚK burst onto the UK dance scene in mid-2019, offering Peruvian folkloric dance classes representative of the three regions of Peru: Coast, Andes and Jungle. 

Kaherine

'We believe that dancing is a great way to keep fit, happy, develop your self esteem and it is also a great opportunity to improve your wellbeing, having the option to meet people and explore different cultures while improving the wellbeing, reducing stress and avoiding negative feelings. We do not just dance, we take you on a journey through the exploration of the wonderful culture and history of Peru that will awaken your interest and curiosity for Latin American issues by several detailed choreographies.'

ArtPerÚK delivers and promotes the well-being of individuals through dance classes which allow them to have healthier lifestyles, encourage social integration and connect people with other communities, institutions and organisations in different boroughs, institutions, community organisations as well as the private sector.  

The services ArtPerÚK offer are: 

  • Dance Classes for adults and kids (online and face to face group classes) 
  • Private dance classes (online and face to face classes) 
  • Performances at private, corporate events
  • Public performances  and community events 
  • Team Building activities 
  • Fitness workshops 

 

'I've joined more than 10 online webinars and workshops were I was able to learn more about how to reboot my business in this time of crisis.  The Marketing Workshop has really helped me to improve my social media presence on Instagram and Facebook, the Finance Workshop that helped me understand how to manage tax returns effectively.  I was also able to enroll in several 1-1 meetings with a Business Expert, like Sophie White Who was amazing! She helped me align my ideas for the business and connect me with people to receive support on finance, legal and also helped me to promote my events. That’s why we were able to launch a 2 workshops  for the Croydon community. Offering free dance lessons online. 

Free events are run every month for new joiners who haven't tried a lesson before can experience the classes and try them out to see if its for them before signing up to one of the plans. 

'We offer private and public dance lessons including online for the pandemic, and we've also performed at several corporate events to bring a a colourful taste of exotic Peruvian culture. 

ArtPerUK

We hope to present all our colourful choreographies in the near future to the public, with the traditional costumes that are such an integral part of Peruvian culture. Keep in touch and supporting us following on social media, on Facebook, Instagram as well as our channel on Youtube to keep up to date with our latest offers, choreographies, tutorials, and flashmobs - when we can finally get out and make some!

My advice is to do a lot of research and make sure that your idea will work and manage expectations to update your product or service strategy. See your finances for the initial years and see the funding that you will need to operate well.

I learn that as a women, mother and entrepreneur we have to be resilient all the time and keep going, using any trouble or problem as an opportunity to improve, see the glass half full and not half empty. As an entrepreneur we faced lots of challenges and we need to see this to learn more and keep going with the same passion from the beginning.

Lockdown came at a really bad time for ArtPerUK, when we were just starting to expand our physical classes, and were attracting interest through free trial dance classes around South London.  However, “every challenge is an opportunity”, and when lockdown was implemented, I reinvented the services and switched to online classes, and suddenly we were able to attract several clients to the classes. Online classes also allowed us to attract clients from outside of London, like Germany, Japan, USA, etc and allowed us to expand its client base beyond physical constraints of having to be present in a certain place. Lockdown meant that people wanted to keep fit and maintain social contact, and that is what ArtPerUK offered. While in lockdown ArtPerUK launched more than 151 online dance lessons private and public, created several online challenges and driving awareness and participation. Ironically lockdown also made some things easier, by allowing people to dance from the comfort of their own home and not have to travel, which actually helped get a lot more participants.

 

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.

SiLL logos

24 June 2021

A week in the life of Silvia Pingitore, founder of The Shortlisted Magazine

And so, here you go. After taking part in plenty of brilliant one-to-ones, webinars and events at the BIPC covering a range of essential business topics, from IP to marketing to bookkeeping and sales, after speaking at Start-Up Day Reloaded workshop in April 2021 and after facilitating a case study about you and your business, you were eventually asked by the lovely girls at the BIPC to write an article about a week in your life as a media entrepreneur, journalist and founder of The Shortlisted Magazine.

Silvia Pingitore
Silvia Pingitore, founder of The Shortlisted Magazine

You try hard to figure out a typical week in your life but you cannot find anything that won’t entail purposeless references to exercising, housekeeping and how you do take your tea, especially because you don’t really drink any tea and you know this won’t grant you any sympathy in the land of Shakespeare.

You continue rifling through your life to try and find some kind of repeated structure to fill out a weekly plan, but your weeks and days really have nothing instagrammable to show off. No yoga classes, no vegetable smoothies, no healthy morning routines. Often, not even any mornings at all.

Life as a media business owner and journalist is just an overly-complicated mess, and you wonder what you could say to be useful to those who might be interested in reading this post. In the end, the sole business-related activity closest to a five-day disciplined programme that you may think of is the process of securing, arranging, conducting and publishing celebrity interviews. And so, here’s what a week in the life of a media entrepreneur and rockstar chaser looks like.

The Shortlisted Magazine selection of interviews

Monday After four weeks of extenuating email exchanges, follow-ups and phone calls, you’ve finally got a confirmed phone interview with some big music celebrity for this week, but you don’t know the exact day and time yet. They said they “would be in touch soon” and then they disappeared. You know they won’t be in touch and that you’ll need to follow up again, but not today. That’s your number one rule in business: never email people on Monday unless it’s to threaten to sue their customer service.

You spend the day reviewing your list of questions for the celeb and watching videos of their past interviews to get accustomed to their accent and style. You also spend a great deal of time sourcing, selecting, giving appropriate credit, optimising and compressing the pictures to go with the interview.

Tuesday Time for a follow-up early in the morning. Time to try to remember who you’re actually going to follow up with, which is not that obvious when you receive at least 70 pitches and press releases per day every single day and - for God’s sake - everybody seems to be called the same. You had this vague impression at some point that all the publicists out there had identical names and so you eventually ran a poll into your nearly 6,000 LinkedIn connections just to find out that it’s true: if you’re called Chloe or Alison, you’re 85% going to work into PR, just as you’re certain to be getting into recruitment if your name is Rebecca, Matthew or Adam.

When she receives your follow-up email on Tuesday morning, the PR girl sees your message and starts to panic. She suddenly realises that she kept you hanging since last Thursday. She thought she had confirmed the interview date and time at the end of last week. She responds immediately. She’s nice and everything, and you can gauge how guilty she feels based on the number of “xxxx” she uses to greet you.

You now have a day and time for your interview, which is going to be tomorrow afternoon. If the celebrity is really huge and you’re a fan, you definitely don’t want to get too excited and start fangirling around. If the celebrity is Robbie Williams or Roger Taylor, the above doesn’t apply because you’ve already fainted to the ground.

Either way, you decide to cool off with a range of tasks you hate. Social media is the king of the tasks you hate. Back in the day, you created a magazine logo with a little round face that could virtually be turned into anything, and so you transform it according to the social media days of the month, because when the world is crashing down, there is always going to be some urgent Pink Cake Awareness Week posting to do.

Wednesday Time is up and you’re getting more and more stressed out. You check your technical devices and internet connection relentlessly in the hope that nothing horrible will happen to you and your equipment as you dial the celebrity’s telephone number. You would love to have met them in person and regret not living in the good old days when you would just hop on a horse and travel the world without anybody or anything annoying you on your way up. Time flies. You get super excited. They’re just brilliant to talk to and you would like the conversation to last forever. You’re having the honour to speak with ladies and gents that have made the history of rock and roll; people who were once speaking to John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Freddie Mercury are now on the phone with you. How crazy is that? You are so happy. You send a thank you note to the PR girl saying that the conversation was amazing and the interview will be out by the end of the week. You’re so joyful that you spend the rest of the day doing accounting until 5am.

Thursday You wake up at midday completely devastated. The interview seems like a million years ago. The excitement is over. All that’s left is a 45-minute mp3- recorded file with a persistent noise in the background to transcribe, fact check, proofread, edit, refine, make SEO friendly and publish.

As you’re taking a painkiller to get rid of your terrible headache, the rockstar you just interviewed briefly appears on the telly. You start to detest them. Also, you’d better not forget that, in addition to the transcription, you’ve also got an introduction to write from scratch. Introductions really are your thing and you don’t want to disappoint the readers when it comes to that. For some reason, the more your interview openings have absolutely nothing to do with the topic of the interview - like the one with Andrea Bocelli, Moby and John Steel of The Animals - the more the audience seems to enjoy them.

You start transcribing the mp3 file using Otter, which is an amazing artificial intelligence transcription tool that takes most of the hassle out of the process for you but only works wonders if the speaker has comprehensible elocution, which is not something to take for granted when there are Americans involved. Once the transcription is ready, you’ll have to go all over it again and triple check everything word by word, following through with headphones. The worst part is when the chap starts making lists of names and places that sound exactly like hundreds of other names and places. You’ve got to double-check everything, hoping you’ll guess the correct spelling. The fact-checking part is enormously time-consuming and may well take even longer than the proofreading process itself.

Many hours later the interview transcription is done, but you still need to write the introduction. For a good introduction, you need some good inspiration. But you cannot go and buy a tin of inspiration at that time in the night, so you stay up and continue to work until the right introduction magically appears on the page.

Which is just when the sun is rising out through the window.

Friday, I’m In Love The Cure knew what they were talking about when they famously released their Friday I’m In Love song in 1992: it’s Friday morning, you did get three hours of sleep in total and look your ugliest, but you’re happy as a sandboy. The interview is published. Time to celebrate by picking the celebrity’s loudest song, blast it on the stereo and throw a party between you and the cat. Such a shame that, in fact, you do not have a cat. You’ve always wanted one. What’s more, people are loving your article. You can tell it from your Google Analytics data. Some even spend as many as 40 minutes reading on.

Followers are liking and sharing the post on social media and they also say that they love your introduction. The PR girl is over the moon and sends you lots of xxxx.

Mission accomplished. You can now sit back, relax and look forward to Saturday morning when you’ll have a great time yelling on the phone with the HMRC because of those missing paperwork you’ve been waiting for six months.

 

To read more of Silvia's interviews, visit The Shortlisted's website.

16 June 2021

Introducing Pranav Chopra, founder of NEMI Teas

We spoke to Pranav Chopra, founder of  NEMI Teas, a London-based tea company and a social enterprise that offers a variety of whole leaf Organic and Fairtrade tea blends both as loose tea and in plastic-free biodegradable tea bags whilst providing job opportunities to refugees living in the UK.

Pranav Chopra

'The social mission of the business is to lower the unemployment levels amongst the refugee communities, which sits at nearly five times the national unemployment level. Specifically, NEMI Teas is tackling SDG #10 of Reduced Inequalities by employing refugees across its business, this allows the refugees to boost their English skills, regain confidence and work on skills required to enter the UK job market. More specifically, the refugees are involved in running events, warehousing, packaging, social media and research work. This gives them the ability to have a UK company on their CV and a local referee who can vouch for their work ethos and ability.

A huge driving force that drove me to set up NEMI Teas to tackle inequality amongst refugee communities in the UK is really well captured in this quote by Pierre Omidyar that “everyone is born equally capable but lacks equal opportunity”. I am a migrant myself to the UK and I have seen how people have an unconscious bias about certain groups of people so it has been an area where I have always felt a pull towards making a change and ensuring we all in the UK have access to equal opportunities.

From a commercial perspective, NEMI supplies its teas at both a retail and a wholesale level across the UK, Germany, France and Scotland. NEMI’s core focus is the food-service industry and it is currently supplying to large corporates including PwC, Ernst & Young and SAP, as well as restaurant chains including Leon and Gaucho along with 300+ cafes and delis across the country.

NEMI Teas is also a leader within the sustainability movement as both its teabags and packaging are 100% plastic-free and compostable. Even the string attached to the teabag is by ultrasound and not traditional glue which has plastic. All the teas are Organic, Fairtrade and Rainforest-Alliance certified thus ensuring the farmers are paid a fair-wage.

The tea sector within the UK is very saturated however in comparison to our competitors and peers, I feel it is our three core values that we live by that make us exceptional:

  1. Positive impact: we conduct our business in a positive manner in all aspects be it the high-quality of tea; compostable tea bags; or the recruitment of refugees within the business.
  2. Financial success: we have a strong focus on business sustainability, as we won’t be able to make a positive impact on the community if we are unable to fund our operations and pay our employees.
  3. Product focus: we have a strong focus on ensuring that our products are unique, high quality and on-trend with speciality tea.

However we have faced several challenges along the way including funding, recruitment and most recently the pandemic. We have worked our way through these hurdles as a team and come out much stronger on the other side. And we are now at a stage where we have significant growth plans over the next few years to achieve our social mission target of empowering 1500 refugees by 2025.

NEMI Team

NEMI Teas has been a proud participant of the Innovating for Growth program where we have received significant amount of business and legal support including IP as we looked to protect the recipe for our traditional Spicy Chai Syrup. Business strategy and marketing expert advice has also been invaluable as we looked to nail down our long-term business
Plan.

My advice for any budding social entrepreneurs would be to really focus on clearly defining the vision of their enterprise along with developing a theory of change to map out the steps that will lead them to have the intended positive change on society. Lastly as part of Refugee Week 2021 NEMI Teas is partnering up this year with some amazing organisations such as Choose Love, Solidarity and Breadwinners, to showcase the talent of refugees living in the UK.'

08 June 2021

Nurture your ambitions with the Business & IP Centre National Network

Last year, the Business & IP Centre’s (BIPC) National Network was awarded a £13million investment, announced by the Chancellor, to enable the Network to expand.

Fast forward, and just over a year later and we’re bringing business inspiration and support to more people than ever before by growing the Network from 14 to over 100 libraries. Offering insights and access to free resources, training and events – both online and in-person – BIPCs in regional and local libraries around the UK, can help you imagine, start or develop your business.

Business & IP Centres can open up the path to entrepreneurship for anyone with an idea. While each Centre is equipped with a core set of resources, such as up-to-date market research and business databases, they are brought to life by a tailored and highly individual programme of events, workshops and one-to-ones, delivered in collaboration with local business leaders, role model entrepreneurs and community partners.

This support has been invaluable for over 26,000 business owners supported by the BIPC during the COVID-19 pandemic. In our recent annual survey, almost a quarter of users agreed that the service had helped them gain confidence and resilience to steer their business through the challenges of the past year. Over 3,600 business owners attended events as part of Reset. Restart, an emergency online programme launched last year to provide new skills and resilience to all SMEs affected.

Whether you’re just setting out, need advice on protecting your intellectual property, or simply have a brilliant idea you want to discuss, we’re here to guide you. To find out more about how you can join a thriving business community in your local library, visit our National Network page and find your closest BIPC.

01 June 2021

Beautiful Ethical's top tips for making your business sustainable

Sustainability is at the core of Tracey’s handmade beauty business. Beautiful Ethical is a company that offers natural and luxurious wellbeing gift boxes as a way for people to treat themselves or someone they love to positive self-care.

Founder, Tracey holding a Beautiful Ethical box

After losing her job during the pandemic, Tracey launched Beautiful Ethical to promote self-care, positivity, and mindfulness with an ethical focus. Read on to find out how she ensures sustainability remains at the centre of her business…

“I love animals and nature, so choosing cruelty free beauty products and making eco-friendly choices are a part of my everyday life and central to the Beautiful Ethical ethos.

Beautiful Ethical Pamper and Wellbeing Box

Since people like David Attenborough have highlighted the environmental impact we are having on our planet, I think that protecting the environment and living a more sustainable life has become something we’re all more aware of and people are now considering how they can make a difference. For me, starting a business that puts sustainability at its core was always a no-brainer.

All our products are cruelty free, vegan and handmade by small brands in the UK – helping us to keep our carbon footprint down and support the local economy. Our products contain natural ingredients and are made by hand, plus everything is made in small batches to ensure that waste is kept to a minimum. In addition to this, we also:

  • Look for products that use sustainable ingredients, such as soy or rapeseed in our candles and wax melts
  • Use eco-friendly packaging so that everything can be recycled, or is biodegradable or compostable
  • Use an environmentally friendly printing company
  • Offset our carbon footprint through Ecologi – an organisation that funds climate-positive projects around the world, including tree planting.”

Sweet Dreams Box

Tracey has used Business & IP Centre Leeds' services to access free resources and attend webinars and one-to-one sessions which have helped with "friendly, straightforward and practical advice in areas such as designing a website, social media and marketing”.

Find out more about Beautiful Ethical over on their website.

25 May 2021

Start-up Stars: Eco-conscious entrepreneurs

Last week at our Start-up Stars: Eco-conscious entrepreneurs event, we were lucky enough to speak to some great green businesses; Asquith London, FRUU Cosmetics and Two Lives. They gave invaluable insight into what it takes to turn an idea into an eco-enterprise that’s built to last.

SUS Eco

“If you bring anyone into the business, it should really be a positive addition to what you already have and not overlap too much with your own skills. Really look for someone that adds a lot of value to what you're doing.” - Tina, Two lives

“Don't underestimate those really genuine opportunities to interact with the customers, just as a founder, because customers really value that.” - Terence, FRUU Cosmetics

“If you have a product, take it, sit somewhere and get people to feedback on it and say, don't just give me positives, I want genuine positive and negative feedback. Honest feedback is what matters.” - Alice, Asquith London

 

 Let’s hear more about our panellists⁣…

Alice Asquith, founder of Asquith London

Alice started Asquith London in 2002. She had a stressful job in TV and was doing a lot of yoga and pilates, this was when she decided to set up a yoga clothing label. Alice noticed that the only product available at that time was sportswear which was all made from very synthetic fabrics, she had grown up in an environment where her mother, grandmother and great grandmother, had all made their own clothing. Alice made the decision to work in all natural fabrics.

“All this nasty synthetic stuff I just thought, hold on a second. This isn't right. I decided to do something that was very different and not available at that time.” 

 

Terence and Kelly, founders of FRUU Cosmetics

Terence started FRUU five years ago when he was working as a science teacher.  He had graduated from university and then went into antibiotics research, which he felt was one of the most urgent things that needed to be solved in the next 10-20 years. FRUU was started after Terence and Kelly noticed that the cosmetic industry is like a sister of the chemical industry, and essentially an entire industry is set up on the back of the petrochemical industry.

“FRUU is set up as a way to not necessarily guide people away from it but it is kind of like a shining light to go, actually there's a way away from petrochemicals.”

He looked into utilising waste from the food industry; specifically the fruit juicing industry, where there is an excess of fruit pulps and access to materials like wonky fruits, skins and peels.

 

Tina and Niklas, founders of Two Lives

Tina and Niklas founded Two Lives in 2019 with the mission of giving textile waste a second life, hence the name, Two lives. Both Tina and Niklas have worked in the creative industry for a number of years and realised they wanted to do something about the waste generation that's happening within the textiles industry.

“We went to factories, warehouses full of dead stock that sometimes ended up in landfills or just being burned. So we just thought, there's so much available material there, why can't we just utilise that, why do we have to make new stuff all the time?”

 

To find out more about our Start-ups in London Libraries and Innovating for Growth communities, visit bl.uk/SiLL and bl.uk/grow.

17 May 2021

Meet Marjorie Price, founder of Price Management Consultancy Ltd.

Introducing Marjorie Price, founder of Price Management Consultancy Ltd. Marjorie is a specialist in training those in a management of leadership position with the essential skills to manage their workforce more efficiently and effectively. She provides mentoring services – supporting leaders and managers with some of the more difficult decisions they may face. As well as coaching – Supporting managers and leaders to harness their ideas, and turn them into action.

We spoke to Marjorie and asked her to tell us about her business and how it came into being…

Marjorie Price

Why did you want to start up a business? What was your motivation? 

Having 20 years of management and leadership experience, I was very aware of some of the challenges and pressures managers face, on a day to day basis. Particularly in the area of staff management.  I knew from experience that it is the most unpredictable area of your management responsibilities, and it is also the area where you will receive the least help. I wanted to change that narrative.

One of my specialist areas is working with managers in the area of “Managing with Emotional Intelligence”.  I am passionate about it, as I have seen too many staff leaving their managers and not their jobs, as I have also done in the past, research also supports this.   Too many managers manage without enough control of their own emotions, and often don’t recognise the emotions of their staff.  This is largely done unconsciously, due to a busy workload.  I teach managers that managing with emotional intelligence will leave their team motivate, increase productivity and increase staff retention.

 

How did the SiLL project help you in setting up your business?

The SiLL programme has been an invaluable resource, that has supported me with setting up and running my business. 

 

What was the most helpful part of the SiLL project for you?

1-2-1 and the training provision.

 

Can you tell us a bit about Sarah and/or the Waltham Forest business community that is coming as a part of SiLL?

The 1-2-1 support with Sarah has been brilliant, from signposting me to relevant services outside of the programme, to practical help with developing my website and much more.  Sarah is friendly, supportive, encouraging and a good listener. 

The overall training provision has been well thought out; there is a course to help you at every stage of your business journey.

 

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

Don’t start your business to make money.  Only start a business because you are passionate to make a change, in the lives of the people your business is set up to serve. It's hard work and takes time. if you're only in it to get rich quick, you won't last, as the journey is tough.  Often, it's only your passion to make a difference that will keep you going.

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

  • Get as much help and support as you can from free services, as you won't be making any money while you are setting up.
  •     Use the funds you do have wisely
  •     Clearly define who your customer is
  •     Join relevant business networks with like-minded people, they will be able to offer you help and support, without an agenda
  •     Call on friends and family to support you were they can
  •     Your mind will be constantly thinking about the business, always have a notebook or your phone available to jot down your thoughts
  • Remember to take a break during the day and book yourself time off for a holiday.  It is so easy to become a workaholic you need a good work-life balance.  If you burn out there is no one to take the reins

 

What would you say to anyone looking to go to a SiLL workshop?

'Talk to their local SME Champion.  Don’t hesitate, there is nothing to lose but everything to gain.

 

What have been the biggest challenges or opportunities associated with the Covid-19 lockdown?

 The biggest challenge I faced with Covid-19, was how to continue working through it. 

Opportunities – I looked at my business as a whole and what I could do to support others through it.  As a business development trainer, I looked at what challenges Covid-19 through up for businesses.  Then looked at what I could offer to support them.  After speaking to various businesses, I  developed a group of training courses that would help them through; Change Management, Managing Stress & Anxiety for Self & Others and Managing Staff Remotely.

The biggest change was moving from face to face training, to delivering training live through an online platform.

 

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.

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12 May 2021

Innovating for Growth Diary Part 2 - Sian Zeng

Every quarter, Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups chooses a cohort of high-growth businesses to take part in our 10 week programme designed to help business owners re-evaluate their business across areas such as marketing, products and services and business model.

We caught up again with Sian, founder and director of luxury wallpaper business Sian Zeng to see firsthand the impact of the programme on her business. You can read about the first half of her Innovating for Growth journey in the first installment of her diary.  Having finished the programme, Sian can now reflect back on what she has discovered and the improvements she has already been able to put into action.

'Since our first post, we’ve now finished the Innovating for Growth Course. And in that time, my team and I have already made so many changes to how we organize ourselves, what we prioritize and how we present our brand.

Before joining the programme, one of my biggest goals was to find out how accurate our financial figures were; our inventory system often failed us and without an accurate stock figure, it was difficult to gain a real insight into how much profit we were making! Up until recently, I’d been keeping our books myself, which was another pressure on my workload and time I could be using elsewhere. 

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During the course, I was lucky to have two one-to-one Financial Planning Sessions with Suzie Campbell from The White Space Collective. In these sessions, we discussed the issues I was facing with bookkeeping, how I could improve our inventory system, our wholesale profit margins and worked through our cashflow forecast so that we can make an informed decision on which projects to invest in and people to hire going forward.

On the book keeping side, Suzie referred me to a company that was very well suited to our ecommerce business and was able to give advice on installing a good inventory system. We’ve now switched to an accountant that can fulfill our business needs.

As a creative business owner, I’m always tempted by so many projects I could invest in or hiring more help, but seeing the cashflow forecast with Suzie and the advice she gave me, I’m now a lot more strategic when making these decisions. I now know what to prioritize and when to stop an investment if isn’t working. 

When it came to my session with Oliver Henderson, I already had several questions I wanted to ask him specific to my sector. Oliver has great research skills and found valuable market information for me to work with.

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During my one-to-one with Dave Vann from ABA Design, I came to realize that some of our branding wasn’t translating effectively on our website. Even though our site is very functional and visually compelling, it lacks the storytelling element our brand is known for as a whole. Dave helped me tease out some of the stories I could share on my site, which is something that I hadn’t thought about before.

Next up, I had a marketing session with Izzie Sully from ABA Design. Using Trello, we went through my marketing plan and it was really helpful to visualise and create it in this way. One of the priorities we discussed was developing a CRM system to help create bespoke customer journeys specific to my business. I have now implemented it for our trade customers and have already seen a massive improvement in how we interact with this audience. We feel so much more organized with a system in place.

Both Dean Wilson and Ophelia Spowers from Fluxx were extremely helpful. I enjoyed speaking to Dean because he often questioned my assumptions. I assumed I needed stock of all my patterns in the new magnetic wallpaper material which we would be launching soon. This would have been a very large financial commitment. He was suggesting perhaps if customers were happy to wait for stock in the past then I might be able to print on demand rather than pay everything upfront. This also means I don’t have to wait until all collections are printed before I start launching this material. 

We also discussed that we should have more regular and personal communication with our trade partners going forward, to build those relationships and explore how we can work better going forward. It was suggested that I start arranging catch-up calls with our partners and Ophelia was kind enough to draft a list of questions I could ask during these meetings.

I had a session with Robert Foster from Red Ochre at the very beginning of my course and it was there that we set out a series of goals to guide me through this course and beyond. I was happy to see how much I’ve already tackled. We have agreed on a new set of objectives for the next few months for myself and my team, and I am excited to see where else we are able to simplify and streamline our business. 

Overall, the Innovating For Growth Programme has made such a big difference to my business. I feel I understand it on a deeper level and know which systems I need to put in place to not only grow faster but ensure I do more of what I love - painting, designing and creating. I’m very grateful to all the experts for the valuable advice and the British Library staff for organising everything so smoothly, especially during these difficult times.

If you are thinking of signing up for this course, I can’t recommend it enough!'

To find out more about Innovating for Growth and to apply for our next cohort, visit bl.uk/grow

10 May 2021

Meet Donelle Grant, founder of The Brave Project

Today marks to the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, it's important that we are checking in with ourselves, talking and being kind and supportive to others. The Brave Project community interest company, is a non-profit suicide prevention and wellbeing service; for BAME boys and young men. The mission is to prevent suicide through public awareness and education.⁣ We spoke to Donelle Grant, founder of The Brave Project and asked her to tell us about her business and how it came into being…

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'I am a 39 year old community development worker; holistic coach and mother, born and raised in East London. I decided to set up the Brave Project because I have always wanted to give back to my community that I grew up in and after extensive research I discovered that due to disparities and inequalities; BAME boys and young men found openly talking about their mental health/wellbeing difficult which and are at higher risk of suicide.

I wanted to change the narrative, reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues and empower BAME boys and young men to speak up and reach out for help when they need it. Also raising two young black boys, it is very important for my boys to be able to express themselves freely; without any fear of judgement and I was very disappointed when I discovered that there are a lack of culturally appropriate accessible services who enable this.

Prior to registering my organisation, I had a moment . I asked myself the question ' Can I do this, can I influence change? I thought about all the founders who were currently influencing change and wondered if I had what it takes to do the same. As always, I spoke to my trusted advisor; My mum, told her what I wanted to do and why. My mums response was ' If not you, who?  My mum has always encouraged and empowered me to reach my full potential but stepping out of my comfort zone was my superpower. 

From that moment onward I got to work building the brave project.  One of the first things I wanted to do was register my organisation. I approached the SILL team at Newham as I wanted to speak with an experienced business Mentor in my area who could support me with this process. I also wanted to make sure I had access to all the necessary business workshops/training I needed to successfully run my non-profit. 

I was provided with the contact details for Rashed Belal , a Newham SME champion. Rashed has provided me with access to a number of business workshops and support for Marketing, to finance, and many more. 

Donelle Grant BIPC Quote Tile

I am so grateful for the SiLL programme and my SME Champion Mentor Rashed Belal, who has been a great business Mentor,  consistently empowering me to  push forward with my business. 

Navigating and launching a business can come with challenges unique to BAME women; this is doubled when the service you set up is for the benefit of a community that has experienced so many inequalities and injustices. I would recommend that anyone setting up a business to connect with your business values; work out what your strengths are and find ways to overcome any challenges that may be presented, as this will support you to achieve your goals.

Get yourself a coach or mentor who understands your business values; encourages and believes in you, as this can support you to overcome any challenges or fears, bringing out the best in you.'

 

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.

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