Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

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

29 September 2021

Revisiting our Reset. Restarters

Although restrictions have been lifted across the UK and many of us are returning to normal life, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt around the world. Our Reset. Restart programme launched to help businesses pivot and adapt to the changing climate throughout the pandemic and will continue to support many beyond that. We have caught up with businesses who attended these free webinars to see how the programme influenced their business operations and what changes they have made since.

One start up that benefitted from the programme is INTARIS founded by Oliver Hickmet; a full-service video marketing agency combining the power of digital film with analytics led strategy. Starting a business can be very lonely, and even more so during a global pandemic. For many, our webinars provide an opportunity to build and connect with a network of entrepreneurs from various backgrounds and expertise. “Reset. Restart was an invaluable way to stay connected during lockdown and learn from others sharing experiences and the dynamic conversations that always arose in the sessions. The presentations always had something interesting you did not know before and it was a perfect way to start the day with a hot cuppa.”

For some business owners, as well as networking opportunities, the support and advice offered by Reset. Restart gave them the confidence and push to grow their business. This was the case for Keira Simpson, owner and founder of Daisy Days Virtual Assistant. She provides PA and administration support to small businesses, helping them to save time so they can focus on their core business operations. It was through one of the small businesses that she was assisting at the time, that she discovered the BIPC. “My client wanted me to research the BIPC and to find out what support and services they could offer to help with the set-up of her Community Interest Company (CIC). This is why I love what I do, I get an insight to so many networks, and I get to experience the fabulous support and services that they offer.”

Keira Simpson, owner and founder of Daisy Days Virtual Assistant at Jubilee Library
Keira Simpson, owner and founder of Daisy Days Virtual Assistant

 

Keira began by attending BIPC Sussex’s free Reset. Restart webinar – Tools for the Job. This gave her an insight into what digital platforms and software was available to grow her business. Like Oliver, it also provided an opportunity for her to connect with other start-ups and share her knowledge and tips, building her confidence in her business. “I gained an insight to other platforms and gained confidence in how I can support my business. The people that I have had the pleasure in talking to from the BIPC, whether that be from the webinars they offer or via email with a question that has arisen, have been so helpful and supportive. They also offer ideas and information - like speaking to a representative from the centre for advice on your business, to other topics which will steer you in the right direction.”

Julia Alcamo and Dan Hodgson founded documentary production company, Happenstance Films in February 2020, weeks before the world went into lockdown. Although this was a difficult time for the creative industries, it was also a time for Julia and Dan to rethink their goals and strategies.

Julia Alcamo and Dan Hodgson, founders of Happenstance Films
Julia Alcamo and Dan Hodgson, founders of Happenstance Films

“The last year has been tough because of the pandemic. Many of the initial plans we made fell through and our hopes of starting out strong were quickly squashed. But, it gave us crucial time to doubly rethink our approach to this new way of making branded content: how would we convince the marketing departments? How could we position ourselves to be ready? What did we really want to do differently?”

While their business idea has remained the same, Julia and Dan were able to tap into the wide range of databases and expert advice from our delivery partners that guided them to the clients their business should aim to target. “To hear others care about how we would get out there and find the right clients was amazing! Since, we have used the databases to create a potential client ‘hit list’, a roster of local small and medium-sized businesses who work in specific sectors who we then prepare pitches for. The services have helped us directly with our growth in so far as they identify potential clients and allow us to gain clarity. It’s been crucial in feeling like we have the necessary inside knowledge to be a player in the local economy. Just having that sense is very empowering for a small business. It's also been really great to feel the support from the team and a have a place to go should we have further questions on business development, local resources or tapping into the community most efficiently.”

Although Reset. Restart began as a way to support businesses, like Happenstance, through the pandemic; many entrepreneurs who have used the service started their business as conditions highlighted by the pandemic pushed them to.

This is the case for Roxy van der Post, a Dutch-born documentary filmmaker and lifestyle photographer who began Myosotis Film & Photography in the summer of 2020. For her, the ongoing pandemic emphasised the many social, racial, and climate injustices that were difficult to ignore. The corporate world was no longer a world in which Roxy felt her values and ambitions were shared, so she forged a new path and now works with purpose-led people, social enterprises and charities to amplify their voices through the collaborative practice of visual storytelling.

Roxy van der Post, founder of Myosotis Film & Photography at Jubilee Library
Roxy van der Post, founder of Myosotis Film & Photography

After settling in Brighton in February 2021 and having no prior knowledge of Brighton or its business community, the Reset. Restart sessions run by BIPC Sussex were a fantastic introduction to the city and its ambitious entrepreneurs. The informal nature of the Reset. Restart workshops meant Roxy could easily engage with likeminded business-owners and quickly grow her network. “All sessions included interviews with entrepreneurs whose fascinating stories of business growth provided much inspiration and motivation, an informative presentation on topics ranging from finding your ideal customer to pricing models and how to establish valuable connections, and room for open, but facilitated discussions, all expertly woven together by Lucy Paine of alwayspossible.” It was through these events that Roxy was introduced to Business Model Canvas, which “was an absolute game-changer that provided more clarity and confidence than any other business plan.”

Following on from the Reset. Restart sessions, Roxy booked an online one-to-one information clinic with BIPC Information Specialist, Gemma Miller. “There is a wealth of information out there and it can be rather intimidating to explore these extensive databases and conduct benchmark research, but Gemma was very helpful and reassuring, she showed me some of the best options as a filmmaker and photographer. As a sole business owner, I valued the opportunity to talk this through with someone outside of my network. The next step is becoming a member of the library and visiting in person, which - as a bookworm and meticulous researcher – I am very much looking forward to!”

Another business that was born during the lockdown period of the pandemic is Nicola Austin’s Life of Libra. Life of Libra is a Professional Organising and Decluttering business, which began in January 2021.

Nicola Austin, founder of Life of Libra at Jubilee Library
Nicola Austin, founder of Life of Libra

 

“Before the pandemic, I was juggling school runs, a long work commute, after school clubs and the everyday pressures of life. I knew how full, cluttered and unbalanced our homes and lives can sometimes feel. The pandemic allowed me valuable time and space to think, read and reflect on my strengths, on what I enjoyed doing and what I wanted to do going forward. After attending a training course run by APDO, (the Associated of Professional Declutterers and Organisers), I decided this was the industry I wanted to work in and joined the organisation. I founded Life of Libra soon after.’

It was through a fellow Professional Organiser at APDO that Nicola became aware of the Reset. Restart programme and she signed up for several of our free webinars. “The sessions were practical, insightful and current. They really impacted my thoughts and actions, especially the sessions on Mindset, Digital Productivity Tools, Business Model, and Products and Services. I reviewed my business case using the Business Model Canvas, re-evaluated my customer segments using the Empathy Map Canvas and considered how best to validate my market research. I learnt about net profit, cash flow and operating costs. I was introduced to Brightbooks, Process Street and Airtable, all free software products that I am now using in the day-to-day running of my business.”

Like Roxy, Nicola then arranged a one-to-one information clinic at the BIPC Brighton & Hove, BIPC Sussex’s regional Centre, where she was given recommendations of networks and people to talk to, suggestions about information resources she could access and websites she could refer to through the library. “I had no idea what to expect, but again found myself impressed. I spent an hour talking to two excellent Information Specialists about my business, my ideas for growth and the challenges I was facing.”

One Dareham-based business, Crescent Research, used BIPC Norfolk and MENTA’s Reset. Restart programme to help generate new business ideas, look at digital marketing tools and strategies, as well as building customer relationships and re-adjusting and re-assessing their cost base.

Tracey, founder of the business, which helps locate missing heirs and reunites individuals with unclaimed assets, also attended networking sessions, which has allowed her to meet other entrepreneurs and hear about their business journeys. “Getting to know others who have also started the new business journey has been beneficial and it’s great to see how everyone is progressing at different stages of their journey, sharing tips, ideas and resources.”

The programme also allowed Tracey to look at the different areas of her business using the Business Model Canvas and focus on the areas which needed more time, resource and thought.

Another Norfolk-based business, bear, founded by Bryony Fayers, which sells sustainable and responsibly sourced products for the family used Reset. Restart for one-to-one sessions with MENTA just as she was starting her business. “The team has been ever so accommodating and understanding about how different people are approaching setting up a new business and for me, it’s been chaotic. The one-to-one sessions have been incredible. The session was warm and relaxed, and so, so useful.”

bear, founded by Bryony Fayers
bear, founded by Bryony Fayers

Lottie Katie Russell, founder of L K Designs, a graphic design and illustration studio, also used BIPC Norfolk’s Reset. Restart networking sessions, “They were so informative and filled with a diverse group of like-minded people in very different fields. They were monthly meetings with a guest speaker at each to discuss different topics that we hadn’t necessarily thought about before. This helped me to drive forward with my small business and put into practice a lot of the skills I had learnt to create my website, social media pages and Etsy shop.”

Another business which benefitted from discussing their ideas with like-minded people was BIPC Worcestershire’s Wise Owl Tuition Kidderminster founder, Danielle Hickey. “The small groups that we worked in enabled us to have more specific discussion that was relevant to our individual business. Feedback on our ideas from the trainers and other participants proved equally valuable. It was most beneficial to be taken seriously as small business owners, but to be supported and be amongst others who were at a similar stage in their young businesses too.”

“The support has enabled me to focus on the next steps for growth of my business, and how to achieve them. It also encouraged me to consider my valuable difference as a business, and what I specifically contribute to the market. I made a timeline business plan in pictorial format to hang on my office wall and have achieved the first three steps of it six months ahead of schedule. The opening of another office suite downstairs and taking on two associate tutors to cope with demand - before I have even started to advertise! I was afraid to look to expand, due to my lack of experience in business. Rob and Phil helped me during my one-to-one to develop the confidence to commit to my ideas.”

27 September 2021

Meet Chloe Bailey-Williams, Founder of The Breakhouse Café

If you're looking for somewhere new to have a coffee and enjoy some tasty food, why not visit The Breakhouse Café?  Founded by Chloe Bailey-Williams, with her passion for coffee and amazing food, she has created a space that the local community love. Chloe aims for the business to be sustainable and ethical wherever possible, and to be inclusive of a variety of tastes, reflecting the diversity of her customers. Now, let's hear more from Chloe...

Chloe Bailey-Williams, Founder of The Breakhouse Café

What was the spark that made you want to run your own business?

I’ve always worked in hospitality, always loved taking care of people. I used to be a duty manager for Block nightclub in Hackney Wick, when they were closing down, the owner asked if I wanted to oversee the other studio spaces. I have always wanted my own space, so I spoke to my business partner and looked at the options for taking on a café. As it turns out, my previous employer had a café and they didn’t want to renew the lease with the current business, so although I wanted to set up more of a coffee shop, I took the opportunity to take on the café. It was a big step as I wanted to set up a coffee/ wine bar type of business, more drink focused. I had never tried starting a business before, but I had experience running venues for clubs. But this was very different to selling food, it makes sense because of allergies, health and safety…etc.  for a kitchen you need more certificates, more training, a chef… etc. Although I never intended to go down the food path, I really enjoy it even with the challenges, I was very lucky in finding a great chef and there were some ups and downs but once you get through the challenges and how busy it is, it’s fun.

Did you feel that you knew what you needed to know when taking the business on?

 I was a bit surprised because I was originally looking to serve coffee and other drinks, but there was lots to learn. When I added the café where you are selling food and you throw in PAYE, VAT , insurance , pensions, contracts , it was a lot to get your head around.

Have you sought help from other places as well as the Library/SiLL or has it just been us?

I looked at other places for workshops and advice, fortunately I had a few months to catch-up and I found a bookkeeper and accountant. I also did several courses to increase my knowledge, lots of people claim to tell you stuff and take your money even when it’s not useful, but what was good is that they were all saying similar things. For me the best support was with the SiLL programme, lots of useful and practical information and free of charge.

I found SiLL through Eventbrite while I was searching for business support, I saw what SiLL offered was good and it was free which was a good change, as I didn’t feel I was getting value for money for the courses I had already paid for. With the workshops being in the libraries and in partnership with BIPC, I felt like that’s where you go for information, they are the people I want to know. The support was also delivered in partnership with the local council and those are the people you want on your side when setting up a business.

Have you felt that the SiLL programme has still been there for you, even though everything has been run online throughout the pandemic?

Yes, it’s been good to catch-up with Abraham in our 1-2-1's and through emails, some other programmes that I have tried just don’t keep in touch. It’s quite challenging setting up a business in a pandemic so I appreciate that Abraham would visit me at the Café to go over different strategies. He would also inform and support me in taking up opportunities like the mentoring, which I successfully applied for. It really helps to speak with him about my business and I continue to benefit from his experience and advice. His ideas on how to use the space ( like setting up a film club) and some Café tips I can’t mention (it’s a trade secret) have been great, we are currently planning our first film night!

What do you like about the area local to the café and its community?

I love the area, Victoria park is a short walk away and the local community is very friendly. I like to have a chat with the regulars and the locals, it’s a very creative area and is part of the CEZ (creative enterprise zone) in Tower Hamlets and Hackney. There is a strong and growing business community, and this includes community groups. We’ve definitely noticed local businesses working together, it's great to be a part of it and to see the community the Café is building around itself. We now do catering for The Shellworks 3 days a week, so they all get to eat together at the same time. We also joined up with one of my friends that makes sole food to sell Jamaican Rotis, and we’re doing catering for The Outrunners, a local runners club that do workshops and mentoring.

Do you employ any other people at the café?

Yes, all the staff are great. its challenging managing teams when running your own business, but finding a balance of being nice while making sure standards are kept is key. I encourage a healthy work environment that’s focused on respect and wellbeing and I’m grateful that I have found the right mix of people. The staff work really well together, it’s taken a year to get to this stage, but I haven’t had to let anyone go that was an asset to the business.

What are you most proud of achieving?

Opening and staying open through the pandemic, getting the level 5 hygiene rating, doing external food catering for the first time, showing the football ( England in the Euro finals) and being able to do it in a safe environment where everyone was happy.

What’s your next goal for the business?

My Next goal is to increase the number of customers per day, build on our social media and work on evening events. We have a creative team including our Head Chef who wants to add Sunday roast and daily specials to the menu. We also want to increase our opening times, adding more options for builders and other tradesmen that have an early start. 

What do you think will be the business support you may need going forward?

As a new business, increasing our revenue is a top priority, so definitely support in generating more awareness to build our customer base. Also support in accessing grants that can help the business grow and help us engage with the local community.

 

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

SiLL_logo_lockups_RGB_large

30 August 2021

Introducing Rose Arouca-Claro, Rosy Clean Spaces

We spoke to Rose Arouca-Claro, founder of Rosy Clean Spaces, an after builders cleaning business. Rose took part in the Start-ups in London Libraries programme to help get her business started. Let’s hear more from Rose about her business journey…

Rose

“Rosy Clean Spaces started focusing on after builders cleaning for residential developments. I worked in the construction business for 15 years. I began as a document controller and ended up as an assistant site manager.

After completing my master’s degree in construction project management, I decided to start my own business. 

For many years, there has been a joint consensus that women are underrepresented in the construction sector, due to various reasons, the work environment, the hours, etc, I noticed that in most sites that I worked even the post-building cleaning team was predominantly male, which is ok, however, I believe that as women we can work on a construction site without necessarily building but offering cleaning services.

I believe that with the major regeneration happening in London boroughs of new builds there are opportunities for local women who want to get back to work but struggle to find flexible working hours to accommodate their childcare needs. We wanted to bridge this gap by allowing flexible working hours.  We also provide end of tenancy deep clean, commercial cleaning, but the main motivation to start the business was to address the underrepresentation of women on building sites, not as builders but providing after builders cleaning service.

I also have a passion for clean spaces, I have had the opportunity to supervise various apartments being cleaned and ready to be handed over to clients, knowing that I am part of that process of handing over a property that is spotless brings great satisfaction to me.

SiLL has been awesome, from the first meeting with an advisor in Lewisham library my business journey was transformed from a mere dream to what it is today.

I attended various workshops and have had one on one meetings. During the pandemic in 2020, SiLL was there for me every time I had a question or needed guidance, from cash flow and elevator pitch, to how to set up a business account and being visible on various platforms. I was advised on grants available to business.

The pandemic did hinder the start of the business, however, we sought opportunities in the middle of the pandemic, we started thinking outside the box, where we offered to pack, especially for tenants who found themselves stuck abroad unable to travel back to London due to Covid. We packed, stored and handed the properties to the estate agents. We started using specific steam cleaners that eliminate 99% of viruses. During the pandemic, I also took the opportunity to complete an online course for cleaning businesses on how to dispose of waste in different environments.

BIPC Quote Tiles London Aug 6

If anyone would like to start a business, I would encourage them to get in touch with their local library, do as much research as possible, speak to people, face your fears and do it because you learn every single step of the way.

One of the key things I have learned is the importance of communication. Get help from people such as the SiLL Champions, who will help you set out your ideas in order to make it easy to focus on your objectives. Also, attend as many SiLL workshops as possible because you get to meet other people who are on the same journey as you. It was encouraging for me to be part of the SiLL programme."

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

SiLL logos

23 August 2021

Meet Sally Paull, Owner and Managing Director of Positive Signs

We spoke to Sally Paull, about her business, Positive Signs, a Deaf-led service provider, supporting and raising awareness of the Deaf community.

Positive Signs is a one-stop-shop for services for Deaf and hearing customers, including the provision of British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreters and other Language Service Professionals (LSPs), BSL and deaf awareness training, employment and education support.

Sally Paull

A graduate of the 2013 Innovating for Growth: Start-ups programme, Sally has grown her business by expanding its offering and increasing the client base. Here, she reflects on her journey and plans for the next phase of growth, including how Covid has catapulted them into developing full online service provision.

'I started Positive Signs in 2004, following a successful and diverse career in social work, leading on the delivery of the first BSL NVQ and Interpreter Training for a national deaf charity, and as one of the first qualified Sign Language Interpreters in the UK. I wanted to combine my skills, broad professional knowledge and strong network, to create a unique offering centred around the provision of BSL training and interpreters. The seeds of Positive Signs were planted!

Since then, we have grown into an established provider of services to support the Deaf community in the workplace and higher education. Our expansion has enabled us to become a family run business and I really value their involvement and support.  Six incredible people make Positive Signs what it is today. 

We are driven by our passion for ensuring Deaf people achieve and succeed. Many people are not aware of fabulous schemes like Access to Work and Disabled Students Allowance, which support Deaf and disabled people to get into work or education, stay there and achieve. For Deaf people this could be providing BSL Interpreters for interviews, then regular on-site support so they can engage with colleagues and customers, take part in meetings, and attend events such as induction, training and conferences.  We work with clients to apply for these awards and then manage their ongoing support provision.

I am proud of the many things we achieve every day at Positive Signs. From the small things that make a big difference, such as seeing the results of matching the right interpreter to a Deaf person; to the big things which show the world that Deaf people don’t have limitations, only those put on them by others, such as securing 24 Deaf apprenticeships at blue chip organisations without any funding or partnerships, just sheer determination to support young Deaf people onto the employment ladder.

In 2013, I was fortunate to secure a place on Innovating for Growth: Start-ups. The programme and one-on-one support enabled me to develop a formal business plan, identify obstacles and opportunities to broaden and improve our business. It gave me the confidence to grow to where we are now.

We’ve built our reputation around quality, honesty and importantly, taking the time to really understand what clients want. We then carefully match our provision to meet that need. This makes for great customer satisfaction and has enabled us to develop our brand.

I’m delighted to have been accepted onto Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups, to coach myself and Positive Signs to the next level. In preparing the application, it’s been satisfying to stop and look back on the last seventeen years – what we’ve achieved, the amazing people we’ve met, how we’ve grown – and beneficial to help crystalise future plans. We don’t often take the time to reflect as we’re always striving for what’s next!  That’s one blessing of Covid, it’s given us the time to stop and reflect.

Covid has massively disrupted the lives of Deaf people in work and education: the tech requirements of working or learning from home; the impact of mask wearing on communication; the reduced availability of LSPs; the overnight switch to remote interpreting online; last minute logistical changes to whether lectures are onsite or online.

It’s a lot to deal with at the same time as trying to keep up-to-date with government guidance on Covid safety, which unfortunately, in England, has not been made available in BSL. BSL is not the same as English, it’s a language in its own right with its own grammar and structure, so it’s not as simple as saying, ‘read the subtitles’ or ‘look at the website’. Vital information such as this needs to be provided simultaneously in BSL. But it’s only due to the dedicated efforts of charities, who took it upon themselves to act, that some provision has been made after the event.'

Covid has also disrupted much of our service offering: with training courses cancelled; prohibitive costs of delivering Covid-safe training; less LSPs available to work due to shielding, home schooling, or unwillingness to travel; many LSPs can’t work online as video remote interpreters as it’s expensive to kit yourself out, or they simply don’t want to work this way. It’s been really tough. However, I take my hat off to our handful of regular LSPs who were determined to continue supporting Deaf clients on site throughout the pandemic, so that they could maintain employment, despite the fact that BSL Interpreters weren’t immediately granted Key Worker status.

In taking time to reflect, we are re-framing our experiences as a way to create opportunity. We have fast-tracked plans to take existing services online in new and innovative ways, for example our online interpreting service and BSL training. These will become part of our standard offering recognising the shift in people’s attitudes and purchasing patterns, as well as ensuring business continuity during any future crisis.

We are introducing new services, starting with an essential Employment Service to support Deaf people back into work as lockdown eases and later, a Translation Service to open up important information to Deaf BSL users. Plus, we wish to reach new audiences who wouldn’t ordinarily work with a Deaf-lead company, either because they are not aware of us or don’t realise they have the perfect potential to take on Deaf people with our support. 

Through expansion we aim to create more jobs for Deaf people who can find it harder to gain and remain in employment, making us a role model for our services.

Positive Signs

We are not short on ideas! We’ve recruited new, full-time staff during lockdown, and we are investing in major systems to increase automation, save time and to improve our ability to create and convert opportunities as a data driven entity.

It’s going to be very different for me. I have managed Positive Signs as a one-woman band for many years, doing everything from Access to Work applications, client management, coordinating bookings, delivering training, marketing and finance. I’ve worn a lot of hats and thrived on every minute! Transitioning from a hands-on manager to a leader who coaches others to deliver isn’t always easy, but I’m working on developing the skills to ‘let go’!

People often say that I’m ‘lucky’ to have my own business. But Positive Signs didn’t happen by luck, it happened by design and hard work. However, I am lucky that I have been well supported, both to set up Positive Signs and to keep it growing, including by my family and Innovation for Growth, which I am really grateful for. And I am lucky to work with amazing people doing things we love every day. I can’t ask for more than that and I’m excited to see how the future shapes up.'

20 August 2021

The Story Cube: What you do matters

What does your business do?

It’s a simple enough question. And one you presumably answer on a regular basis. Customers need to know, current and potential employees want to understand, and potential partners or investors are keen to get under the skin of your venture. Indeed, how you answer this simple question can therefore secure sales, inspire staff and ensure the very future of your operation. No pressure then...

Yet despite this importance, “What do you do?” is a question that too often inspires an inadequate answer. And that’s usually because we fail to recognise the intentions of the person asking; we fail to think about what people want and need to know.

It’s best illustrated with an example. 

Let’s imagine a personal trainer, Jo. If she meets someone at a party, they might ask her “Jo, tell me, what do you do?” And after she predictably responds with ‘Oh, I’m a personal trainer’, there’s a space to fill. And a number of ways to fill it. 

Jo could say, “So what do I do? Well it’s lots of gym sessions obviously. I feel like I’m always sweating! But my clients are lovely and it’s a really fun job. And it’s basically impossible not to stay in shape, so I think I will have another vol-au-vent”. 

Or Jo could say, “So what do I do? Well I hope I help people feel better about themselves, normally when they’ve struggled to lose weight - which is where I was a few years ago. It’s mostly 1-2-1, but I do online classes too so I can be accessible for everyone whatever their situation which I think is important”. 

Which of those is more compelling? Which tells you more about Jo? Which gets you on the hook to find out more? Which version of Jo would you be likely to recommend and hire?

It’s the second one, obviously. But why does it work? Simply, because it recognises the core elements that make a good brand story. It understands a problem, presents a solution, contains a motivation and touches on elements of differentiation. It even shows a good understanding of the audience and why they would be interested in her services in the first place. It comes from empathy, and it understands the value that she adds to her clients. 

And when anyone asks what your business does, you need to do exactly the same. 

To make it easier for businesses to do that, we created Story Cube. It’s a simple framework that helps every business understand the story they need to tell by answering six simple questions: What problem do you solve? What solution do you provide? Why does your organisation exist? What sets it apart? How do you reach your customers? And, what obstacles could trip you up on the way? The combination of your answers are the basis for a compelling brand story you can use to sell to clients, inspire staff and encourage partners to work with you. 

The Story Cube

On the last Friday of every month we run a webinar that goes into more detail about Story Cube in order to help your business tell a compelling story and, ultimately, grow. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, what experience you have or what you want to achieve, the Story Cube framework can help you get to grips with what you need to communicate.

Click here to sign up.

 

Blog by Robbie Dale, creative director at The House London

16 August 2021

Introducing Shari Bollers, founder of Self Love Club

Self Love Club (SLC) was founded by Shari Bollers in 2019, it’s a platform dedicated to supporting, empowering and educating BAME women on their mental and sexual wellbeing as Shari believes that mental wellbeing and sexual wellbeing are linked. Let’s hear more from Shari...⁣

Shari Bollers, founder of Self Love Club

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

Through the platform I educate, bring attention and awareness to these taboo subjects by creating a resource of information (around sex tech and sexuality), to get people started on their journey and showcase that it’s more than about sex. It’s not just vibrators and sex robots, but toys, products (lubes, creams, intimate hygiene, bush oil, contraception to name but a few), apps, books, virtual reality, porn, platforms, services etc. Sex tech is on its way to being a billion-pound industry but it doesn’t represent all womxn, whether in the products, algorithms, data, ads etc? The industry is not diverse enough (yet) and this is my action to change the industry.

Female sex tech is a diverse and rich industry with some amazing women leading the way. It focuses on education, pleasure and intimacy but also on essential women's issues such as menstruation, endometriosis, fertility, and menopause - the whole life cycle of being a woman.

SLC aims to create safe and sex-positive spaces (online and IRL) to have conversations free from guilt, shame, embarrassment and awkwardness. I am Intentional in the spaces I create and use feedback from the community to create events, marketing and strategy around it.

I facilitate these conversations by holding workshops, check-in and talks, covering topics like self-care, anxiety, self-love, intimacy, fetishisation of black and brown bodies, misogynoir etc.

I also look to work in tandem and collaborate with allies, not to exclude them, because diversity shouldn’t be divisive.

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

I had an idea and I wanted to see if it had legs. I couldn't be sure if it would become a viable business or if anyone would be interested in it, but I was driven by a deeper purpose and curiosity, so I had to take the chance.

Not only did I want to remove the stigma around discussing mental and sexual wellbeing and normalise these discussions but I wanted to see more diversity in the sex tech and sexual wellness industry.

My motivation was based around going to events, meeting all these great people, finding out about all these amazing products but not seeing other BAME women in these spaces. I didn’t know where and I didn’t want to presume, I just wanted to improve it. I had to give people a choice, the knowledge and resources to find out for themselves, so I started SLC.

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

The workshops, in the beginning, were really helpful. They helped me understand how to build a business and what was needed - it helped to manage my expectations.

I was given a great advisor who I was able to turn to for advice and keep me on track.

I am not always great at asking for help so I had to ensure I used SiLL for support where I felt I needed it. My advisor was able to suggest resources, events and networking opportunities for me to utilise, which I did.

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

Having an advisor was helpful. Running a business on your own can feel encompassing, isolating and you are wearing many hats. It was brilliant to have someone else to turn to, who also had useful suggestions and time for you.

Thank goodness he was understanding and supportive of my idea even if the theme was uncharted territory for both of us.

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

I originally intended my business to take place in person, where I would facilitate real-life workshops, discussion and events. I’m thankful that I managed to get a few workshops in before the pandemic hit but once we found ourselves working from home, I had to pivot to working online.

It wasn’t a major shift but I had to change how I saw the business and create a marketing and social media strategy because I was seeing my business as more of a project. The pandemic made me consider it being a business.

I started thinking about how I could be intentional about creating safe spaces online. How I could incorporate my facilitation skills online and what I could do to engage people without being there in person.

The pandemic brought a shift in the importance of mental health, so I decided to create an online check-in once a week, where BAME women could join and discuss their mental wellbeing. Over time as things adjusted, and from feedback from the community, the sessions were once a month.

Around the time of George Flloyd’s murder and the BLM protest I made another pivot and went back to doing workshops, one of which was an ally workshop around allyships in friendships, as allyship is always spoken about in work or community settings but not those close to you. We worked with BAME women and white allies, and it was a timely and necessary event.

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

Shari Bollers Quote Tile

Everyone is different and motivated by different things, therefore it's important to remember:

  • Take care of you mental health and incorporate self care into your routine
  • You win and you learn, there no such thing as failing, it’s just another opportunity to develop
  • Ideas can change and evolve, you might go into solving a problem and you could end up creating something that fulfils another need
  • Be prepared to spend your free time and your time for free on this
  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and what they are doing. Focus on you and your goals - be patient and what is meant for you will be yours at the right time
  • Have a board of trustees (people whose opinions you trust and value) - who can test, critique, give feedback and opinions on your ideas/pitches/work etc.
  • Also, not everyone is going to understand your vision, that’s on you.
  • Don’t talk about your business, do it - talk about what you are doing and what you have done, not what you haven’t started yet.

There are tonnes more but I think that’s a good start

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

  • To practice what I preach, so make sure I take care of my mental health and be self-aware enough to not take too much on. I take regular breaks from social media when I need to and I have learnt not to feel bad but thankful for doing it.
  • To ask for help when I need it and not be afraid to reach out to friends, peers and people in my community for advice or collaborations
  • To have patience in the process and remember progress over perfection
  • To keep learning and being curious, it’s gotten me this far. Use what you learn to feed into my work and to remember not to neglect my sexual wellness and sex tech journey.
  • Nothing is free, it will come at a cost, one way or another
  • Have respect for the journey, every day you learn more, you become more and you do more

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

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.  What I am saying is don’t look back in regret for not having started sooner, take action now. Today is always better than never.

Yes, it is your business but always think about your user/customer/community, get their buy-in and ask for their feedback. Their feedback is invaluable, you are making it for them so you want to make them feel included in the process.

Try to be inclusive and authentic with your brand, build it into your strategy and if you don’t know work with people who do - from ethnicity, race, nationality; gender & sexuality; health & disabilities; religious affiliation; socioeconomic status etc.

People like and want to see themselves reflected in products, services, pictures, media and so on - representation matters. It’s not just a tick box, be intentional and thoughtful in your approach.

And of course take care of your mental health, all roads lead back to it ; focus on you mind, body and soul, find what works for you whether it be meditation, workouts, walks, hydrate, eat well etc.

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

Do it, what’s the worst that can happen. There is no real financial risk to you but an opportunity to learn, get support and develop your idea.

I love what I do, even though people might not always understand where SLC is coming from and it’s still taboo. This is not about invasion of people private lives but a way to have better conversations around sexual wellbeing and sex tech (it's way to becoming a multi-billion pound industry in the next few years). Access to better mental and sexual wellbeing can come as a privilege but we try where we can to make it accessible and it starts with the tools and resources to have these conversations.

Most people have never heard of sexual wellbeing, but you can buy products in Boots and Poundland. It’s not just vibrators and sex robots, but toys, products (lubes, creams, intimate hygiene, bush oil, contraception to name but a few), apps, books, virtual reality, porn, platforms, services etc.

 

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

SiLL logos

28 July 2021

Inventor(s) of the month, Alexander Fleming and the story of Penicillin

Miracles happen and they happen in labs. The modern laboratory has been a place of great discovery where the destinies of so many lives have been changed.

Among these great ‘miracles’ of the 20th Century was the discovery of penicillin. Millions upon millions of lives have been saved because of it. Perhaps you’re among them.

Anyone who has ever been prescribed an antibiotic will attest to its incredible effects.

But the story behind Penicillin’s discovery and use is fascinating, surprising and telling for our time today as we grapple with the a very different health challenge to what its pioneer, Fleming was addressing.

Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) has long been credited as the person who ‘invented’ Penicillin. The man and the myth play upon a popular idea of the scientist as the lone genius and discoverer of new natural knowledge, previously hidden by nature. Fleming has come to embody this and he was quite happy to encourage it.

Alexander_Fleming

But the story of Penicillin is not the story of one person but of at least three. Among those who made it a reality are also, Sir Ernst Chain and Baron Howard Florey (the titles came later).

The story begins in 1928, when Fleming, by now a respected bacteriologist at St Mary’s had returned from holiday. On his return he noticed a discarded plate culture by an open window, where some of the micro-organisms were missing thanks to a contaminated mould. The contaminant was a common mould called penicillium notatum. What could’ve been ignored as a passing oddity sparked the curiosity of Fleming who saw the potential of what it could do against pathogenic germs. Concentrations of his ‘mould juice’ against the germs proved quite successful and Fleming reasoned this could be an effective, non-toxic, antiseptic for humans.

However, the concentrations weren’t high enough to have a significant effect on infected areas of the body, outside of very local treatments. Nonetheless, a paper was submitted in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology in 1929 summarising his findings.

The experiments weren’t taken much further until the late 1930s when the story of Penicillin takes another serendipitous twist.

Then, a brilliant Australian ex-pat by the name of Howard Walter Florey (1898-1968), who had earned himself a scholarship to Oxford to study Physiology was now the Chair of Pathology at Oxford.

Howard_Florey

Florey’s force of personality had forged a culture of team work and collaboration that was to serve him well with an astonishing breakthrough. Working on a relative shoe string and hiring talented post-graduates with their own research grants Florey put in motion a number of research projects.

Among them was to establish whether there was a clinical value in working with the enzyme lysozyme and how that dissolves bacteria. Florey had some previous interest in this but was uncertain to the significance of it.

That was until one of his new hires, Ernst Boris Chain (1906-1979), a gifted biochemist and German-Jewish refugee who had fled Hitler’s Germany, embarked on new research. Chain had completed his second PhD, this time from Cambridge, and in working through the literature on lysozyme came across Fleming’s 1929 paper. It described how the penicillium mould seemed to dissolve any pathogenic bacteria in its vicinity. Chain became convinced that the problem of Penicillin’s instability of use could be overcome. Eventually after many experiments and collaborations, a bio-chemical breakthrough was discovered. A change of substance stabilised the Penicillin into a pure form to be effectively used.

Ernst_Boris_Chain

Soon experiments with mice had proven that Penicillin protected them from the deadly infections of streptococci and staphylococci. The results pointed clearly to the need for human trials, which Florey could now push for.

And so by January 1941, there was a limited trial on patients at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. Despite some restrictions the results were clear, Penicillin was demonstrated to overcome infections where other treatments couldn’t. Further trials over the next couple of years put its efficacy beyond doubt.

With the Second World War raging and its considerable loss of life, the necessity for new medical interventions to treat the wounded was overwhelming. The question now was how to utilise the incredible effects of Penicillin further.

And this is where industry gets involved. Florey needed funds and an expansion of infrastructure to scale production. However, the war had restricted the use of supplies and infrastructure in the UK so Florey had to look to the United States to overcome the next challenge. This one was technical, how to produce large quantities of the new drug?

This problem was solved during the war with the aid of American industry supported by President Roosevelt’s War Production Board. A technical solution was engineered using deep fermentation to mass produce the product for the front-line war effort.

By now the power of Penicillin was clear to industrialists and not just scientists and clinicians.

But it was a great irony that Florey was actively discouraged from taking out a patent on Penicillin as being unethical. Instead, in the US, a patent for methods of mass production of Penicillin in 1945 was filed by Andrew J Moyer, a microbiologist. The UK was soon to catch up regarding the importance of patent protection and industry, post-war.

The story of Penicillin is one that rings true for us today. The lone visionary scientist is an exceptional person indeed. There is only one Newton or one Einstein. But here instead we have brilliant individuals in their own way brought together by serendipity of circumstances, curiosity of subject and outstanding abilities.

Penicillin is a modern miracle in every sense. Its creators had crossed continents and borders to bring about its existence. In the case of Chain he had fled persecution or for Florey who found a new world of opportunity from outback Australia or for Fleming who had found fame from humble beginnings. Each were of their time but living in extraordinary circumstances, all working to bring about a little less suffering in the world.

Fitting indeed, that all three men were recognised by sharing the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1945.

And for that, and for our time, we have lessons to learn and gratitude to give.

21 July 2021

Waltham Forest Winners

This week we are celebrating the launch of the new Business & IP Centre local in Waltham Forest. Over the last two years, the Libraries in Waltham Forest have played a major role in our Start-ups in London Libraries programme. Our Champions Sarah and Jacqueline have been working hard to support a number of aspiring entrepreneurs in Waltham Forest to get their businesses off the ground.

Here are just some of those flourishing businesses...

 

Sweet Paper Creations

Sweet Paper Creations - Ice Cream Pinata

Sweet Paper Creations, founded by Patty and Ali Gurman, is a not-for-profit business that is here to support those with poor mental health through crafting and creation. Sweet Paper Creations make and sell piñatas, made from recycled materials, for any occasion via their online shop, where customers can also commission their own bespoke character. The profits from the shop help them to deliver their 'Make It and Break It' workshops, where they provide a creative outlet for those suffering from mental health issues, stress, bereavement, or those helping support someone going through such issues.

“From the time I met Sarah at the Walthamstow Library, I felt reassured and confident to be able to develop my ideas into reality. She listened to my ideas, helped me to organise my priorities and to develop an action plan which includes looking at ways to fund-raise in order to deliver our pilot workshops. Attending the library events and workshops also provided me with the opportunity to learn about legal requirements and to identify new opportunities to continue my business development. As a new business with limited experience, we believe that Sarah’s support and encouragement has helped us to be where we are now.”

 

Price Management Consultancy

Marjorie Price

Price Management Consultancy Ltd. was founded by Marjorie Price, who 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 and coaching, supporting managers and leaders to harness their ideas, and turn them into action.⁣

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

 

Firm Feet

Charlie Boyd

Charlie Boyd’s business, Firm Feet, focuses on various sessions to achieve movement and connection with your own body. Soon after setting up her business, she met with one of our local business Champions in her borough as part of our Start-ups in London Libraries programme. Charlie designed a session drawing on her qualifications and experiences that she knew worked for her, to try and help others.

“My local SiLL Champion, Sarah, has been brilliant and someone I respect and feel as an equal which is a wonderful person to have as support. She is always extremely helpful and supportive and great at listening and understanding the direction of my business. She always goes above and beyond supplying me with important documentation and hints and tips.”

 

Haven Coffee

Haven Coffee

Haven Coffee is a socially-conscious coffee company, founded by Usman Khalid. Each cup of Haven Coffee bought supports refugee communities across the UK, providing barista training for refugees building new lives for themselves in the UK. The Haven team also organise events to promote refugee artists and creatives. Usman has recently introduced a virtual coffee scheme allowing customers to purchase a coffee in advance. And many of their events, including their art exhibition, have moved online.

“Networking and meeting new people is always something I’ve loved. Through the SiLL platform, I got to know more like minded people and small businesses operating in Walthamstow and had a chance to speak with them.⁣”

 

Bushwood Bees

Salma Attan

Salma Attan decided it was time to turn her hobby into her livelihood and started her beekeeping business Bushwood Bees. She maintains hives on the roof of the East London Mosque, making honey and other bee-based products from her local source. On top of this, Salma offers paid beekeeping courses to beginners and provides guidance to experienced beekeepers.

“In the early stages of asking myself “Is this really such a good idea?”, I took part in the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops which made me realise that, actually, it was.  The plan was sound, I had the beekeeping skills to execute the practical aspects of my idea and with the SiLL workshops I could focus on the practicalities of starting up a business.

The one area I seemed to have zero skills was technology! This is where Sarah (the Waltham Forest Business Champion) was a great help. She was happy to meet and give me plenty of ideas on how to get started. Sarah also let me know about where to get further free help to improve my use of social media in terms of business promotion – this is something I’m still learning but less anxious about. Sarah also gave me really good ideas for improving my business plan. It was helpful to have someone with fresh eyes looking at my ideas. She was willing to help put a pitch together, gave really practical advice and was able to give me fresh perspective on parts of my plan that I would not have had otherwise.”

 

Authentic Worth

Esther Jacob

Authentic Worth, founded by Esther Jacob, is a book publishing company that is dedicated to help aspiring authors to write and publish a book. The purpose of starting up Authentic Worth Publishing was due to a family bereavement in 2018. Esther wanted to continue the legacy and continuation of her books to make an impact, helping others to build their storytelling at a confident level. 

“The SiLL project helped me in setting up my business through their workshops I attended in 2019. On the first day, I was able to connect and network with other aspiring entrepreneurs that had different ideas about what they wanted to achieve in their businesses. I was able to share ideas with them and vice versa which helped stimulate trust and the tenacity to grow my business gradually.”

 

 

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

SiLL logos

19 July 2021

Introducing Authentic Worth, founded by Esther Jacob

Authentic Worth is a book publishing company that is dedicated to help aspiring authors to write and publish a book.⁣ It was founded by Esther Jacob in 2018, we spoke to Esther about her business journey and experience on the Start-ups in London Libraries programme.⁣

Esther Jacob

'My business, Authentic Worth was Founded in October 2018 providing bespoke face-to face-workshops initially. As a multi-published author, I took the initiative to use my two books that were published in 2016 and 2017; It’s Time to Heal and Completion to continue the face-to-face workshops in 2019. During that period, I held workshops on the fundamental and basics steps on how to write a book for beginners. I decided to utilise and share my expertise on helping aspiring authors write a book, and has now become a book publishing company. Due to the demand of the workshops being popular, Authentic Worth Publishing now offers bespoke book publishing services, monthly online seminars, 1-2-1 consultation support on writing and tailored online course(s) to reach creatives and aspiring authors to learn about publishing and how to market their book effectively. 

The purpose of starting up Authentic Worth Publishing was due to a family bereavement in 2018. I wanted to continue the legacy and continuation of my books to make an impact and would be the starting point to help others to build their storytelling at a confident level. I also wanted to give back to the community, reminding them that their pain serves a purpose and that is to help someone use their challenges to make a difference. For this reason, Authentic Worth Publishing is making a positive impact in the lives of those that are willing to share their story and build upon their own confidence. 

Authentic Worth Homepage

The SiLL project helped me in setting up my business through their workshops I attended in 2019. On the first day, I was able to connect and network with other aspiring entrepreneurs that had different ideas about what they wanted to achieve in their businesses. I was able to share ideas with them and vice versa which helped stimulate trust and the tenacity to grow my business gradually.

The most helpful part of SiLL were the 1-2-1 meetings with one of the SiLL champions. It was very useful and I was able to get more clarity about starting my business, including creating further awareness through the use of social media, being able to connect and collaborate with other aspiring authors and business owners in my field and ultimately, focusing on my target audience which helped to create a catered/tailored service to those that publish their book with the Authentic Worth brand. 

Covid-19 had an impact on my business as a client’s family member had a bereavement. I decided to take the opportunity to pivot and strategise, whilst working on my fourth book; The Power of a Forward-Thinking Mindset published in July 2020. The purpose of this book is to support people’s mental health during the Covid-19 lockdown and beyond. I then decided to host virtual workshops from July 2020 onwards on several topics including how to write a book during Covid-19, how to set up a business, how to build confidence and personal development, and combining them with new clients that were able to use their free time at home to write their manuscript and turn it into a book. 

My advice to anyone looking to start up a business is; get a mentor who understands the vision of your business – don’t be afraid to ask questions and network. Build your connections on LinkedIn and always remain a student, willing to learn from those that are ahead of you.

BIPC Quote Tile

It is important to reach out and attend one of SiLL’s workshops as they are not only free, but they offer valuable insight into how to start a business. They are able to help aspiring entrepreneurs to find their passion and turn it into useful resources to serve their audience. The workshops also teach the fundamental steps it takes to run a business, the pitfalls that one may encounter, but above all, they share a common trait which is to work together. This has helped the growth of Authentic Worth Publishing and would recommend any new starter that is willing to learn about business from a basic level to attend their workshops.'

 

Click here to visit the Authentic Worth website.

Authentic Worth logo

 

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

SiLL logos

 

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