THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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

01 November 2018

Working in business as a couple: Bad idea or bliss?

We met Franck when he took part in the Innovating for Growth: Scale-up programme in 2012, with his partner Brijesh. Since then, their London-based photo and video studio, Kalory, has gone from strength to strength since launching in 2011 and in 2017, they launched a second venture, Heating & Plumbing, lifestyle accessories with a tongue in cheek attitude. We caught up with Franck to get his take on working together as a couple and how it affects their home and business lives...

Working and living together definitely has its advantages, but it also brings a lot of new challenges on both aspects of life: personal and professional. Our personal relationship was already very established, as we had met over 10 years before whilst working in New York. We both had corporate jobs for years but were always tempted by the freedom that entrepreneurship gives. Brij was the first one to take the plunge and he went freelance in 2005. Not to have a boss and the politics of a corporate life makes you start the month with an invaluable amount of happiness. We never really questioned the idea of starting a business, nor working together, it came really naturally. We didn’t even have a discussion about it. It just built up progressively before we took the jump. On both sides our parents have worked together for over 40 years, so we never really questioned ourselves on how feasible this was. Sometimes you just end up replicating, in part at least, your family model.

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Brijesh and Franck © Kalory Photo & Video

The fact that we never clearly discussed it or put any types of guidelines in place, doesn't make it always easy. Business life obviously takes over our personal life and manages to penetrate every aspects of it. You don't even notice it sometimes; you could be having the perfect G&T moment in the middle of Devon on a beautiful sunny bank holiday weekend and the conversation slips to the business. The right balance is to accept the fact that your personal and professional lives have merged, but to make sure it doesn’t become only about the business. It becomes a way of living and doing things. One of the big pluses, is that you also never have that Sunday night feeling anymore, thinking of going to the office on Monday is no
longer spoiling your Sunday evening. It is kind of a continuity.

One of the challenges we meet, is having holidays at the same time. Our businesses are small and when we leave it is the whole management that’s off and that has an obvious impact on the business. The plus side is that we have the same rhythm. If we both were working in a different field, it might be a struggle as our peak period would be most likely at different periods
in the year.

One of the keys to success of working together is having different skills. For us, the separation of task and decision making has been very natural. One of us is the technical and creative side of the business, whilst the other one handles the business and make sure projects stay in line with the brands' guidelines and the clients’ briefs.

We also have very different characters which helps, but this is also our main source of conflicts. Our level of optimism is very different for example. That can be a real boost for the most pessimistic one. But, seen from another angle, pessimism and the doubts and stress it can bring, can also very annoying for someone who is naturally relaxed and positive.

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© Kalory Photo & Video

Money is also something that you need to be comfortable with and being partners in life and business is probably not advised for young couples. The fact is that you have to be fully comfortable with the idea that: what is mine is yours and what is yours is mine. A working relationship like a personal one has to evolve too. People change, and the business does too.

Working together has been easier or more difficult depending on the stage of development of the business. When we set up the business, the overheads were very low as we were working from home. We had really good clients right away through our personal connections. We had no commute and a level of work was very manageable. We always had time for a nice home-cooked lunch, would go and swim at 3pm at our local gym, and make money in a very relaxed way. Growing the business meant committing to a monthly rent (and commute), as well as employees’ salaries, being on time at the office (at least for one of us!). This means having enough business every month to cover the cost to break-even, and of course to make a living. This definitely increases the level of stress. We get often told: 'I don’t know how you do it, I would never be able to work with my partner', the answer is probably that if it feels natural, it is meant to be. If you are starting to ask yourselves questions and you are finding a list of reasons why it wouldn’t work, this is probably not a good idea for your relationship.

You also have to be very entrepreneurial at heart. The business is going to become an entire part of your life, so you have to enjoy it. We always have different projects. We started our second business only very recently, but already have an idea for the next one. This has time to change, as the main goal for now is to grow the existing ones, but it is fun to be always thinking of the next venture.

Franck Jehanne, director & co-founder of Kalory Photo & Video, Corporate Portrait and Heating & Plumbing

If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of Franck and believe your business has what it takes, is based in London and has a turnover of £100,000 or more, why not apply for Innovating for Growth: Scale-up and take your business to the next level?

25 October 2018

10 SEO Tips Your Website Can’t Live Without

Here are some top tips from our partner UK2 on boosting your SEO and website traffic...

Website owners are constantly on the lookout for ways to boost website traffic. For organic search results, there is no better way than to spend some time fine-tuning your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). 

SEO is how search engines decide whether or not to recommend your website to internet searchers like you and I. Google and Bing both pride themselves on serving up quality websites with only one click. Whether your website is one of those quality sites on offer depends on a host of elements that you may not be aware of.

#1. Have a great domain 

A great domain doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive .com, but rather means using a great domain for your specific purpose. Keep your domain short and try to include keywords or website specific information. It may take a while to create a great history for your domain. However, it is worth checking the domain history if it is a pre-owned domain. It’s important to make sure that your domain has stayed clear of blacklists.

#2. Use keywords

While using keywords is easier said than done, a little research can help you discover which keywords you should be aiming for. Discovering the perfect keywords for your website may be a trial and error endeavour, but tools like SEMrush or Moz’s Keyword Explorer can help and both offer a free trial. Whichever you choose, be sure not to cross into the realm of 'keyword stuffing' by overfilling content with the keywords you’ve chosen. Consider asking Google for suggestions with their AdWords tool, as this can help you create a keyword planner and set goals to reach the traffic you want.  

#3. Create engaging content

Many website owners get this SEO step wrong. Rather than posting daily updates chock full of information, it’s best to focus on answering the questions your website traffic is asking. Remember to take advantage of product descriptions and About Us pages. In addition, make sure that you have text accompanying all images and infographics. You don’t have to be a content wizard to maximise SEO, you simply have to include content wherever readers expect it to be. Keep a blog to dive into topics and an FAQ page to keep up with the questions users are most often asking. Before you know it, you will have created a website full of valuable content that ranks well.

#4. Use meta tags

Meta tags, as simple as they are, help web crawlers understand what your website is about. These small snippets of text appear in the code of your website and can work wonders for helping your website appear in search rankings. Website tools like WordPress and Website Builder have easy fill forms to include meta information. However, you can add it yourself to your HTML code if you prefer by creating a note document and uploading it to your webserver. Create a system of adding meta tags whenever you introduce new content and search engines will take notice.  

#5. Optimise for any sized screen

Generally, your WordPress template or Website Builder tool will take care of this for you. However, it’s worth spending some time double checking how your page appears on various tablets and mobile phones. You may find an image that doesn’t fit the screen quite right, or text that wraps a little oddly. These are easy fixes but can help boost traffic when remedied.    

#6. Build links organically 

Search engines like to see your domain on other websites. Some website owners like to purchase these inbound links, but this is not a good idea. Instead, allow links to your website to build up naturally. Collaborate with other websites to produce content for shared links between pages. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Search Engine Optimisation, it’s that there are no shortcuts. 

#7. Keep up with links and sitemap

Website navigation is not only important for SEO, but for website visitor experience too. Make sure that all of your links are in working order and that the path through your website has easy-to-follow buttons. Imagine yourself as a website visitor: where would you expect each link to take you? Is your menu easy to access and understand? These questions can work wonders in making sure that your sitemap flows smoothly.  

#8. Keep your website fast

Website speed is crucial for SEO. Search engines know that our patience for loading websites is very thin. This is exactly why Google and Bing will only direct you towards sites they know will load quickly enough to keep viewers happy. Keep image sizes low and make sure that there is nothing preventing your website from performing at an optimum pace. Check your website speed at Pingdom. Once pinged, the website can return a list of issues that may be causing your website to slow. Oftentimes, adjusting a bad script or fixing a DNS problem can boost speeds for your website in a few clicks.

#9. Ask for help when necessary

If these tips are slightly overwhelming, know that you’re not alone. Luckily, there are many tools available to help. For example, SEO Guru from UK2.NET can quickly scan your website and help you spot any pain points with a free consultation. If trouble areas are found, our software will walk you through the steps to get your website in tip-top SEO shape. 

#10. Monitor your progress

Once your SEO is looking good, don’t rest on your laurels. Instead, set goals for the future and keep an eye on your progress. SEO Guru can help you watch your SEO efforts and let you know if there are any areas that need immediate attention. Keeping your search results at the top is a big job, however, we can help you get on top and stay there. Finally, you can improve your website traffic today with a free SEO scan from UK2.NET.

UK2 offer

To see all upcoming workshops, webinars and events, visit our website.

23 October 2018

Start-up Day 2018 in London and around the country

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

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

Start-up Day

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

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

Business & IP Centre Sheffield

Sheffield on brand with Start-up Day decorations!

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

Three Rivers Gin at Business & IP Centre Manchester

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

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

Start-up Stars Liverpool

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

Start-up Stars Hull

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

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

19 October 2018

IP Corner: Happy 20th Anniversary Espacenet

When I first began working at the British Library patent searching was very much a manual process which involved using a Catchword Index to find your patent classification, then looking that classification up in the accompanying Classification index to get the relevant subclass and finally, looking the classification and sub-classification up on microfiche to find any relevant patents. It was a fairly labour intensive and time consuming process, but it worked.

Then in 1998 the European Patent Office launched their free search database called Espacenet. Espacenet revolutionised patent searching for the ordinary ‘man on the street’. If they had access to a computer, either at home or more often through their local library, they were able to carry out patent searching using keywords or names or numbers or dates or all of them together.

Espacenet was however kind of a two edged sword, since without any experience of patent searching it was (and still is) possible to convince oneself that your invention was new and innovative because you did not find it when in fact you were simply using incorrect keywords.

The Business & IP Centre's Introduction to patent searching workshop takes delegates through the Espacenet database explaining the searching process and providing hints and tips on how to get the best from the database. Personally, I’ve lost count of the number of inventors I have helped learn how to use Espacenet effectively, preventing some from wasting time and money pursuing an idea that already exists and helping others start on the road to protecting and producing their new product.

If you can’t make one of our workshops you can download one of our IP guides, which are free to access.

In the last twenty years Espacenet has grown from a basic search database to a database that can be used to search worldwide through 100 million documents, both published patent application and granted patents, from over 90 patent granting authorities. Searchers can now check legal status of patents, find out if patents are still in force using the European Patent Register and gain immediate access to the application files or ‘file wrappers’ from the world's largest patent offices using the Global Dossier. Full copies of patent specifications can be downloaded onto a hard-drive, or printed out if preferred, for later consultation by the searcher.

Espacenet is one of my favourite search databases mainly because it costs nothing to use but also because it empowers new inventors by helping them gain an understanding of patents, patent classifications and patent searching so that they can have informed conversations and make better decisions regarding their proposed inventions.

Happy 20th Anniversary Espacenet. Here’s to many more!

Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert at the Business & IP Centre London

Maria has worked in the field of intellectual property since she joined the British Library in January 1993. She is currently the British Library Business & IP Centre’s Intellectual Property Expert, where she delivers 1-2-1 business and IP advice clinics, as well as intellectual property workshops and webinars on regular basis.

To see all upcoming workshops, webinars and events, visit our website.

10 October 2018

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Black Britain and the Creative Industries book recommendations

As part of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs series, we hosted a panel of leading lights in the creative industries with stories of what can be achieved with the right attitude and determination to celebrate the success and cultural impact of Black British entrepreneurs in the creative sector. The panel included MOBO CEO and founder Kanya King CBE, Femi Oguns MBE, actor and founder of Identity School of Acting and Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené, co-authors of Slay in your Lane.

As part of the Q&A the panel were asked which books had inspired them. You asked us to compile them; and your wish is our command: 

Elizabeth:
#Girlboss, by Sophia Amoruso

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg
“Without Lean In, we wouldn’t be here… that book was such an inspiration”

Yomi:
Black Feminist Thought, by Patricia Hill Collins
“A book which helped me grow a lot and I’d recommend anyone, from any background read. If it wasn’t for me having read that book, I wouldn’t have understood my position in this society as a black woman”

Rasheed:
The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman
“A magical book about life, trust, flow and mastery in being yourself”

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber

Business as Unusual - the Journey of Anita Roddick and the Body Shop, Anita Roddick

Femi:
Book of Ecclesiastes

Kanya King:
What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School, by Mark McCormack

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE, by Phil Knight

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert Kiyosaki
“I had all these ideas of what I wanted to do to generate an income… my mother told me whenever I wanted to do something, she’d say ‘no’ as she was very risk adverse. But you do need to take calculated risks… how you think about money, good debt and bad debt.

 

Of course, we can't miss out Slay in your Lane, written by Elizabeth and Yomi (currently available to purchase in our bookshop) and, as revealed at our event, one to look out for in the future, Kanya King's first book, we can't wait!

Slay in your Lane

To watch the speakers from the evening, visit our YouTube channel and to see other upcoming events, visit our website.

30 September 2018

Libraries Week: Celebrating our National Network

We are proud to have 13 libraries around the country as part of our National Network, including three pilot Centres (Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Glasgow and Nottingham), which joined this year. 

While libraries are more often associated with books than business, the National Network project is unlocking the potential of city and community libraries to support innovation and job creation in their local economies. Further, each library is sharing know-how and expertise in order to build the network’s services and keep abreast of developments.

National Network
To celebrate Libraries Week, we’re taking a look at the Centres and shining a light on their importance to their local communities and the businesses they have helped*.

Glasgow

The Business & IP Centre in Glasgow is one of three new pilots and part of the growing National Network of co-branded centres. It is also the first of its kind in Scotland. Housed in Glasgow’s famous landmark, The Mitchell Library (founded in 1877), it is now the hub of a city-wide information service. In partnership with the National Library of Scotland and the UK Intellectual Property Office, the Business & IP Centre in Glasgow allows entrepreneurs to take advantage of free intellectual property and business information and expertise.

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We asked Rosemary O’Hare, Principal Librarian at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, to tell us a bit more about the newly launched services:

"Our services are vital for the local community as they support employability. Those thinking about career options, preparing for a job interview or self-employment can find all the information they need as well as facilities, including PCs, wi-fi and quiet spaces to allow them to explore their options.

We also give entrepreneurs the chance to explore their business idea for free and at their own pace. Access to industry standard business information along with advice and support levels the playing field for those starting out with limited funds. Our events and networking opportunities allow individuals to make connections that can help them improve their business.

It’s also useful to call on local partners to contribute who may be active in the local area, and the connections between library and these organisations usually work well for both the library and partners; and of course we all share the same customers." 

Birmingham

Over 300 workshops and 1-to-1s took place with Retail/Wholesale/Transport and Creative/Media/Publishing being the highest joint sectors the Centre’s users operated in.

Birmingham

Devon

BIPC Devon with Duchess of Cornwall

65% of the Centre's users were women with Creative/Media/Publishing and Retail/Wholesale/Transport being the highest joint sectors the Centre’s users operated in.

Devon

Hull

27% of users were aged 16 – 34, with 40% of users being employees, 27% self-employed and 6% owners of businesses.

40% of businesses were in the Creative/Media/Publishing sector.

Hull

We asked Michelle Alford, Library Services Director, Hull Culture and Leisure Ltd, why their services are vital for the local community, and she explained: 

"Public libraries are unique in communities in every locality, no other public, voluntary or private sector venue holds the trust of its communities as libraries do. The level of trust placed in public libraries is built on the knowledge and confidence that anyone can walk through the door (regardless of age, sex, religion, ethnicity, background, education or other characteristic), be met with a warm welcome and be able to spend time using the space and resources to achieve their purpose without having to purchase anything or justify their reason for being there.

Our activity isn’t confined to the walls of the library either, our brilliant staff spend time in communities to understand their needs, share information and encourage them to achieve their dreams using the support and resources of the library as and when they need to. We design services and activities to meet the needs of communities, provide opportunities and to connect people with one another.

A vital link to validated information resources, high quality activities and excellent customer care!”

Leeds

Over 400 people attended 1-to-1s, workshops and events, of which 35% of users were aged 16 – 34 and Creative/Media/Publishing, Retail/Wholesale/Transport and Professional services/Consulting being the highest % sectors the Centre’s users operated in.

Leeds

Liverpool

BIPC Liverpool - launch Jan 2015

29% of Liverpool's Business & IP Centre's users were employees, 25% self-employed and 11% owners. The biggest sectors users operated in were Retail/Wholesale/Transport and Creative/Media/Publishing.

Liverpool

Manchester

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35% of users were aged between 16 – 34 and 38% of users were self-employed, 27% employees and 14% owners of businesses. Retail/Wholesale/Transport and Professional services/consulting were the sectors most of the users worked in.

  Manchester
 Newcastle

BIPC Newcastle

61% of users of the Business & IP Centre were female and more than 550 people attended 1-to-1s, workshops and events. 43% of users were employees and 33% were self-employed. Professional services/consulting was the sector most users operate in.

Newcastle

Norfolk

BIPC Norfolk

36% of the Centre's users were employees and 22% were self-employed. Creative/Media/Publishing was the sector most of the users operate in.

Norfolk

Northamptonshire

38% of Centre users were self-employed, 21% employees and 20% unemployed. Professional services/consulting and Creative/Media/Publishing were the sectors which used the Centre the most. Northamptonshire has a 98% satisfaction rate for the format, quality and relevance of their offerings. 

Northampton

Sheffield

34% of users were employees and 31% were self-employed.

Sheffield

* all data is from April - June 2018

28 September 2018

Top tips from Start-up Day 2018

Activities in 17 libraries around the UK. 101 business events delivered. More than 1,000 attendees across all locations. Webcast around the world. Start-up Day, in collaboration with Santander, once again proved to be a huge success. 

With a full day’s worth of events, there’s a lot of information and words of wisdom to take in from each speaker. Need a recap of what was said? Missed a crucial top tip? Want to relive it again? Or if you missed it, we’ve compiled all the videos of the speakers in this post, along with a key take away tip from each...



Top tip from Mintel senior consumer lifestyles analyst, Jack Duckett: Consumer confidence is on a growth trajectory, meaning there are opportunities for brands to grow.



Top tip from Google Digital Garage's Chami Coomasaru: Set yourself goals, think how you want your brand to be perceived and choose the platforms which are appropriate for your business.

Top tip from author and motivational speaker, Anis Qizilbash: Steep in your purpose... your success does not mean another person's loss. The more you make, the bigger impact you create.



Top tip from public speaking coach, Elaine Powell: [Your pitch] is never going to be perfect. Always ask for feedback and take your performance to the next level, and the next level, and the next level. Never give up, it's a journey, not an end destination.

Top tip from author, motivational speaker and business coach, Rasheed Ogunlaru: [Networking] online is the window to your world, meeting people in person is the door.



Top tip from former CEO of Tangle Teezer, Matt Lumb: Don’t try and do the 80 hours a week thing. You will burn out. Try and get that balance as you scale.



Top tips from:

Precious Jason, founder of Etieno Skincare: Being in business you have superhero days and you have days which are not so great… Be kind to yourself. 

Rebecca Slater, founder of Shine Creative Solutions: Believe in the idea you’ve got and to try and plan out the three most important things you need to get right.

Amy Fleuriot co-founder of Hiro + Wolf and Artisans and Adventurers: Don’t expect it to happen overnight. If you’re having to work alongside it, that’s ok… Just keep at it.

 

Start-up Day 2018 was in collaboration with Santander. To see our events throughout the year, click here.

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19 September 2018

Start-up Day: Meet the Speakers

With Start-up Day fast approaching, here's an introduction to a few of the speakers who will be giving their expert advice on the day.

How to understand the UK market right now
Jack Duckett
@mintelnews

Jduckett@mintel Headshot (B&W)

I am the senior consumer lifestyles analyst at the market intelligence agency Mintel, and I am very much looking forward to sharing my presentation with you.

My presentation has two goals; the first is to help you to get a better sense of the breadth of Mintel research that you have access to at the British Library and the network of libraries around the country. The second is really to give you a sense of the important role that we believe market research plays for businesses today.

For start-up business owners, it can be taken as a given that you know your product and customers extremely well. But, when it comes to your Dragons’ Den moment, whether that be with your bank manager, an investor or a retail buyer, market research can provide the information you need to support your brand and help it to stand on its own. The second core benefit to market research is in helping you to know where to go next with your business, enabling you to see what is changing in your category and helping you to be prepared for the future.

How To Build an Authentic Business Network
Rasheed Ogunlaru
@RasheedOgunlaru

Rasheed Image 1

“Networking, love it or hate it, building a genuine network, is vital in starting and growing business.” says Rasheed. “This session will help session will help you network strategically, effectively, authentically and nerve free.”

Rasheed’s top three quotes and tips on networking and building an authentic business:

  1. Always have something shrewd to say and valuable to bring to the table
  2. Your online, website and social media presence are the window to your world - meeting people in person is the door
  3. What people feel and say about you when you leave the room is your job while you’re in the room.


How to be an entrepreneur
Matt Lumb
@mattlumb1

ML headshot

During Matt’s seven years at Tangle Teezer he transformed the brand from being a “Dragon’s Den reject” to one of the fastest growing companies in the UK and a household name. Matt talks openly about the challenges he and his team faced whilst trying to manage exponential growth overseas growth, UK manufacturing capacity, the importance of IP as well as copycat and counterfeit issues and the grey market. The Tangle Teezer story is a fascinating one as he took it from a start-up to having a valuation of £200M inside five years.


Start-up Stars: How I turned my business idea into a reality

Amy Fleuriot
@hiroandwolf
@artisansandadventurers

Amy Fleuriot

Starting your own business can be an equally exciting and daunting time. I founded Hiro + Wolf five years ago with my wonderful business partner, Bee Friedmann and we have learnt so much on our journey. What started as an accessories brand for people and their pets has grown into two distinct businesses as we launched Artisans & Adventurers two years ago with the help of the British Library. My expertise include design, branding, marketing, ethical sourcing and everything that goes into the day to day running of two shops, an online store and wholesale business. I am looking forward to hearing what challenges new businesses are facing and hope I can offer some advice on the start-up stage.

For more information on Start-up Day, to see which libraries are involved around the country and to sign up to the webcast, visit our website.

07 August 2018

If the Shoe Fits… Finding your Business Niche

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

B-886C7442
I Can Make Shoes workshop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apply now for over £10,000 worth of business advice!

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01 August 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Espacenet example
Espacenet Patent search

Whereas on DII the title is written as:

Derwent Innovations Index
Derwent Innovations Index

The Espacenet bibliography and abstract looks like this:

Espacenet bibliography
Espacenet bibliography

Whilst the DII bibliography and abstract looks like this:

DII bibliography
DII bibliography

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

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

DII advanced search
DII advanced search

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

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

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

Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert at the Business & IP Centre London

Maria has worked in the field of intellectual property since she joined the British Library in January 1993. She is currently the British Library Business & IP Centre’s Intellectual Property Expert, where she delivers 1-2-1 business and IP advice clinics, as well as intellectual property workshops and webinars on regular basis.