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

05 February 2019

A week in the life of... Merilee Karr, founder and CEO of UnderTheDoormat

American by origin, Merilee Karr is an adopted Brit, having lived in London for the last 18 years, always in the southwest near Putney. She founded London’s premier short-term lettings company back in 2014 and is an alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme. Passionate about providing visitors with a ‘home from home’ experience and not leaving homes empty when their owners are away, when others could enjoy them, UnderTheDoormat was born. Now hosting over 200 homes and attracting over 5,000 visitors a year, UnderTheDoormat is paving the way for 'responsible short-letting’ across London, for both homeowners and guests to enjoy. Merilee will be one of the speakers at Day of Disruption on Monday 11 February.

Merilee Karr Pic

A typical day for me is varied – and no two are ever quite the same! As a founder of a young and growing company, it’s important to be ‘hands on’ in the running of the company. On the flip side, my role involves a lot of external focus to grow the business and includes everything from speaking at conferences, meeting with property companies for partnerships, carving out potential strategic partnerships with suppliers and of course meeting new investors and keeping my current investors and board members up-to-date. Every day is a challenge for me, and I love it when I have a combination of internal and external things are on my to-do list.

My ‘work day’ can include any of the following:

  • A team meeting going through our monthly results and key metrics for the business
  • An external meeting with Westminster council or an MP about the industry standards we are building and how we can make them effective as we roll them out
  • Releasing payments to suppliers and paying our homeowners the money they earned from working with us
  • Lunch or coffee with a fellow founder of a sharing economy business to discuss our businesses and potential to collaborate
  • A meeting with a property company or developer about partnering to provide them with short-let options for their portfolios
  • Developing a bespoke proposal following that meeting with a business case for working with us and the value we can deliver
  • Phone call or meeting with a potential homeowner looking to let their home with us
  • A PR meeting with STAA (Short-term Accommodation Association) for which I currently sit as Chair. I take this role extremely seriously as it promotes ‘responsible’ short-term letting which is the key USP of UnderTheDoormat
  • Media interviews and discussions – particularly with property press or newspapers like the Evening Standard
  • Increasingly I am asked to speak at conferences as the spokesperson for the industry. With three planned this month already it’s a busy time and I thoroughly enjoy these. It's great for networking and learning what other people are doing in our sector and beyond. 

My time away from the job is also important to me. Outside of office hours, it's fair to say I combine more work(!) and my love of sport, keeping fit and keeping up with friends. This is my usual schedule of extra-curricular activities:

Tuesday morning I run with a friend (someone who I went to University with in Virginia who lives around the corner in London).

Tuesday or Wednesday evening Typically, a work event of some type- e.g. Tourism society conference speaking or Supper Club CEO’s dinner.

Thursday evenings are triathlon training - usually a swim followed by a social in the pub - I always order a pepperoni pizza and an apple juice and soda!

Saturday mornings are my club cycle ride which I find hugely enjoyable. My favourite is the Windsor ride via the Great Park (you really get to feel the seasons through the year and looking down at the castle from the top of the long walk never gets old). We stop for coffee at the Cinnamon Café and get gigantic cinnamon buns before heading back.   

Saturday evening Drinks or dinner with friends. This week I have a friend’s leaving drinks as she is moving to Hong Kong. 

Sunday Lie in day! Generally, it’s a morning of doing stuff around the house and then heading out for a walk and lunch with friends. I then swim in the evening which is a great way to set myself up positively for the start of the week. 

23 January 2019

A week in the life of... Dr Jan Kattein, founding director of Jan Kattein Architects

Dr Jan Kattein is founding director of Jan Kattein Architects, a design studio that advocates socially engaged working methods. The practice embraces design as an opportunity for dialogue and exchange. Their work strives to make a civic contribution, using design as a means to support economic, cultural, educational and social prosperity. Jan took part in the British Library's Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme in 2018 and is now working with Global Generation to design a community garden to support the Library's outreach programme.

Monday... I was hoping for a slow start in January, but there are already a raft of emails in the inbox, annual staff reviews need to be scheduled, a tender is due later this week, a new member of staff is joining the team and a number of new projects are starting.

The week starts with a meeting with Westminster Council's regeneration team. Westminster have firmly committed to consultation and dialogue with their communities around regeneration projects and have set up a series of local regeneration bases in several areas of the borough. Regeneration has attained a somewhat tainted reputation in recent years because it is often associated with displacement of communities and gentrification of neighbourhoods. Whilst I understand the root of these concerns, I can also see the very tangible benefits that an inclusive approach to regeneration can bring for local people. When embracing the Mayor's principles of 'Good Growth', regeneration is principally about creating opportunities for all sections of society. And this is mainly what our work is about at Jan Kattein Architects. Working together with local authorities, the private sector and the third sector, we can unlock educational, economic or cultural potential in projects and find a way of using the design process as a means to bringing greater community coherence. I often think that as a profession we need to become much better at accepting accountability for our work. In the knowledge that an inclusive city is a more prosperous city, the smart players in the private sector are doing that already and local authorities are increasingly taking the view that an integrated and transparent way of working brings real tangible benefits. Architects have traditionally had the role of synthesizing a range of different parameters that allow the built environment to function and are well placed to act as mediators between the various interests that inevitably collide when working in urban regeneration.

Morden High Street Regeneration
Morden High Street regeneration

Back at the office, I need to put the finishing touches to a tender submission. Tower Hamlets Council have invited us to submit a bid for a small high street regeneration project in Roman Road. High streets are such an important part of civic life and London would not be London without its 600 high streets, the jobs they provide, the contribution they make to public life and the cultural diversity they bring. I have now been involved in delivering some 30 or so high street regeneration projects in London. In high street regeneration our engaged way of working finds particular bearing. The aim of our work is never just about physical change, it's about shifting people's perception of their environment, about sewing a seed for a mindset change and instil confidence in a struggling but vital sector of our economy. There are challenging years ahead for the high street and if we really want to protect this important civic asset, we have to come up with some inventive new uses that service communities and the experience economy. We also need to carefully consider our spending habits and the tax regime that currently creates an uneven playing field which is heavily skewed to benefit multi-nationals.

Tuesday Today starts with a talk at the Cass School of Art and Design. I still lecture and teach at intervals. I am pleased to give a share of my time to a new generation of designers and thinkers making their way through university, but am also aware of the contribution that this interaction makes to rehearsing and disseminating our message. I have found that the communication of our work relies on a thoughtful and nuanced message which is best brought in person, with patience and the opportunity for critical discussion.

Church Street Regeneration
Church Street regeneration public consultation

In the afternoon an internal resourcing meeting. We introduced these weekly meetings to better manage workloads and to predict capacity. The challenge with our work is that things are rarely predictable. What we do is subject to public scrutiny, brief changes, political whim and an evolving social or economic context. Whilst these are challenges that are tricky to manage when running a business, it makes our work profoundly human too and that's why I am happy to tolerate uncertainty and why everyone at Jan Kattein Architects needs to become a master at improvisation.

Wednesday Staff reviews today. Our office is open plan and designed to encourage social interaction. The arrangement of our workspace is a direct representation of the horizontal management structure that we are striving to achieve. A supportive environment where people talk to each other and lend a hand or provide advice informally is critical to everyone giving their best. The downside of our office space is that there is very little privacy; so that a private conversation has to take place at the local pizzeria. This year, that's exactly where we are doing staff reviews, over lunch. It's been beneficial so far, getting out and away from the desk has brought about some friendly but frank conversations. We clearly have to review how we support our team. I suppose the crux with horizontal management is that the level of responsibility taken on by staff needs to be matched by just as much support, empathy and engagement. I always thought we were doing quite well in this field, but I suppose one can always do better.

Jan Kattein Architects office
Jan Kattein Architects office in Islington

Thursday Good news this morning. Camden Council have emailed the planning permission letter for our designs of the Story Garden, a new temporary community garden for Somers Town residents behind the British Library. The project was conceived in a partnership between educational charity Global Generation, the British Library, Stanhope and Central St. Martin's College (CSM) to create an ecological outdoor education space on a disused site just north of the Library. Enabled by the Library and Stanhope and through Camden Giving and the Mayor's Greenspace Fund, the garden will host workshops and events, provide growing space for local people and a maker space for CSM students until the end of 2020. A community-built straw bale roundhouse will provide a field classroom, a public kitchen, a sheltered outdoor dining space and small office are the communal hub of the garden. CSM are bringing a digital workshop onto site and a commercial greenhouse will provide all-season growing space for food and to propagate shrub and tree seedlings ultimately to be planted in estates, parks and squares throughout Somers Town. The space will also be used by the British Library to work on community learning, business and engagement projects.

Story Garden
Story Garden at the British Library

Friday Spanish Architecture Magazine A+T have published a six page spread about our Skip Garden project in King's Cross. It's a real joy to read how others perceive one's work.

In the afternoon meeting at Lendlease's office in Elephant & Castle to present the designs for a temporary place making installation that will form part of a large-scale regeneration project. Interesting discussions about what makes a good street and a good public space, how to foster cultural activity in a new neighbourhood and how to respond flexibly to people's changing needs in the urban environment.

Blue House Yard
Blue House Yard meanwhile village in Wood Green, London

I really enjoy working on meanwhile projects because they are a great platform for design innovation and because they provide an opportunity to engage with communities and start a dialogue about the sort of place where we all want to live without quite committing to a permanent and finite solution. After all, some of the world's famous landmarks like Gustave Eiffel's tower in Paris and the London Eye started their life as temporary projects - and I wonder whether they'd ever have received planning permission in the first place if they had been conceived as permanent structures from the outset. Temporary projects have made a really valuable contribution to the way we think about architecture and urbanism during the last decade.

Back in the office, an internal review of our exhibition design for the forthcoming Spare Parts exhibition at the Science Gallery at King's College. We have made the decision to manufacture the exhibition components ourselves. Just like most other architects, we work with contractors, specialist fabricators and makers to realise our designs. But ever so often, we build ourselves, sometimes as a team at Jan Kattein Architects, sometimes together with communities, apprentices or craftsmen. Building together engages the team, teaches new skills and provides room for experimentation and innovation - and as architects it makes us better at instructing others to build. If you are free, come to the Spare Parts exhibition opening on Thursday 28 February 2019!

I enjoy the heterogeneity of my work, the fact that what I do makes a difference to people's lives and the day to day interactions with my team, but now I am happy that it's Friday.

18 January 2019

Five tips to drive traffic to your website

Grow are small business marketing consultants, whose founder and MD, Alasdair Inglis, is the Marketing Expert in Residence at the Business & IP Centre. Here they give us five tips to help drive traffic to your website.

 

You had to build a website for your business, that much was clear. You designed and honed your site until it was ready. Then what?

Like many people, your website is all dressed up and ready to go, but where's the traffic?

There are lots of brilliant websites like yours selling great products and services but don't have the traffic they need to be successful. If you find yourself at this point, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will run through some basic techniques to help your site rank on Google and get traffic.

  1. Find the right keyword phrases for your web pages

Keywords are the building blocks of how search engines work. Keywords are crucial for driving traffic to your website for free. When people perform Google searches, an algorithm decides what content to show them. You need to tell the search engine that yours is the best result to show. Using keywords throughout your web pages helps Google understand what you offer and when you should appear.

There's also a bit of a catch. Some keywords are so popular that you haven't much chance of ever ranking for them. If you tried to rank a web page for the keyword, chocolate, you will struggle.

The trick is to find less-popular keyword phrases e.g. "Where can I buy organic chocolate?", where you might be able to rank for the phrase, but you'll never rank for the keyword chocolate alone as it's just too competitive!

Targeting the right keyword phrases is crucial. When researching for the best keyword phrases, the key is to find the balance between low enough competition and high enough volume. There are many ways to do keyword research, and some software packages such as SEM Rush give you an idea of how hard it is to rank a keyword phrase in Google.

  1. Putting your keywords to work

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Sadly, it's not quite as easy as just putting the right keywords on your web page. You need to optimise your web pages in order for search engines to rank the web page for a particular search term.

Think about it from Google's point of view. Every person that searches is their customer – and they want to provide the very best service to that customer to keep them coming back (it seems to be working!). To do that they must strive to eliminate poorly written and irrelevant content and anything that could deliver a bad experience to their customer. Optimising your site is saying to Google, "I'm here, I've got good content, and my site is worth showing".  We’ve written a detailed guide to optimising your web pages.

  1. Create your content

Once you know your keyword phrases, it's time to start creating content. Many people dip their toe in the water with a blog. If you're reading this and can write, congratulations, you're qualified to create a blog!

Some find writing daunting, and others don't enjoy the process. Luckily for those people (and writers, too!), we're in the age of video content. Video content is on the rise at the moment and generally receives higher engagement.

A combination of text and video might be the ideal way to boost social media shares and links to your blog– and therefore your search rankings!

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*Tool tip: Yoast SEO is a great little tool for free on-page blog optimisation. If you're using WordPress, give it a try! If not, set up an account and test your content with Yoast before posting text your site!

  1. Get other websites to link to your web pages.

It seems strange to think about, but the internet is just a collection of pages linked to each other. Links are the fabric of the internet. Search engines know this and use links to help them work out the quality of websites and web pages.

The more links from quality sites that point to your website, the more important Google knows your website is. Quality links are one of the major ways Google and Bing rank your pages. If your chocolate-themed website is linked to from chocolate-lovers blogs and chocolatiers’ groups, great!

Link building (the process of acquiring links from relevant quality websites to your content) can happen quite naturally. If you have great content, people will often link to you. Millions of links are being created daily without anybody asking for them.

Sometimes, the organic way can be a little slow. Especially right at the start! If nobody sees your content, nobody can link to it. An outreach programme can be a good bet. Dust-off your best email manners and contact other businesses, make connections and show them what great resources you have! Once you have a good network within your niche, it will be easier to pick up links along the way. This process can be carried out with a relatively low budget by using mail merge software, but it can be time-consuming.

There are a number of different strategies you can use, such as contacting bloggers who write about your niche and asking them to link to a useful article you’ve written, is a great way to get a link. Bloggers are usually keen to be the first to break some news or get involved with something fresh. Perhaps think about what you can offer them in return? Sometimes sending them a product to review is a great way to do this. 

Another common link building strategy is to offer a complimentary guest post to a high-quality website. You will need to write an excellent guest post though!

  1. Use social media to share your content

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More than three billion people worldwide now use social media every month. That's also a lot of potential customers and website traffic back to your site!

Ensure that your social media profiles all link back to your website and that you're sharing your own content and driving traffic and engagement to your site.

Social media can also be an excellent tool for finding relevant bloggers and businesses to get links from and to share your content. Connect with people via Twitter and form a relationship. The clue is in the name… so be social!

Posting useful content, engaging with people and building your followers is a sure-fire way to increase traffic and promote your website. So, what are you waiting for? Your next blog, article or video post is just a few hours away.

Remember your keywords, build those links up and stay social.

Want to learn more digital marketing strategies with Grow? Visit our workshops and events page to see when their next Online marketing masterclass is running.

02 January 2019

Five elements to consider when choosing a winning domain

Here are some top tips from our partner UK2 on choosing the correct domain...

The domain you choose for your next digital adventure is a major decision, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your web address outlines branding and website identity and also impacts how website users find you online. When the time comes for you to choose your new domain name, there are a few things you need to consider. We’ve assembled a list of the most important website elements including, uniqueness, typability, clarity, substance, and protection.

See our recommendations for these important elements and the questions you should ask yourself before registering a domain in the list below:

#1. Uniqueness

While it can be difficult to stand out on the internet - a place that holds everything and everyone in the world - it is important to attempt to create a unique identity for your brand and website. Your domain name is the perfect place to begin to find your originality.

Startups.co writes that “You need to establish an identity that gives your company direction and helps customers easily find you.” The uniqueness of your domain is important not only to try to create a name for yourself but also to make sure that you aren’t encroaching on anyone else’s territory. Check and double check the domain name you have in mind by answering the questions below:

  • Is anyone else using this domain, or something similar?
  • Is this domain brandable to represent your specific purpose?
  • Is this domain memorable, and will it lead visitors to your page?

#2. Typability

Whilst this word is clearly invented for our purposes, it represents a very important aspect of choosing your domain. When searching out your next domain name, it is important to remember that website visitors will be typing in your web address repeatedly. You will be repeating your domain name out loud for years to come, so you want to consider how it sounds.

Maqtoob writes, “Whether you’re launching a startup, ramping up a business or rebranding your company, it’s important that you have a domain name that rolls off the tongue, is easy to remember, communicates a positive image, looks professional, and inspires you and your team.” If you include unique words that are tough to spell or sequences of numbers that might be forgotten, you might lead people to the wrong site or error pages. To avoid this mistake, ask yourself the questions below:

  • Does your domain easily lead to mistypes or misspellings?
  • Is your domain long and convoluted?

#3. Clarity

Ensuring that your domain is clear lends an aura of respectability that you might otherwise miss out on. There are far too many spammy domains, email addresses, and social media accounts to make us wary of almost everyone we come across online. However, we realise that this is not an easy task. Paul Graham once wrote, “In a world where all the obvious names are taken, finding a good name is a test of imagination. And the name you choose tells whether or not you passed that test.” To be sure that your website gains the credibility it deserves, ask yourself the following questions:

  • From your domain, can site visitors get an understanding of what you offer?
  • Does your domain clearly represent your brand?
  • Could you easily be mistaken as another website?
  • Is your domain as short as possible?
  • If in doubt, is a simple is better than a shorter domain?

#4. Substance

If you’ve ever seen articles about the unfortunate domains for IT Scrap, Pen Island, or Who Represents websites, you know that understanding how your brand is displayed without spacing is very important. Do your best to make sure that you are not using numbers, hyphens, or a collection of smaller words that could become confusing when strung together. Ask yourself the following questions before registering your new domain:

  • Does the domain avoid hyphens and numbers?
  • Could your domain be misconstrued because of spacing?
  • Have you checked into the history of the domain and its other uses?

#5. Protection

The unfortunate truth of the digital world is that if someone has a chance to misrepresent themselves to earn a pound or two, they probably will. While we don’t want to believe that there are lots of unscrupulous folks hanging around the web, the truth is, there are. This is exactly why you want to be sure that you don’t register domains too close to an established entity and why you want to protect your brand by registering domains that are too closely related to you. Before registering, check the answers to these questions to protect your brand and your reputation:

  • Could others purchase domains similar to yours to spoof or misrepresent your business?
  • Are there other domains you should register to keep off the market?

Now that you have encountered the necessary elements of your new domain name, all that’s left is to choose the winning contestant. Check availability, add necessary tools, and register your domain with the help of UK2.NET today!

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18 December 2018

What a year it's been at the Business & IP Centre

In the last weeks of 2018, we are taking the opportunity to look back at all the highlights in preparation of yet another prosperous and busy year at the Business & IP Centre. From expanding our National Network, to our biggest ever Start-up Day and truly inspirational guest speakers at our Inspiring Entrepreneurs events, this has been a year to remember. Here's a look back at some of the successes and key achievements in 2018 both for the Centre and among our network of users, supporters and partners.

Inspiring Entrepreneurs 

Our Inspiring Entrepreneurs events are always a highlight, but in 2018 we welcomed speakers ranging from the founder and CEO of Square and Twitter, Jack Dorsey to the Queen of Shops Mary Portas.

The year got off to a great start back in February when we delivered our first Inspiring Entrepreneurs of 2018, focusing on successful online businesses and heard from Tom Adeyoola, Founder and CEO of Metail, Rikke Rosenlund, Founder of BorrowMyDoggy, Karen Hanton MBE, Founder of Toptable.com and Sara Murray OBE, Founder of confused.com but more recently Buddi and Non-Executive Director of Bohoo.com. Each of them had plenty of advice for the audience of budding entrepreneurs. 

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We gathered a panel of experts at Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons who have all made a success of running a business online, to find out what helped or hindered them. Photo: British Library

Our journey into tech-enabled entrepreneurship and a digital future for small businesses continued when Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of payments firm Square got together with the brilliant Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, founder of social enterprise STEMettes for an evening of empowering conversations on anything from tech, machine learning and cryptocurrencies to the future of the economy. For the benefit of everyone who wasn’t as lucky as us, we have compiled the highlights of a fascinating, in-depth discussion about things as big as the future of the economy and as intimate as the personal journey of an established entrepreneur from a childhood fascination with maps to the lasting impact of disrupting more than one industry, on a global scale.

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Jack Dorsey on Square: Our purpose is to build simple tools that empower and enable people to participate in the economy. Photo: British Library.

But we didn't stop there. In July,  Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Feelgood Founders brought together Liz Earle MBE, Mark Constantine OBE, Co-founder of Lush, Simon Duffy MBE, Founder of Bulldog Skincare for Men and Sherille Riley, Founder of Nails and Brows Mayfair Boutique who shared the stories behind their well-known health and beauty brands. Other Inspiring Entrepreneurs events this year featured Women Mean Business, Black Britain in the Creative Industries and last, but not least a candid conversation with Mary Portas. You can visit our YouTube channel BIPCTV to catch-up with highlights from all these, and more.

 

Our biggest ever Start-up Day 

In September, we delivered the biggest Start-up Day to date – a nationwide event delivered across our network of UK libraries designed to give aspiring entrepreneurs all the information and inspiration they need to take the first steps on their business journey. Some of the highlights on the day include activities in 17 libraries around the UK, 101 business events delivered, more than 1,000 attendees across all locations and webcast views from around the world. Start-up Day, in collaboration with Santander, once again proved to be a huge success.  You can catch our highlights and keynote presentations here.

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Start-up Day 2018. Photo: British Library.

 

A growing network of Corporate Partners

We are committed to working with a network of professional corporate partners and to sharing information on their relevant services and support with our network. 

It was on our Start-up Day campaign that we once again worked closely in collaboration with Santander Breakthrough, who attended each separate event and provided well received extra guidance on navigating business finance. It’s been extremely valuable to tap into the Breakthrough events programme and we’ve met some exciting and inspirational founders through our events together, including Becky Slater from Shine Creative Solutions and Wendi Lai of Lonbrella.

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Santander at Start-up Day 2018. Photo: British Library.

Of course this just gives a brief flavour of what we’ve been getting up to this year and there’s much more to celebrate, not to mention expanding our National Network of Business & IP Centres by launching services in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Glasgow and Nottingham during 2018 too. We’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all of our users that launched their business or continued to expand it in 2018, and to our partners and speakers who supported them in their achievements. We look forward to working with you all in the year ahead to help your business go from strength to strength.

10 December 2018

Contemporary twists on traditional festive gifts

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas so we decided to catch up with some of our Innovating for Growth alumni whose businesses become even busier over the festive period to get their take on seasonal trends, consumer behaviour and to see what they are offering this year... 

Mellissa Morgan, co-founder and Company Director of Ms. Cupcake in Brixton, has found that traditional flavours remain popular, but are wanted in contemporary and innovate ways, "Big successes this year have been our Stollen Muffin, which is a light and fluffy take on the traditional German treat. Our Mince Pie Squares have been a big hit with our B2B clients, flying off the shelves of their establishments”. 

Ms. Cupcake Grinch Cupcake
It’s also a great time of year to be playful, as Mellissa has seen with their ‘Grinch’ Chocolate Mint cupcakes. 

That’s not the only change in consumer habits Mellissa has noticed. Consumers’ lifestyle choices have also impacted on Ms. Cupcake, “Veganism has been on the rise over the last two years and retailers both big and small are taking note! When we opened the UK’s first vegan bakery back in 2011, we were a novelty. Now that vegan foods have become a firm fixture on the high street, we are in great company!. 

From food to feet... ChattyFeet, co-founded by Gil Kahana, is a brand of quirky, pun-filled, character socks, Gil says, “Here at ChattyFeet, we're very excited about Christmas. We love the Christmas lights, mulled wine and spending time with people we care about. The festive season can get pretty intense so we're also looking forward to chill out in January”. 

Their sock characters, however are causing mischief... Yayoi Toesame insists that ChattyFeet’s Christmas tree will have only circular shapes! Can you imagine? Is it a bit dotty or perhaps she's right? 

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Ernestoe Hemingway is doing OK apart from his constant demands. He wants ChattyFeet to let people know that he doesn't want any more books for Christmas (on social media)... Apparently he has enough books to read until 2020! 

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And lastly, a bit of an embarrassing one... If you bought Mr. Grrrril socks between 2017-2018, ChattyFeet need to warn you about a possible issue... Some customers sent us evidence of Mr. Grrrril opening up the presents early. 

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It sounds like ChattyFeet have a demanding bunch on their hands feet, but they aren't the only ones with a sense of humour. Rosie Tate, designer of cards and gifts at family-run business, Cath Tate Cards has a range of traditional and humorous Christmas cards. With the rise of digital communications, we asked Rosie if the trend of sending Christmas cards was in decline, “The rise and rise of the internet, email, text and social media might make you think traditional paper greeting card sending was dead, however this is not the case. In 2017 100 million single Christmas greeting cards were bought and in addition, an estimated 900m Christmas cards were sold in boxes and packs”. 

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Rosie add, “Every person in the UK sends on average 33 greeting cards a year. A text or an email is just not going to cut the mustard for Aunty Brenda at Christmas! A paper card is an obviously more thoughtful gesture. 

Which gets us thinking, we should probably make a start on writing ours... 

If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of these entrepreneurs 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? Register your interest for our next intake today.

23 November 2018

IP Corner: Registered designs and knitting

When people think of intellectual property what most often springs to mind is patents, closely followed by trade marks. There are other forms of IP though and I came upon a good example of one when looking at gadgets to do with my favourite pastime – knitting.

This is the Wool Jeanie a nifty little device that holds the ball of wool/yarn whilst you are knitting releasing the wool evenly as you knit. The yarn holder is suspended from the frame using magnets and when not in use it can be disengaged from the frame and rested on the platform below.

Knitting

The Wool Jeanie is a UK registered design registered with the IPO UK and given design registration number RD6011452. The full design record can be viewed via the DesignView database upon entering the registered design number in the search box.

If you are not sure how to use the database, or if you are just interested, you can download our free IP guide A brief introduction to registered designs and registered design searching.

Registered designs protect the outward look of a product particularly the lines, contours, shape or texture, but they can also protect the material or ornamentation of the product. You cannot protect the way the design works, only the way it looks. To protect its functionality you would need to apply for a patent. For a design to be protectable it must be new and it must be unique.

A UK registered design gives the rights holder the exclusive right in the United Kingdom to make, use, sell, import and export any product embodying the design, if it is a shape, or bearing the design if it is ornamentation.

Registered designs can apply to a wide variety of products from packaging to furnishings, from clothing to jewellery and from household goods to textiles. However, registered designs do not last forever. Registered designs last a maximum of 25 years and are renewable every five years to the 25 year maximum. At the end of the 25 years, or if the renewal fees aren’t paid, the registered design falls into the public domain and is there for anyone to use.

So why should a business protect its designs?

By registering your designs you:

  • contribute to obtaining a return on investments made by you or your company into creating and marketing your products.
  • obtain exclusive right to the registered design allowing you to prevent or, if necessary, stop others from exploiting or copying your design without your written permission.
  • have the opportunity to sell or license the rights to the design to another enterprise for a fee.
  • strengthen your brand.

It is worth remembering that a vast majority of businesses today are web-based and the IP registrations the company holds, or the licenses it has to use others' IP, are assets of the business which can help increase the market value of a company and its products.

Within the UK unregistered ‘Design right’ also exists and automatically protects a design for a maximum of 10 years from the end of the calendar year in which the design was first sold or for 15 years after it was created whichever is the earlier. However, design right only applies to the shape and configuration of an object.

When deciding whether or not to register your designs it is worth speaking with an intellectual property attorney. Most will offer free 30 minute one-to-one advice sessions and you can find one in your local area via their website.

So what about my Wool Jeanie? Well, it has proved to be one of the best gadgets I have bought it my many years of knitting and crocheting and I am busy spreading the word about it to all my handicraft friends and acquaintances.

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.

14 November 2018

Anne-Marie Imafidon is changing the future by engaging young girls with technology


  

 As with most businesses, our Business & IP ambassador Anne-Marie Imafidon also had her light-bulb moment: a keynote lecture at a conference for women in technology, and the realisation that the number of women in the industry had been steadily declining for the last three decades. This resonated with her own experience of being one of just 3 girls in a class of 70 studying Maths and Computer Science at university. 

A child prodigy herself, Anne-Marie holds the current world record for the youngest girl ever to pass A-level computing aged 11, and is one of the youngest people to be awarded a Master's Degree in Mathematics by University of Oxford aged 20. So who better to reverse the trend than someone who has been inspired by maths and science, and went on to pursue a career in STEM?

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Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE is an inspirational figure within maths, technology and business.


Less than a year after that momentous keynote lecture, STEMettes was born: a social enterprise that motivates young girls to take up Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. The award-winning enterprise has since empowered over 40,000 girls to realise their potential, changing the future of technology one STEMette at a time in a landscape currently dominated by an overwhelmingly male workforce.
  
But not all went according to plan when Anne-Marie was setting it up, and her initial vision of what STEMettes should be changed in a number of ways. 

“There were several key aspects of what we do today that we were not going to pursue to begin with. One of them was working with schools, something we did not think would be part of our offer: and now we have a schools programme hosting trips into partner companies, we also support schools by running panels, sessions on site and more. Another one is mentoring, an important part of STEMettes today with a more-than-mentoring programme connecting young women with inspirational industry examples to guide their first steps. What was there from the beginning and has remained at the core of what we do is creating a free, fun and food-filled experience to inspire and support the next generation of girls into STEM while making them feel like they're part of something special... and cool."

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"Diversity is important in any industry - and STEM especially. Diversity of thought leads to innovation.", Anne-Marie Imafidon, Head Stemmete. Photo: Robert Ormerod for The New York Times.

Anne-Marie is vocal about the importance of diversity, not just for its own sake, but diversity of thought as a necessary part of innovation: only by introducing the female perspective in industries that are severely lacking one can we create a genuinely equal future.

"We're a small, but passionate team doing what we can to help. We can't have women leaders if they're not joining the industry in the first place."

While working with girls from an early age is important, and a desire to pursue a career in STEM is a great first step, Anne-Marie says it is also crucial to have support at a post-education stage to facilitate real progress. Business is another area were there are plenty of barriers. 

"The Business & IP Centre, with hubs throughout the UK is a wonderful example of how free resources, accessible expert help and a programme of workshops and events in an inclusive, welcoming environment can make a tremendous difference in supporting entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. The fact that over half of the Business & IP Centre supports are women proves that demand is certainly there."

 

Ewa Domaradzka, Commercial Marketing Manager 

13 November 2018

Q&A with the Queen of Shops, Mary Portas

We couldn’t resist asking the Queen of Shops herself, Mary Portas, a few pressing questions before she takes to the stage at Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Work Like A Woman with Mary Portas.

Some of our Innovating for Growth graduates and Ambassador, Julie Deane OBE, picked Mary’s brain on surviving in business during a challenging economic climate, the rise of digital and more. Here's what they asked...

Alice Asquith, founder and creative director of Asquith: 

With the closure of some key High Street stores, what advice would you give to someone starting out in this rather challenging retail climate?

It depends on where you want to place yourself. The future of great High Street retail will be around experience, knowledge and incredible service. If you can put that at the heart of your business and you believe your offer is unique and relevant to that market and you’re not being screwed over on rent, you have a chance. There’s so much more I’d ask you but these are the first things you should be asking yourself. Why would somebody make the effort to come to my shop? if you can cover the above you have a chance.

Where would you recommend for women to network if they’d like to meet other like-minded retail business owners?

There are hundreds if not thousands of great networking groups across many sectors. They all offer different things so it’s totally dependent on what you’re looking for right now. If you can’t find one that’s giving you what you need, start your own.

What would you say are the key ingredients and factors to successful collaborations with likeminded partners?

Understand the word collaboration. A symbiotic relationship where both parties benefit and support each other. Collaboration is about being better together than apart. Often collaborations are done with one thinking about their benefit alone. You need to consider your collaborator’s reputation and how they’ll benefit too.

Julie Deane OBE, founder of Cambridge Satchel Company:

Should businesses concentrate on establishing themselves in their home market before casting their eyes overseas?

Absolutely. And especially when you’re selling something that’s connected culturally to your market. I’ve seen too many business who’ve gone international and the power of their brand back home has eroded.

Rowena Howie, founder of Revival Retro:

Up and down the country there are small specialist shops providing a remarkable in store experience whilst trying to respond to a digital economy. What advice does the Queen of Shops have for bricks and clicks micro-businesses trying to pay a living wage, offer flexible working and create opportunities for amazing people, whilst still paying rampant rents, unfair rates and facing competition on a global level? Where do you consider the focus should be for small retailers looking to grow and create opportunity?

Focus on community, customer experience and identity. If you nail those three you stand a chance.

 

If you missed Mary's talk, you can catch up on our YouTube channel.

12 November 2018

Celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week at the Business & IP Centre

This year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week is a great opportunity to highlight women, youth and inclusion in entrepreneurship. We are proud that 56% of users to the Business & IP Centres in London and around the country are women and 38% of users are BAME, providing an accessible and inclusive environment for people at all stages of their business life.

Despite living in an information-rich world, sometimes it’s difficult to find what you are looking for, know the quality of the resources or where to go. Awareness weeks such as Global Entrepreneurship Week, allows us to join in these conversations and highlight the importance of our National Network of Business & IP Centres and all that we offer.

Throughout Global Entrepreneurship Week, in addition to our regular line up of workshops and webinars, we also have on offer sessions bringing together hundreds of attendees and many experienced and knowledgeable partners. Workshops include Books mean Business, Diverse Wisdom, Fashion business planning & strategy, Networking for success and more, as well as a special day-long free event, Work Like A Women Day, on Thursday 15 November, before the ultimate celebration of unstoppable feminine force; Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Work Like a Woman with Mary Portas, who will be launching her new book, exploring new ways of working.

We asked the presenters of Work Like A Woman Day, what it means to them to ‘work like a woman’ and here’s what they said…

Amy Tez, a professional actress who helps entrepreneurs and business leaders communicate with power, conviction and clarity
The Listening Leader

“I’m a woman but I see myself as more than that. I’m a human being like any other, doing the best I can. Coming from a challenging background, I bring my fighting spirit to my business and to helping others grow. My only focus is to help us all listen more, trust ourselves more and reconnect to our shared humanity.”

Kim Davies, marketing expert and journalist
The Heroines of Hollywood

“As a New Yorker living in London, I was told I had to completely change the way I did business. ‘Be less aggressive. Speak in a quieter tone. Talk about the weather before you get to business.’ It was exhausting. Over the years, I’ve given myself permission to be both. I took the best traits from both worlds and balanced it with my true self, so that I could grow as a person, but still remain genuine. That’s what Working Like A Woman has meant to me.”

Emine Rushton, Wellbeing Director at Psychologies, founder of The Balance Plan and conscious consultancy Leaf Create
The Purposeful Career

“For me it is about working in a way that is wholly aligned with my values, that puts my own needs and those of my family first, that supports social equality and positive change, and champions messages of kindness, ethics and truth. Utmost of all, never ever feeling pressurised to be anything other than who I am – and never trying to squeeze myself, or my business models, into a pre-defined box.”

We’d love to hear what you think it means to ‘work like a woman’, tweet us with the #BLMaryPortas and we’ll share our favourites!

Our events don’t just end when Global Entrepreneurship Week does… November highlights include Profit with Purpose (Tuesday 20 November), giving lessons and advice on what it takes to launch a socially impactful product and Passion into Pounds with Purpose (Thursday 29 November), which looks at the leap from employee to working for yourself.

We have also rounded up some of the events taking place around the National Network:

Business & IP Centre Northamptonshire

How to write winning words for your business website, Thursday 15 November, 10.00 – 12.00. Delivered by Stephen Church of Copywriter Pro and covers the key elements that will make a website do its job.

Business & IP Centre Liverpool

  • Product development clinic with Def Proc Engineering, Tuesday 13 November, 17.30 – 19.45
  • Be Your Own Boss advice drop-in with St Helens Chamber of Commerce, Wednesday 14 November, 14.00 – 16.15
  • Entrepreneur In Residence, Cllr Gary Millar’s business advice drop-in, Thursday 15 November, 13.00 – 16.00
  • Research your market! workshop, Thursday 15 November, 18.00 – 19.30
  • Smarta Business Starter advice drop-in with Alt Valley community Trust, Friday 16 November, 10.00 – 14.00

Business & IP Centre Hull

  • Using the UN Global Goals to unleash social business ideas, Tuesday 13 November, 10.00 – 15.00. Delivered by Chapter 3 Enterprise C.I.C.
  • Intellectual Property Clinic, one to one appointments, Wednesday 14 November, 14.00 – 17.00
  • Social Media for Business Clinic, one to one appointments, Thursday 15 November, 13.00 – 17.00

Business & IP Centre Sheffield

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