Innovation and enterprise blog

Introduction

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

19 March 2021

Meet our delivery partner: Sam Lane

Not everyone can afford a professional photographer, especially when you are starting a new business and having to spin a number of plates including and not limited to marketing, research and  finance... But these days almost everyone has a great camera in their pocket or bag. Today’s smartphones are all pretty good with a good quality lens (or maybe multiple lenses) and software that makes some great photography decisions for you.

I’m Sam Lane and I have been taking photos since I was around 10 years old. I have over 30 years of experience in Marketing Communications working for some amazing brands including Microsoft and I set up a Limited company in 2013 covering both Commercial and Social photography projects. Commercial clients include the British Library, Network Rail and High Speed 1 (that owns and operates St Pancras International station); I have had the pleasure of photographing the Queen, Sir Elton John and John Legend as well as over 85 weddings including two in Australia and one in the US!

Sam Lane taking a selfie

So I know what it is like to work in a business and not finding enough time to work on the business. A few years ago the Business & IP Centre ran a(nother) fantastic Start Up Day and invited me to do a session on smartphone photography. This evolved into two-hour workshop – face to face when we are allowed, but now perfectly manageable via Zoom – which gives some practical tips and tricks about how to take better photos using your smartphone, whatever make or model; whatever your skill level; and whatever your business needs.

This workshop is aimed at start-ups, small business owners and entrepreneurs who have brilliant ideas but maybe not the money to pay for professional, outsourced help.

We start by looking at ways of optimising your camera phone settings and identifying some features that are going to be helpful as you take more photos – switching on the camera grid being one great example.

Phone camera screenshot

We touch on how to actually take a photo, and moving you from taking a snap to taking a more considered photo.

And really getting to grips with storytelling as “a picture speaks a 1000 words”.

We also look at the importance of planning to make sure that you don’t waste your valuable time. Imagine you are paying someone else to take pictures for you – they’d need to know where, when and what you want the photo of, but also why and how they are going to be used…

We focus (you see what I did there?) on what makes a good photo with the key photographic principles of Lighting and Composition. Ever heard of the Rule of thirds for example?

Even as a professional I know that life is too short to spend time editing so I will give you some tips on making simple edits, mainly using the in-camera editing tools, that help take your images from good to great.

We touch on saving, sharing and storing the images and then focus back on YOU.

Sam workshop in person

My favourite part of the workshop (apart from seeing and hearing your “lightbulb moments” – AE/AF Lock to mention just one) is then finding out about your businesses, looking at your website images and social channels and getting peer group insight from other attendees about what looks good and / or could be improved.

I’ve been amazed - and humbled - at the talent I have seen. People who are thinking about it or just starting out; and those already running small businesses and even growing them - from belly dancers and fitness instructors to tango shoes and pet accessory manufacturers – all with unique challenges but the one common factor – the desire for great photos.

From my experience of running the workshops, we all learn something, especially me!

I look forward to seeing new and inspiring people and hope to meet people face to face at the BIPC later in 2021!

You can find Sam's workshops listed on our Events page: https://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre/workshops-and-events

09 March 2021

Seven female patent pioneers you should know

This Women's History Month we, at the Business & IP Centre, are shining the light on female inventors. Let's hear more from the curator from our historical patent collection, Steven Campion, on just some of his favourite inventions patented by women. 

'Although women have always found solutions to the problems around them, social and historical factors mean little of this was recorded. Women inventors would have had fewer resources and faced discriminatory barriers at every step of their journey – often having their contributions downplayed or overlooked entirely.

Therefore just 62 out of the 14,359 patents granted in England between 1617 and 1852 were awarded to women. In fact before 1965, the proportion of women in the UK patent system was generally between 2% and 3%. The proportion has since risen at an accelerating pace, having reached 6.8% in 1998, and then almost doubling to reach 12.7% in 2017. As the number of women working within the STEM sector increases, we can hopefully look forward to this number rising further.

But as for those patents that have already been filed, I have collated some of the most notable and fascinating examples of problem-solving women who were at the forefront of innovation.

Before we begin, a quick caveat. Earlier patents may exist for some of the inventions given in this list but the following women are widely considered the inventor of their ‘thing’ because it worked (earlier versions didn't in some cases), or it was popular, or it is recognisable to the form as it exists today, and so on. It is also worth saying that there are many other female innovators and inventors we could have mentioned. Not all acquired patents, some weren’t given credit, many were trapped by the conditions of their time. However this is a selection of some notable examples

Mary Anderson – windscreen wiper

Window Cleaning Device patent

A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here.

Mary Anderson visited New York City in the winter of 1903. This was the year before the subway opened and the streetcar was a popular way to get around town. During her trip it snowed heavily, forcing the streetcar drivers to frequently stop to clear the snow and ice from their windscreens. When this became unmanageable, they would instead drive with their head sticking out of an open window.

Delays and open windows of course meant discomfort for the passengers, especially someone like Anderson who was not used to the chill of a New York winter.

Knowing there had to be a solution, Anderson began work as soon as she returned to Alabama. Her finished prototype was a radially swinging rubber blade which would wipe the windscreen clear of obstruction. Fairly similar to the modern-day windscreen wiper, except Anderson’s invention was manually operated by a handle inside by the driver (in 1917 another female inventor, Charlotte Bridgwood, was granted a patent for the first electrically powered windscreen wiper).

On the 10th November 1903, U.S. patent no. 743,801 was granted to Anderson for her ‘window-cleaning device’. Unfortunately not many people saw the worth in her invention, saying it would be a dangerous distraction to the driver. Cars were also not particularly common and Ford’s Model T was still 5 years away. Anderson therefore made no money from her patent and it eventually lapsed.

As driving became more commonplace, the windscreen wiper was eventually adapted for automotive use, today being an important safety device that is a legal requirement in most countries.

 

Mary Walton – pollution reducing devices

Patent for Elevated Railway

A copy of U.S. patent no. 221,880 can be seen here; the historic IP collection at the library contains a paper copy of the GB version of the patent (GB 3,512 of 1879).

A copy of U.S. patent no. 237,422 can be seen here.

Elevated trains were installed throughout the larger U.S. cities in the second half of the 19th century, unfortunately bringing a large amount of air and noise pollution for those living nearby. Mary Walton, who lived beside the tracks in Brooklyn, worked to solve both problems, earning herself a place in history as a STEM female pioneer.

In 1879 she was granted U.S. patent no. 221,880 for ‘Improvement in locomotive and other chimneys’. Her invention reduced air pollution by diverting chimney smoke through water tanks. This process dissolved and trapped the pollutants in the water, which would later be flushed into the sewer system.

Next, she realised that wooden elements of the track were amplifying the noise of the trains. Using a model railway she built in her basement, she came up with a working solution – encasing specific sections of the track in weatherproof wooden boxes filled with sand. This successfully absorbed the majority of the vibrations; greatly reducing the noise levels. Before Anderson, many noted engineers and inventors tried and failed to find a solution, including Thomas Edison.

After successful trials, Walton was granted U.S. patent no. 237,422 in 1881. She sold the patent rights to New York City’s Metropolitan Railroad, and before long the system was in place throughout America.

 

Josephine Cochrane - first commercially successful dishwashing machine

Dishwashing machine patent

A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here; the historic IP collection at the library contains a paper copy of the GB version of the patent (GB 9,895 of 1887).

Josephine Cochrane, a 19th century socialite, often hosted grand dinner parties at her mansion in Illinois. She was fortunate enough to have servants to wash up afterwards, but Cochrane was unhappy to discover the occasional chip in her heirloom china. She therefore decided to wash the dishes herself, though soon became bored of the task.

So bored in fact, that Cochrane designed a machine to take over. Her machine used water pressure to clean dishes held in place by wire racks – a system recognisable to anyone with a modern dishwasher.

The first few male engineers she hired predictably insisted on changing her design. They were convinced they knew better than an untrained woman, but their changes never worked. Eventually her design was built and U.S. patent no. 335,139 was granted for her ‘Dish washing machine’ in 1886.

At the time the machine was too expensive for most homeowners and required more hot water than the typical home could generate. But after winning a top prize at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, orders poured in from hotels, restaurants, and hospitals.

In 1898 Cochrane started her own company which she managed until her death in 1913. In 1926 the company was acquired by Hobart, which went on to produce the first successful home dishwashers under the KitchenAid brand in the 1940s.

Today half of all UK households have a dishwasher thanks to the pioneering work of Josephine Cochrane – presumably the other half wishes they had room for one.

 

Margaret Knight - machine for making flat-bottomed paper bags

Patent for Bag Machine

A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here.

In 1867 Margaret Knight started work at a paper bag factory. At the time, mass produced paper bags had envelope style bottoms, which were both weak and narrow. Flat-bottomed bags were stronger and made packing easier, but there was no machine that could make these. Instead a production line of 30 women were employed to cut, fold, and glue these together. Flat-bottomed bags were therefore expensive and uncommon.

Knight was an inventor at heart. At the age of just 12 she had invented a loom safety device that was used extensively by the cotton industry (but unfortunately not patented). She therefore soon developed a machine that could manufacture flat-bottomed bags from start to finish – something male inventors had been trying and failing to do for years. In 1871 Knight applied for a patent, but was rejected as a similar machine was recently patented by Charles Annan.

Before her application, Knight had visited several machine shops in order to create an iron prototype. At one of these, Annan saw the plans and decided to steal the invention. Knight filed a patent interference lawsuit, with a mass of documentation and witness testimony on her side. Annan could only really state that no woman could design such a machine. Knight of course won, and U.S. patent no. 116,842 was granted for her ‘Improvement in paper-bag machines’ in 1871.

Knight would continue to innovate, being awarded many more patents over the course of her lifetime.

 

Melitta Bentz – the coffee filter

Journal entry that includes the industrial property right for Melitta Bentz's coffee filter patent

The industrial property right was granted with registration on page 1145 of the 8th July 1908 edition of the patent gazette of the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin – see image.

Like many of us, Melitta Bentz enjoyed starting her morning with a cup of coffee. What she didn’t enjoy was the bitter tasting coffee grounds still left floating in her cup.

At the time, coffee was usually brewed by pouring ground coffee into hot water and then waiting for the grounds to settle to the bottom. Sieves and cloth bags would help, but they either let too many coffee grounds through, or would be so narrow that the coffee would be cold by the time it was filtered.

One day Bentz had a flash of inspiration. She drilled holes into the bottom of a brass pot, which she then sat on top of a cup. Next, she placed a piece of blotting paper from her son’s school exercise book into the bottom of the pot, adding freshly ground coffee on top. Bentz then poured hot water into the pot and watched as clean, filtered coffee dripped into the cup below – she had invented pour-over coffee and the coffee filter.

In 1908 Bentz was granted utility model 343,556 for her ‘Coffee filter with a domed underside, recessed bottom and inclined flow holes’ from the patent office in Berlin. The same year she founded the company ‘Melitta’ and began to sell her pot and filter paper. In the 1930s Melitta would go on to create the cone shaped filter and today, the still family owned business, produces over 50 million filters a day.

Despite the ease of modern coffee brewing methods, pour over coffee has remained popular amongst coffee lovers, who appreciate the high level of control it provides.

 

Elizabeth Magie – the landlord’s game

Patent for The Landlord's Game, precursor to Monopoly

A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here.

For the longest time it was an accepted fact that Monopoly was invented by Charles Darrow in 1933. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a decade long trademark infringement lawsuit revealed the actual truth – Monopoly was heavily based on another board game patented decades earlier by a progressive woman called Elizabeth Magie.

Magie was granted U.S. patent no. 748,626 in 1904 for her board game ‘The Landlord's Game’. It was designed to illustrate the anti-monopolist theories of 19th century economist Henry George, and as such it came with two rule sets – one monopolist, the other anti-monopolist. The idea being players would see the latter was the morally correct choice.

Failing to find a publisher, Magie self-published the game in 1906. It sold poorly, but a local economics professor picked up a copy and played it with his students. At the time it was not uncommon to create handmade versions of published games, and that’s exactly what several of these students did, and it’s exactly what several friends of these students did, and so on.

As the homemade versions spread, the game would change a little here and there. New house rules would be added and the street names would be updated to reflect local towns. Ironically, people thought it was more fun to own land, charge rent, and bankrupt friends and family, and so the anti-monopolist rules were left permanently to one-side.

Fast forward to 1932, and Charles Darrow is introduced to a home-made version of the game. He immediately creates his own copy and starts to sell it under the name ‘Monopoly’. It does well and he sells the board game rights, becoming the first millionaire game designer in history. By contrast, Magie is said to have earned only $500 from her board game.

 

Hedy Lamarr – frequency-hopping

Patent for Hedy Lamarr's Secret Communincation System

A copy of the U.S. patent can be seen here.

Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood icon who was promoted as ‘the most beautiful woman in film’. She was so startlingly beautiful in fact, that her brilliant mind was largely overlooked her entire life. It wasn’t until her later years, and sadly really only after her death that the world would learn of her part in the development of the wireless technologies we take for granted today.

It was World War Two, and Lamarr had heard that German U-boats were easily jamming the signals that guided the radio-controlled Allied torpedoes. She hit on a brilliant solution – if the signal hopped from frequency to frequency rapidly, then it would be near impossible to detect and jam.

She asked a composer called George Antheil to help realise her invention, and together they created a system that used paper piano rolls, perforated with a complex and random pattern, to make a signal hop rapidly between 88 frequencies – the same number of keys on a piano.

U.S. patent no. 2,292,387 was granted for their ‘Secret communication system’ in 1942, however the Navy declined taking their idea forward. It is thought the invention was not taken seriously as it was created by an actor who was world famous for her beauty.

However during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, about three years after the patent had expired, the technology was adapted and in use. Fast forward many more years and frequency-hopping would be foundational to modern wireless technologies, such as GPS, Bluetooth, and secure Wi-Fi.'

For more on intellectual property and female founders, you can visit at the Business & IP Centre resources at bl.uk/bipc.

08 March 2021

International Women's Day 2021: Meet the wonderful women of the BIPC

This International Women's Day we are celebrating the talented women working in our BIPC. Learn more about who they are and the important roles they play within the team… 

Isabel Oswell, Head of Business Marketing

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Isabel worked in the private sector for over 20 years before joining the British Library in 2002. Her background was in market research, strategic planning, business development and marketing in the tech and professional services sector and she worked for both start-ups and major corporates. Isabel enjoyed working in start-ups more than in major corporates and also did a stint of freelancing when she relished being her own boss! Isabel joined the British Library as Head of Business Marketing with a blank sheet of paper to write a strategy to develop services for businesses.

“As part of my role, I had to attend an information services exhibition in New York and one of the British Library directors recommended that I visit the New York Public Library (NYPL) while I was there. They had set up a separate Science, Industry & Business Library, situated in a former department store to support entrepreneurs and small business owners in the New York area and I was literally blown away by what they did.  They had made their information resources and expertise freely available to SMEs and brought in consultants and retired executives to deliver workshops and 1:1 advice on how to set up and run a successful business.  My immediate thought was ‘How can we take this back to London?’. To cut a very long story short, we got some funding from the Mellon Foundation to support a collaboration between NYPL and the British Library and then developed a plan and pilot which attracted London Development Agency funding.

I’m not a librarian but I realise the value of access to information and expertise. My first real job after graduating in International Marketing, was at a market research agency where I spent a lot of time doing desk research in libraries, when everything was in hard copy or on microfiche. When I arrived at the Library, I realised we were sitting on a goldmine of information - some £5 million of information including market research reports and company and financial information - usually accessible only to major corporates.  In addition, we were (and still are) the library of the Intellectual Property Office, so had a huge collection of patents, trade marks and designs and many years of expertise in how to protect one’s ideas and avoid infringement of other people’s. My areas of expertise are in marketing and strategy but I’ve learned a number of other skills at the Library, such as bid-writing and fundraising. 

One of the most exciting days in my career at the British Library was when we heard that we had been granted £13 million in the Spring budget last March to expand our service to 20 cities by 2023 and deploy a hub and spoke model to reach high streets, as well as rural and coastal areas. A week later we went into lockdown and suddenly had to pivot and take our services online! Thankfully, the funding enabled us to launch Reset. Restart to help small businesses weather the storm, as well as continuing with our start-up services. What’s really heart-warming is that we have continued to reach people who are under-represented in business ownership demonstrating that libraries can reach parts of the community that other organisations cannot reach.  Of the 18,000 people we have supported 65% of them have been women and 38% from a black and Asian minority-ethnic background, compared with only 20% and 5% of business owners respectively.  We’re all about democratising entrepreneurship and giving people the greatest chance of starting up and running a successful business. In the background, the lockdowns have provided the opportunity for the new library partners to refurbish and prepare dedicated spaces for start-ups and SMEs to come together to learn and network when the UK opens up again. We really look forward to welcoming people back but from hereon we will run a hybrid service of face-to-face and digital services to reach as many people as we can.

A fun fact about me is that I am quite creative and enjoy painting and writing. I also write a lot of silly poems for the team to celebrate successes and it seems to have caught on.  Now we all write poems – or even raps – for one another at Christmas, as part of our Secret Santa! It’s so important to celebrate successes and acknowledge everyone’s contribution.

Working with such an amazing team, including our delivery partners, who are all passionate about supporting people from all walks of life to start up and run successful businesses.  They have gone above and beyond over the past year, helping people to weather the Covid-19 crisis and look to the future.  It’s also great to meet so many inspiring people at different stages of their entrepreneurial journey and knowing that we’ve managed to make a difference, however small.  Last, but not least, I have really enjoyed travelling across the country by train and visiting our public library partners, all of whom have amazing civic buildings in the heart of their cities – and am hoping to resume this soon.”

Seema Rampersad, Senior Business Researcher and Service Manager

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Seema has worked as an information professional for over 25 years. Most of this time has been as a business librarian in the corporate sector, and now at the British Library. Seema also has experience as a trustee for a local charity for 12 years and that has given her some practical business insight. She has developed and refined quite a few new skills since starting, such as delivering webinars, one-to-one advice clinics, workshops, reference and in-depth research for customers. 

“I do like all types of information in various formats and subjects. My background is very broad, therefore I am familiar with most business topics.  However, there is always some trend, database or new technology to learn about, so you never really get bored. Business information is ever changing and the role in the Business & IP Centre is interesting. I am still learning aspects of Intellectual Property everyday and rely on my colleagues for their insights and experience.

A BIPC resource I love to recommend to people is Mintel. We get several queries from persons wanting to use it and they are always happy to know that we have access to the consumer goods series on Mintel. It is useful for both planning your businesses and for growing companies. It has been around for a long time and is a very reliable source of information. The most under-utilised database I would say is the EIU’s CountryData database but it is great for key economic indicators, which are essential in this business climate. 

A fun fact about me is I am a proud Trinidadian, although I have lived in London most of my life.  Most customers say they can detect my Trinidadian accent.

My favourite bit about working in the BIPC is the variety in the role, access to great information, our fabulous team, general day-to-day activities and the amazing collection held in the whole of the British Library.”

Julie Boadilla, Reference Specialist at the Business and IP Centre

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Julie is one of our exceptional team who are on hand to help you navigate the databases and resources we have at the BIPC. She is also an ace at delivering workshops on intellectual property and protecting your business, which she does both at the British Library and in our Start-ups in London Libraries boroughs. She has been with the BIPC since it opened in 2007, having previously spent more than 11 years in the British Library’s separate departments of Business and Intellectual Property. She has Level 4 Business Advisor Training and Masterclass training with the central IPO.

The first thing I recommend to people on my workshop and to my clients on the one-to-one advice clinic is COBRA database. This is the database that I think customers need to use to help them understand regulations, IP rights, insurance, cash flow and everything they need to know on how to start their business.

The One to One advice clinic is now my main interest. It is a nice feeling when a client recognised your help on organising their thinking on their business idea/s.

A fun fact about me is I love bowling. I was The British Library Champion of Bowling in 1993 and since I won the trophy they never done another BL Bowling competition.

My favourite thing about working at the BIPC is meeting different people when delivering workshops or one to one advice sessions. People are interesting, especially what they write on their feedback forms about the workshops whether within my control or not. Also working with my team in BIPC gives me joy.”

Meron Kassa, Business and IP Reference Specialist.

Meron 2

Meron joined the team in 2019, sharing her expertise from the Reference Desk and showcasing her market research knowledge with a blog drawing on the available information on the vegetarian/flexitarian sector. Before landing a role within the Business and IP Centre as Reference Specialist, Meron had worked in a few reading rooms beforehand as a Library Assistant, which includes the Sciences, Rare books and Music, Manuscripts and Asia and African Studies.

“I particularly enjoy the market research side of starting a business. The databases we have are brilliant and invaluable. I enjoy watching readers make the most of what’s available and in so doing they are minimising their risk for failure. 

I love recommending the Inspiring Entrepreneurs event. I believe networking is such a valuable tool for anyone looking to do well in business, and the Inspiring Entrepreneurs event not only allows you to hear from successful Entrepreneurs but it also provides you with the opportunity afterwards during the networking part of the evening to go up to them and ask them questions directly. This is a wonderful opportunity to grow in confidence and develop the necessary skills for business. I myself have grown in my networking skills from attending this event and always walk away feeling inspired. The best piece of business advice you’ve heard is, ‘Go for it- what’s the worst that can happen’ Jamal Edwards founder of SBTV.

My favourite thing about working at the BIPC is the individuals that you meet and being able to help them in their journeys with the wonderful resources that we have and also being inspired by their stories.”

Uto Patrick, Project Manager of Start-ups in London Libraries

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Uto joined the British Library in 2018, to lead on Start-ups in London Libraries based on her extensive experience in partnership working on multi-stakeholder projects. Uto previously used the British Library as a reader during her postgraduate degree and has always valued the wealth of knowledge held in the collections.

“My parents own several businesses which I have had the privilege to gain some experience in supporting them. I fully understand the entrepreneurial drive that made both of them step away from professional careers to forge a path that would ensure long-term financial security for our family. There is something very liberating in working for yourself and seeing something that you’ve birthed grow and become a pillar that creates jobs in the community.

SiLL is an ERDF project that takes the blueprint of business support provided in the BL’s BIPC – onto our highstreet libraries. It is working collaboratively with 10 London boroughs to democratise entrepreneurship and ensure that people from all walks of life can access the right information and support locally. The support includes workshops, 121s with our SME Champions, inspiring events, networking etc. to provide fertile ground for seeds of ideas to form roots, and the on-going support during the project to help these ideas to grow. The project is truly special as we have proven the value of situating this project in libraries as they act as community hubs where people come to get information about all topics. This project has already addressed some barriers people face in starting a business and we are proud that the project is reaching underserved communities with over 65% of our clients identifying as women, 60% from the BAME community and 9% identifying as having a disability. It has become a pan-London project since lockdown as we are delivering services online so more people are better able to access the free support.

As a Sustainability professional, my areas of expertise stem from my interest in Low Carbon transport alternatives, Travel demand management, Active Travel, Placemaking (creating healthy streets), Public Health promotion, Air Quality, delivering community focussed projects and schemes. 

I’m always eager to see aspiring entrepreneurs that SiLL support embedding sustainability into their plans. I think the business information and support through the BIPC prepares our clients for the jobs of the future and provides a base of innovation to drive that future sustainability.

I would say the best resource at the BIPC is our people, the staff. The Business Information Specialist and Reference Librarians within the BIPC and the SME Champions in the SiLL boroughs. They have the knowledge and access to vital databases and tools such as COBRA, etc. that can ensure aspiring entrepreneurs don’t waste time or money in their start-up journey. The British Library’s ‘Democratising Entrepreneurship’ report demonstrated that those who receive start-up support from the BIPC are 4 times more likely to succeed in sustaining their business. I would recommend that SMEs tap into this freely available resource.

A fun fact about me is that lockdown has ramped up my houseplant habit and my living room looks like a tropical oasis with 38 plants at present.

My favourite thing about the BIPC/working at the British Library is the wealth of knowledge held by the people who work and use the space. It really brings to life the concept that libraries are not just full of books, but full of ideas and stories.”

Anna Savory, Relationship Manager for Innovating For Growth

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Anna is one of our Innovating for Growth Relationship Managers, keeping in touch with all alumni (540 and counting) in our Growth Club network. Here’s more from Anna.

“Every three months I guide ten businesses through our programme of tailored one to one sessions designed to help them find new ways of adapting and growing (even in our current challenging circumstances). I’m the human face of the project, a first port of call for support, and the bridge between our businesses and our wonderful team of external business advisors. It’s really wonderful to see SMEs enter the programme at the start of those three months and leave it energised and full of new plans. I basically get paid to be around inspiring people and help them take their businesses to the next level! It’s brilliant.

One of the BIPC’s resources I love to recommend, although obviously I’m biased, is the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, but I genuinely think it’s one of our gems. I can never quite get over the fact that it's three months of completely free business consultancy (worth £10,000)! I really like that you become part of a little family too. I’m still in touch with businesses that went through the programme two or three years ago, and will often get emails from people out of the blue giving me an update on all their latest exciting developments. But overall, I just think so much of what is on offer at the BIPC is brilliant. It’s all gold!

My favourite fact about the British Library is that it’s a ship! The interior is designed to look like a cruise ship, and if you view the building from the outside, it has a prow and chimneys like an ocean liner. My favourite thing about working at the British Library (and where I’m most likely to be found when not at my desk) however is a type of donut they sell in the Origin coffee shops, and the fact that I have a staff discount so I can really go mad on them.”

 

Gloria Bertussi, Innovating for Growth Project Coordinator

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Gloria’s role looks after our start-up group; anyone who wants to start a new business or who just has a business idea buzzing through their mind. Gloria guides & advises them on what can be offered to get the most out of our programme. It’s a great way for them to take their first steps into the business world with our delivery partner & reference team experts.

“Obviously I’m biased, but my favourite resource is by far our Get Started workshop. It runs monthly & is divided into two parts. It’s very detailed (six hours in total!) & you get a good grasp of what you need to do to start your own business, as well as networking, which is always useful. Our delivery partner is a very knowledgeable entrepreneur, who is able to tailor the workshop flow, depending on who is taking part. This is a great service, packed with useful tips and advice; we always get great feedback. The next workshops are on Tuesday 8 & Wednesday 9 December.

My best piece of business advice is: “Don’t wait to be ready, just take a chance and go for it.”

My favourite thing about working at the BIPC is I love discovering so many different businesses & entrepreneurs, it’s really inspiring to hear the stories. Another thing I enjoy about working at the @britishlibrary is the peace & quiet of the Reading Rooms. I’m an avid reader, so to be in a library it’s already special. I love the sense of peace I get whenever I enter the doors, even when it’s bustling with people, it still feels quiet and to think that we’re in the heart of London, that’s quite rare!

Outside of work, you’re most likely to find me behind my sewing machine! I taught myself how to sew a few years ago & have never let go of it. I have a (very) small business called Tiny Studio London, I make accessories with the most beautiful fabrics, so every bit of free time I have is spent sewing & designing new products.”

 

Jen Scott, founder of Hustle and Heels

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Jen founded Hustle and Heels (H&H) a social enterprise set up to support underrepresented entrepreneurs to start, improve or grow their business. This is done through events, workshops and programs that provide the tools and resources needed to make better business decisions and increase their own chances of success. Jen has also been delivering our Start-ups in London Libraries Marketing Masterclass across our ten partner boroughs.

“I have personally started and stopped running several businesses of my own over the last 15 years which has helped me to learn a lot about what not to do and how to grow from your mistakes. Hustle & Heels is the product of all those experiences and the foundation on which we now help others to start and grow their businesses.

H&H was set up 5 years ago with my business partner Jamie Tavares to create a space for ambitious professionals to learn, connect and socialise their way to success with other ambitious start-ups in a more laid back, relaxed way.

Entrepreneurship as a whole is my thing! Helping people turn their ideas into a viable business and see their growth as they overcome their challenges is a definite passion and interest of mine. There is so much information available online and for many business owners it is a task in itself to sift through what’s relevant. I take pride in simplifying seemingly difficult areas of business and making them relatable to those just starting out. We focus on helping start-ups to understand what steps to take and which strategies, processes and systems are right for them. 

After 5 years of running our lunch and learns for early-stage start-ups, guest numbers started to decline as the needs of our community began to change. As a small business ourselves we quickly realised the need to adapt or die essentially, so I began to seek out new ways to diversify our income streams. I was told about the public sector supply chain and how we could provide our business support services to local authorities who wanted to outsource certain projects. The very first opportunity I came across and applied for was the British Library’s Start-ups in London Libraries 2-Day Workshop, but not having had any prior local authority experience our proposal was unsuccessful. Undeterred, we continued the search and was able to secure a few opportunities to provide business support with Independent retailers in Waltham Forest shortly after. Several months later, we were invited to apply for the British Library Marketing Masterclass contract which I confidently applied for as we had the experience needed by then to be considered. One creative proposal and an interview later, the rest as they say is history… 

One resource I think any budding entrepreneur should know about is the marketing funnel, also known as the sales/purchasing funnel is a great tool that every start-up should use as it helps business owners to map out their customer journey from initially finding out about the business to them converting into a customer. So many start-ups struggle with understanding how to attract customers and how to keep them engaged enough to buy so we find that the funnel is the most effective and simple way to map out the marketing activity required at each stage. We break this down further in the Marketing Masterclass, showing business owners where to find people that would be interested in buying and how to convert them into customers. 

Something thought-provoking that I often share with start-ups is… 

“The only thing between you and success is what you don’t do, and who you don’t know” 

As business owners we often make excuses about not being able to progress because we don’t know what to do or who to connect with, but these are the very reasons that stop us from progressing in business and in life. We created Hustle & Heels to overcome this and intentionally design our programs and workshops to allow people to learn what they need to while connecting with who they want to. 

A big highlight has to be all the different people you get to meet at the Marketing Masterclass. We make a point of starting each session by asking everyone what they do and to talk about their journey in business so far to ensure everyone has an idea of who else is in the room. 

My favourite part is watching the attendees connect with one another during and after the session, exchanging details, contributing valuable suggestions and resources they have found useful to help others overcome their current challenges. There is always such a buzz in the room, people are so passionate about learning and the odd character in some sessions can make things very entertaining at times.

Our Hustle & Heels Monthly start-up Meet-ups at the Microsoft Store in Oxford Circus is my favourite place to be. You’ll find me there every month squeezing as much knowledge as possible out of the industry experts that join us as guest speakers at each event. We have also included a pitch competition that gives three entrepreneurs two minutes to share their start-up story for a chance to be crowned the Hustle & Heels ‘Entrepreneur of the month’.

A fun fact about me is that I am addicted to the salt popcorn from Tescos!

 

If you are interested in learning more about the BIPC and the resources available to you, visit our website: https://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre

07 March 2021

A week in the life of James Seager, Company Director of Les Enfants Terribles

Les Enfants Terribles is the pioneering theatre company behind the groundbreaking immersive productions “Alice’s Adventures Underground”, “Dinner at the Twits”, “The Game’s Afoot” and “Inside Pussy Riot” as well as original and innovative stage shows ‘The Trench’, “The Terrible Infants” and “The Vaudevillans”.

Run and co-owned by James Seager and Oliver Lansley, the company was formed in 2002 and together they have pushed the boundaries of immersive theatre, alongside their unique take on more traditional stage shows, always challenging the audiences’ perception of theatrical productions. They took part in our Innovating for Growth programme in 2020.

Their artistic policy is simply to make theatre they love and that excites them. With a large and loyal following for their spellbinding work, Les Enfants Terribles continues to captivate audiences in the UK and internationally.

James is the lead producer and creative director of the company and he also co-directs many of the shows.  Currently he is the director for Sherlock Holmes: An Online Adventure, which is an immersive online show designed to bring the Les Enfants Terribles magic into people's homes. It has just opened and you can find out more at www.sherlockimmersive.com. He shared what a week in the build up to the opening of this show looked like...

Monday

The start of a big week – well most weeks are pretty big at the moment due to us launching our new immersive on-line show Sherlock Holmes:  The Case of the Hung Parliament, but this week is a biggie!  We’ve been tirelessly working on this show for three months now and working to build a unique ‘game’ for people to experience.  Working in entirely new ways is always very exciting but it has surprised us how similar this on-line show has been in its creation to how we usually plan our immersive shows like Alice’s Adventures Underground which was similarly built on spreadsheets and computers.  The beauty of course is that the audience are never aware of the complicated tech behind these shows (nor should they) and just enjoy the show as a narrative creative experience.  However, when you are genuinely doing something new you’re bound to hit hurdles and unfortunately our Sherlock show has been slightly delayed due to an issue it took the tech team three days to find and 3 minutes to solve!  Of course, this waiting has been quite stressful as we have many sold out shows and an expectant audience for next week when we go live so we have to deliver the ‘game’ by next Thursday.

James Seager & Oli Lansley_┬®Rah Petherbridge Photography
Les Enfants Terribles Directors James Seager and Oli Lansley

I start my day going for a run - I started this routine every morning since lockdown one last March and have kept it up for a year and do you know what?  I still hate it and it still is not any easier!  However, it does I suppose, clears the cobwebs and gets me started for the day.  I am lucky that I have a small outdoor office in my garden which psychologically has been great to ‘leave the house’ and try and leave work when I ‘come back home.’  Running a company is stressful at the best of times but in lockdown and trying to create a new show – its doubly so!  Monday’s we have a team meeting on zoom which we try and keep to an hour and half but it always runs over.  It’s a good chance for the office to connect when we are all apart working remotely and to see what is on everyone’s plate for the day ahead.  The big question of the day is when do we expect delivery from of the final product for the on-line show  – we hear from the tech team that it will be this week and we remain cautiously optimistic and excited.  The ‘rushes’ we’ve seen so far look extraordinary.  At 2pm I have an interview with the FT about the technology and about creating theatre in a pandemic.  I hope it will be a good piece as we chatted on zoom for an hour and half!  Hearing myself speak it really dawns on me how challenging it is for all the office to create a piece of theatre when we are all apart and a piece of online immersive theatre that is genuinely different.   The rest of the day I’m looking at schedules for the actors (16 of them) who will be in the show and then I join a zoom about a writer’s programme.  The previous week was very stressful but it looks like we have turned a corner and as my head hits the pillow I hope for good news tomorrow.

Tuesday

Ugh another run – still as hard as it was a year ago!  We get news from the tech team that they have sent over the first pass at 9.45am which is great.  The day ahead looks likely to be a testing day to see if it works for us as we start the morning with a few issues.  My team have a call with the tech team at 11am and so we hold off scheduling the actors for rehearsals until we are all happy.  The tech team spend most of the day trying to make the small issue go away which is like waiting in a delivery room reception in a hospital!  I spend the day trying to put it out my my mind by working on a creative pitch for a large company who want us to create an immersive charitable experience for them at the end of the year.  It is based on a book and I spend the day listening to an audio reading of it while creating the immersive idea for it – once finished I send it over to my co-director to get his thoughts.  5pm we are still waiting news on the technology from the tech team who have reported they have fixed the final problem and they need to test it further.  The deadline looms!  At 7pm I receive a version and have to test it for most of the evening – it’s a late one..

Alices Adventures Undergound_Les Enfants Terribles
One of Les Enfants Terribles' previous productions 'Alice's Adventures Underground'

Wednesday

Raining this morning for my run – double ugh.  The show development has hit a snag as its only playing 65 minutes and cutting off the final 9 minutes of the show for some reason so its back to the tech guys to see if they can solve the issue before we roll it out next week.  We spend the day in zoom meetings discussing options and plans in case we don’t hit the deadline but we hear good news at 5pm that the system is responding well to some ‘care’ and we should be able to test it again on Friday.  A long day!

Thursday

More updates from the tech team and its more waiting our end to see if the changes they have made will work – they need 24 hours so we will get our final update tomorrow.  I spend the day on zooms discussing options and then we realise a 6 second piece of video is missing from the content – not crucial – but still missing.  I get my daughter to film it as we need a hand holding some birthday cards and then I send it over the editor!  Back to working on some head of terms agreements for a secret project that we are hoping to launch next year and we’ve been planning for a further three years.

Sherlock Holmes from the Les Enfants Terribles production of Sherlock Holmes: The Online Adventure

Friday

It looks like we will be able to launch the show next Friday which is great news.  We intend to change a few things and then rehearse all the actors next week before going live with the show on Friday.  We are all very excited and can’t wait to unleash the show to the public and hopefully give a bit of theatre to people who have really missed it over the last year.  The whole day is spent planning rehearsals and logistics.

Saturday and Sunday

I try and not work weekends but that’s tricky!  Especially when you are launching a show in a week so I spend some time with the family on a long walk and long lunch and sometime in my office shed preparing for the week ahead.  It’s been a busy week but as expected and we can’t wait for the show to open on Friday.

Find out more about Sherlock Holmes: An Online Adventure and book your tickets by visiting www.sherlockimmersive.com

28 February 2021

Innovating for Growth Diary - Sian Zeng

Every quarter, Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups chooses 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our 10 week programme designed to help business owners re-evaluate their business across areas such as marketing, products and services and business model.

We have been speaking to Sian, founder and director of luxury wallpaper business Sian Zeng, who is one of our latest Innovating for Growth cohort, to see firsthand the impact of the programme on her business. In this first installment of her diary, we meet Sian, hear about how she started her business, and discover how her first batch of Innovating for Growth one-to-one sessions and workshops have helped her re-evaluate her priorities. 

'Hi, I’m Sian, Founder, and Director of Sian Zeng; we create innovative wallpapers and wall decorations that enchant and delight. Reproduced from original artwork, our captivating designs take inspiration from fairytales and the natural world, all with the intention of helping people bring art, nature, and imagination into their homes.

Sian Zeng painting one of her bespoke wallpapers
Photo: Veerle Evens for Etsy

We sell a range of products to cater to different spaces and budgets, with our dreamy designs available as both classic and magnetic wallpapers, as well as our growing collection of removable wall stickers. Our magnetic wallpaper is one of our most unique products that allow users to place magnets onto their wall, like a fridge or radiator. Our cast of magnetic characters and illustrations were designed with this in mind; move our magnets across the surface of our magnetic wallpaper and suddenly it’s not just a wall - it’s the backdrop to a story. Since opening, our products have been featured in Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and The Telegraph, and in 2019, we were awarded the honour of the Grand Prize at the Etsy Design Awards.

I started my company shortly after graduating from University and as a result, I had very little business experience. A creative first and foremost, part of me always knew there would always be gaps in my knowledge that could be a game-changer for my company. After more than a decade of growing my business organically and at a steady pace, I thought it was time to see how I could accelerate our growth whilst still maintaining our meaning. So here enters the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme.

At the first group session with Rasheed Ogunlaru, Getting Ready for Growth, I met members of my cohort and it was so inspiring to hear their stories as well as share my own. What really resonated with me from that session was when Rasheed said something along the lines of “this isn’t about giving up the part of your business you’re most passionate about.” I immediately thought about how I had begun to outsource the creative side of things recently, becoming more of an art director rather than painter/designer for upcoming collections. This was the reason I had started my business more than a decade ago - to create unusual, beautiful illustrations for interior spaces - but the more the brand grew, the more I felt I should be focussing on other aspects. This was a big light bulb moment for me. 

Classic_Clematis_White-720x720-8e40600b-b088-46fc-9d99-a98a7d2b267b

I really like how the course is structured, where each session leads into the next. We began with a business model workshop and then our first one-to-one session, which allowed me to really step back and see my business structure from a bird’s eye view. Then at my one-to-one with Robert Foster from Red Ochre, we delved deeply into my business structure and worked together to create a detailed plan of what to do next.

One of the main things that arose during our session was that I felt spread too thin. As founder and director of a company, it can feel like you have to not only oversee everything but do most of it too, when actually a lot of the tasks could be delegated to my team members. Robert suggested I create a delegation stack to help me categorise tasks into ones I can delegate, automate, divest or outsource. Once I’d done this exercise, I found I’d freed up lots of my time already.

As a high-end wallpaper company, we’ve always paid lots of attention to branding as it is an integral part of the quality and craftsmanship we portray. Our message has always been creating luxury, innovative and dreamy wall coverings for the home. During my workshop with ABA Design, I was presented with the personality archetypes. It was here I discovered there were more elements to our brand personality and I was able to refine it even further, making it easier for us to feed all our designs into our values.

Our archetypes were ‘the creator’, ‘the explorer’ and ‘the magician’. I always felt like creativity was integral to our brand, and with exploration, this definitely ties into the adventurous element of our designs, as well as my constant experimentation with new technologies in the design process of our wallpapers. The magician part surprised me the most but makes a lot of sense; many of our designs contain magical elements, such as a bear riding a crane or flying hands that look like birds in mid-flight. 

Over the past few years, I have noticed a clear trend, where our company’s growth is directly linked to the release of new collections. As a result, I made it my priority to release collections more frequently and bring in help to facilitate faster product launches. During my product and service innovation session with Fluxx, we discussed how I could make this process more efficient. They suggested I should write down every step involved in the development of a product so I can see how much involvement is necessary from me at each step. From there, I can decide where I can bring in help, tighten up the process and minimise my workload, so it can be focussed elsewhere. This really helped me to oversee a very integral element of the business that will enable us to accelerate our growth.

I have very much enjoyed the first half of the programme and feel it has already brought tangible benefits to my business. I am more confident about the direction we need to take as a brand and how we can grow with our core values in mind. If you would like to explore our designs and keep up to date with our journey please follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

In a month’s time you will hear from me again about the second half of the programme.

Until then, wishing you all lots of magical moments!'

24 February 2021

Start-up Stars: Taste of Success

Last week at our Start-up Stars: Taste of Success event we heard from Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups businesses, Chilli Tuk Tuk, The Good Slice, Ming Foods and Enrica Rocca on how they entered into the busy and thriving world of food and drinks businesses. What were the key takeaways from the event?

  • Don’t be a perfectionist, learn from your mistakes and keep going when you are challenged
  • Have the right people alongside you
  • Have a passion for your product

Start-up Stars event Zoom screenshot

On top of these, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite insights and lessons shared by our panel during the evening:

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Calum and Ed, co-founders of The Good Slice, spoke about their business with purpose saying “it gives us a reason to get up in the morning”. When they were getting started they were balancing lots of different roles, including working in their day jobs. They realised that it’s key to ‘not try to bite too much off too quickly’ when growing, and keep it manageable. As Sam said ‘ignore the voice in your head telling you everything has to be perfect, it’s helpful to acknowledge that it’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn.’

Charlotte, who took over her mother’s cookery school business, Enrica Rocca, along with her sister spoke about optimising marketing opportunities by getting their clients to rate them on TripAdvisor and working to get free press coverage where possible. She mentioned something pertinent she learnt from taking part in Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups which was ‘you can’t do it all, and you can’t do it all well’. She explained that realising this forced her to prioritise her time better, for example, by starting to use a bookkeeper to outsource certain tasks.

Sam Duong

Sam, founder of Ming Foods, has seen huge success in his business, selling over a billion pancakes and growing from a team of 6 to 18. Yet, he still says that some of the challenges his business has faced means it’s ‘like riding on the back of a tiger, it’s a very hungry tiger and at any moment it just wants to turn around and gobble you up, so you get very good at riding tigers.’ He says the key to his success has been resilience and training up his staff to a high standard. His top three tips for start-up food businesses:1) look at margins, 2) be all over health and safety and legal requirements, and 3) love the product -  “If you don’t really love the product then you can’t speak about it passionately”.

Amisha, who is the co-founder of award-winning Indian takeaway Chilli Tuk Tuk discussed the complexities of starting up: ‘being a start-up is so incredibly tough but entrepreneurs shouldn’t get lost in perfectionism.’ Instead Amisha discussed the importance of resilience above all else, as well as motivation and determination – ‘it helps to surround yourself with motivating people’. She also elaborated on running a business with family commitments explaining that “you have to say no to things”.

Our panel also all mentioned the benefit to them of taking part in Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups. For any businesses ready to grow and move to the next stage, applications for the next round are still open until 3 March. Head to bl.uk/grow for more.

Our Start-up Stars events are for members of our Start-ups in London Libraries and Innovating for Growth communities. To find out more about these, visit bl.uk/SiLL and bl.uk/grow.

22 February 2021

Meet the Reset. Restart experts

Our Reset. Restart programme couldn’t run without the knowledge and expertise of our delivery partners. Here we introduce all the people you’ll find talking you through each topic and providing the answers to your questions.

Anis Qizilbash

Reset. Restart: your mindset (introduction to programme)

Anis Qizilbash sat on steps outside

Who runs it?

Reset. Restart: your mindset is run by motivational keynote speaker, coach and creator of Mindful Selling, Anis Qizilbash. As someone who recovered from depression and addiction, Anis has helped 1,000s of freelancers and start-ups gain clarity and confidence to grow their business. She delivers keynotes at conferences around the world helping leaders and teams up their game. She has appeared in The Guardian, Entrepreneur, Forbes, amongst others, for her insights. She shares mindset tips and strategies on her YouTube Channel. Here’s more from Anis.

When coaching the founder of a services start-up, let’s call him Arjun, we begun the first of many pre-meeting strategy coaching sessions – that’s a coaching session I arrange with my clients to help them prepare for their important prospect meetings. Typically, these coaching sessions are arranged the morning of or the night before their prospect meeting.

While practicing our drills, usually eloquent and prescient in the way he speaks, Arjun was fumbling, withering and dithering. He knew what needed to be asked and said to get his potential client’s buy in, but it just wasn’t coming out right. He could feel it was off, too.

“What’s on your mind?” I asked him.
“I am nervous, this is such an important client and it could make or break us. I am scared of messing it up.”
“How would you rate your confidence on a scale of 1 to 10?”
“Minus one bajillion”.
“So it could be better?” We laughed. But his body language said it all, slumped shoulders, shallow quick breathing, eyes darting. It was like a shadow of Arjun.

After further probing I walked Arjun through a few mindset exercises, it only took a few minutes. Afterwards he straightened his shoulders, sat upright, looked right in the camera (it was a Zoom meeting), and in a measured and succinct manner, easily steered our rehearsal meeting, touching on the points we discussed, with wit and passion and broad smile on his face. I felt like Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, “by George he’s got it”. The real Arjun had returned. He felt as ready as he could be.
His meeting went well, he secured a follow-up meeting to move the proposal forward.

Is this for you?

Reset. Restart: your mindset is perfect for you if you want to learn how to reset your mind so you can bring your best self to the moment, whatever moment that might be. You want to shake off a negative spiral so you can sort out on oversight on your product; stop stressing about no sales pipeline so you can do something constructive; a news-headline triggered you and now you’re feeling hopeless; your kids are driving you up the wall; you’re finding it hard to focus. Or maybe you want to switch off at the end of the day so you can enjoy me-time or time with your loved ones. In this session, you will ponder, you will practice, and you will leave equipped with practical tools empowering you to bring your A-game in any situation.

Johnny Martin

Reset. Restart: your finances

Johnny Martin

Johnny Martin FCA is the Numbers Coach – an experienced Finance Director and BIPC partner who now passionately demystifies business numbers and jargon. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book Understanding Your Business Finances.

It’s much easier to run a big business than a small business. You have a team to delegate to. And you can delegate all those things you don’t enjoy. Which normally includes finance!

But why is finance the most unloved part of running a business when we know it is so crucial. Part of it is to do with numbers, part to do with jargon and part to do with early childhood experiences of money and maths!

But I think also entrepreneurs in the main love what they do and that is their passion, the business side is a “distraction”. So what this webinar will do is encourage you to look at the business side with more enthusiasm. It’s not about making anyone an accountant, but with three key principles and about 30 words you will be able to look at your accounts and cashflow with greater clarity.

A key message from the webinar is that it’s not just your business finance you need to look at. I am a firm believer that most businesses that get into trouble do so not because of the businesses finances being out of control, but the owners. So we will look at some resources to help control and plan your personal and business finance.

Undoubtedly one of the hardest things when running a business is getting on top of, and keeping on top of, your finances. After all, when getting your finances under control you not only have to compete with numbers and figures, but all of the jargon as well. This webinar will break down what you need to know and understand into seven key steps. By the end you will be much more confident in managing this important aspect of your business.

This workshop will cover:

  • the key jargon
  • using a case study to help you get clear on your cash position
  • best ways to manage cashflow including making sure you get a salary
  • how to budget both for the business and yourself
  • online accounting tools to help you
  • how to get financial help
  • establishing routines for more robust finances.

Tonisha Tagoe

Reset. Restart: your social and environmental impact

Tonisha Tagoe

Tonisha Tagoe is a Cannes award-winning film and television producer, academic, executive coach, start-up consultant and mother. Over the past 15 years, she has worked with successful individuals including Robert Greene, Michael Essen, James Caan and produced evergreen content for various media powerhouses such as Start-Up Loans, BET UK, Metro Bank and the MOBO Awards. Tonisha is currently a work-based Learning Lecturer specialising in the development of entrepreneurs.

This webinar is focused around teaching consumers and business owners alike how to be more environmentally and socially responsible. These two key principles are at the forefront of my mind, and I am passionate about equipping entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed the right way. Businesses must now pivot their practices and reduce their impact on the environment while providing prosperity to our local communities, and my webinar shows participants how to do exactly that.

Key takeaways:

  • How to pivot to more sustainable business practices
  • The best methods for reducing our waste
  • Sharing business assets that can help local communities
  • Case studies of businesses who went green and remained successful
  • How increasing our social impact can improve long-term sustainability.

Paul Grant

Reset. Restart: your funding options

Paul Grant

Paul Grant has been running workshops, webinars and masterclasses for more than a decade with the BIPC, principally focusing on funding and growing a business. He is founder of The Funding Game which offers practical guidance, support, tools, events and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs seeking capital for their start-up and scale-up ventures. Paul is an experienced entrepreneur and was founder of a London-based company for seven years which was funded through equity and debt finance. The company offered London-wide catering to the corporate and retail markets. Paul then worked with BA Capital and Capital Partners Private Equity Ltd. where he built a network of over 500 business angels, while coaching entrepreneurs individually and in groups on all aspects of funding and growing their early-stage businesses. Here’s more from Paul.

One of the biggest hurdles of early stage companies is fundraising. Entrepreneurs looking for investment often face difficulty when navigating their way through the many funding options available without giving away too much control of their company. I have spent many years demystifying the funding game for entrepreneurs so that they can take the right decisions when it comes to launching and growing their businesses.

What’s covered?

My webinars helps entrepreneurs discover routes to capital that they may not have heard of before, and decide on the best approaches for their business. Included in the session is advice on the latest government loans and support initiatives, and how to take advantage of angel investment and crowdfunding.

What can attendees expect?

Attendees can expect pacy and highly interactive sessions packed with valuable content and practical guidance. All events include follow-up information and support, as well as road-tested formulas and templates for attracting investment that have been validated by hundreds of investors. My aim is for everyone attending his events to leave with clarity and confidence about securing the right investment, so they are free to spend more time on their business.

Kay Kukoyi

Reset. Restart: your digital productivity

Kay Kukoyi

Kay Kukoyi is a Software Delivery Specialist, global tech startup mentor, author, speaker, and lecturer. She has written five books for entrepreneurs and SMEs, including an Amazon international bestseller, and has been recognised on the #IB100, the Financial Times and Inclusive Boards list of the 100 Most Influential BAME Leaders in the UK Technology Sector.

Kay is the CEO and Founder of Purposeful Group, which encompasses multiple brands that support and empower thousands of entrepreneurs around the world to start their businesses the SMART way through books, mentoring, masterclasses, and programmes.

Why does it matter?

The smart and efficient use of technology is a secret weapon for entrepreneurs. Unfortunately many aren't aware of all the tech and tools available that would make their lives much easier.

When people come to the Reset. Restart: your digital productivity webinar, many are surprised by the number of business tools that are available free of charge that they don't know about, so we're hoping to rock your world with new options and opportunities that you can take from the workshop and start using right away!

Who is it for?

The workshop is for new entrepreneurs but also people who have been running a business for some time and haven't had a chance to explore the latest software and strategies available to people running their own businesses. Maybe you've just been so busy you haven't had time to explore what's out there, or maybe you're someone who's felt nervous about using new software because it feels too overwhelming. In either case you'll be shown some great, easy-to-use tools that I hope will inspire you!

What to expect

You'll be attending the workshop with entrepreneurs from all over the country, and you'll be able to ask questions at any time. There's often some lively banter, with people participating and sharing that good British sense of humour so it feels like a fun event. The major feedback that we've received from attendees is that they learn a lot.

People are free to share what they do, and sometimes others want to connect, so you may be able to do a spot of networking too!

If you're able to get onto one of the workshop follow-up sessions, those are more intimate with a maximum of 10 people in a group, and you'll get a chance to discuss your business. Together, we'll work through any business challenges you have and the tools that would be most useful to help you move forward.

Robbie Dale and Michael Murdoch

Reset. Restart: your customer offer

Michael and Robbie

Michael founded The House branding and marketing agency in 2009 and has been a Brand Strategist for nearly 20 years working with emerging and established organisations around the world.

Robbie is a creative director and writer with nearly 20 years’ experience who was named in both the inaugural BIMA Hot 100 and Drum Digerati for his input into the British digital marketing industry.

This webinar takes a detailed look at the Value Proposition Canvas, a well-known framework that makes it easy to see if your business is providing the value your customers are looking for. Or, to put it another way, the Value Proposition Canvas helps you ensure your customer offer is something that customers are actually interested in, and - crucially - that your customer offer is something they're willing to give up their time, energy and money for. We look at the different areas of the canvas: jobs customers need to do, pains customers are trying to avoid, gains customers are trying to achieve, the product or service you offer, and the ways in which that product or service relieves customers' pains and provides gains to them. In doing this, we help organisations understand that the things they do ultimately need to mirror the things their customers are looking to do. That's what makes for a product or service that is in high demand and gets talked about.

Every webinar ends with an open Q&A session so we can give live, bespoke feedback on challenges businesses are facing day-to-day.

So, if you're struggling to get people excited about what you do, unclear about how you can stand out from the competition or simply want to better understand what makes people buy from certain brands, then this webinar is for you.

Robert Foster and Uday Thakkar

Reset. Restart: your business model

Robert Foster

Robert is a marketing expert who started, grew, and sold a successful online business. Robert has been a business advisor since 2002 and has helped thousands of entrepreneurs to succeed. He is an expert in strategy, business planning, marketing, project management and innovation. He has years of experience in using business model development to help entrepreneurs improve their businesses.

Uday is a serial entrepreneur, having started and sold several businesses. Since 2002, Uday has been a business support advisor, winning a national award for mentoring. He is a much in demand trainer and coach and has helped thousands of entrepreneurs to succeed. He is an expert in strategy, business planning, finance, leadership development and marketing. He has years of experience in using business model development to help entrepreneurs improve their businesses.

“Business modelling is a wide and often misunderstood subject. This webinar will explain what a business model is, and where it fits in the business strategy process.

We start with a discussion of the relationship between strategy and business modelling and specifically the cause of major failure in implementing effective business strategies.

During the course of the webinar we go on to explore the various aspects of a business model from problem, customer, solution, and value proposition all the way through to operations, market engagement and underlying financial models.

We use a variety of example case studies, checklists and discussion points to explore this from a practical perspective. Also covered is hypothesis testing, pivots and business decision-making.

This practically focused session can serve as an introduction for aspiring entrepreneurs, as a refresher for more established entrepreneurs or as a masterclass for more experienced business owners looking to move their enterprise to the next level.”

Stefan Knox

Reset. Restart: your products and services

Stefan Knox

Stefan is an award-winning designer, specialising in invention, product design and manufacture. Before establishing Bang Creations in 1999, he was responsible for boys’ toys at Hasbro EU, working on brands including Action Man, Star Wars and Nerf. Through Bang Creations, he has worked with global teams to generate innovative, yet commercial products and get them to market. Stefan is a named inventor on over 25 granted patents and has licenced dozens of ideas across a variety of industries.

In this webinar I introduce ‘design thinking’ as a methodology to generate new ideas, turn them in to concepts and prototype and test them. There are four ways of thinking. 1) analytical 2) judgmental 3) routine and 4) creative. Creative thinking’s been ‘schooled out’ of many of us, yet is critical to solving the problems facing us.

Creative thinking’s often thought of that flash of inspiration. That Eureka moment. Or a combination of facts when your mind is at rest. However, there’s a systematic approach, a methodology of finding new ways to do and think of things. Design thinking is this systematic cognitive approach to create new concepts.

At Bang Creations we have to use this approach to be innovative and deliver workable solutions for our clients. It’s hard and people who aren’t used to practicing it can find it frustrating. In these early stages the team and the thought processes diverge and to many logical, straight line thinkers, this can look and feel disorganised and unstructured. But that is exactly the aim. It is in the cracks, the pulling of ideas that other new ideas give birth that suddenly breathe new life into what was once a discarded thought. Now it works.

In our webinar we address how important it is to solve the right problem. We focus on how to identify what the problem is. There are many analogies used in the design press, ‘why do they need to buy a drill? They want a hole in the wall’. Design thinking would go one stage back, ‘why do they need a hole in the wall? What is the problem?’ Many products come to market that don’t really solve a user’s problem. Once the problem’s identified we run through how to turn that into a design challenge. Then you have something you can grasp, as opposed to just a problem which has many open ended questions.”

Pete Schönbeck

Reset. Restart: your market opportunities

Pete Schonbeck

Productschön Business Advice is run by founder Pete Schönbeck. With a strong family history in the clothing industry, right back to his great, great grandfather, Johannes (a tailor to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert).

I started out at the age of 18 as a trainee buyer for a European clothing wholesaler, Campari International Plc, where I was mentored by the managing director and my father John, in all aspects of design, product development, sampling, sourcing, buying, brand franchises and major account selling. I have gone on to work in retail and wholesale for internationally recognised brands such as Levi Strauss, Timberland, Tommy Hilfiger, Barbour and Ellesse.

My Reset. Restart webinar can help business owners get a greater understanding of how things are evolving in the world of business and how to hit the ground running in a post-COVID-19 world, not forgetting the pending Brexit scenario.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, how is business and the world in general evolving? In this two hour webinar presentation, I take attendees through some insightful statistics that will help businesses refresh and re-engage with consumers, the marketplace, and the new and accelerated evolution of where we are now and will be in the future.

Reset. Restart

For more information on the Reset. Restart programme, or to book your space at an upcoming webinar, visit our Reset. Restart webpage.

19 February 2021

Meet Yasmine Thomson, founder of YCM Events

YCM Events is a forward-thinking event styling business, specialising in balloon and floral displays. Providing creative theming and venue décor for social and corporate events. The innovative styling aims to meet every brief and budget, whilst reflecting the clients’ personalities and maximising the aesthetic qualities of a venue. Yasmine’s vision is for YCM Events to become the go-to event stylists for our style conscious generation.

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The catalyst for how YCM Events came to be was through the untimely death of Yasmine’s friend in 2020. As an Executive Assistant, Yasmine regularly organised corporate events, however her friend’s funeral allowed her to showcase her creativity and encapsulate his personality through bespoke venue decor and floral wreaths on a very limited budget. Everyone who attended the funeral was so impressed with what she was able to produce that this spurred her on to look into doing this professionally, especially as it was something that she enjoyed. Yasmine was also motivated to start her business after doing some research recognising that there was a gap in the market for her innovative ideas and designs.

'The Start-ups in London Libraries project helped me tremendously, I attended all three sessions and completed the programme. The sessions helped me to pinpoint my target audience, identify how best to access them, aided with building a business model canvas and receive advice from experienced entrepreneurs. The sessions filled me with confidence that it was possible to start up my own business.

I loved that the individuals running the sessions were experienced entrepreneurs as their knowledge and insight was invaluable. During the session breaks, we had opportunities to ask questions specific to our businesses. Loretta is amazing, she’s passionate and a walking book of knowledge for all things business. I’ve had 1-2-1 sessions with Loretta where she has answered my queries and steered me towards relevant resources. Loretta’s advice has really helped as I was incredibly hesitant to start my business given the nature and the fact I would be launching during a global pandemic. Amazingly despite this my business has really taken off. 

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Advice I would give to anyone looking to start a business- do your research! It is so important to know the details e.g. what insurance or licenses you may need and really underpin your brand’s identity and who your target audience are. I’ve also learnt it’s important to build relationships with businesses within your field, as in my experience I have been passed clients, jobs, added to networks and received great advice from seasoned businesses as a result. Another gem I’ve learnt is how invaluable marketing is. Promote your business! This has been my focal point and having a clear marketing strategy has opened many doors. I have been approached and commissioned by music artists, social media influencers, presenters and producers to curate beautiful balloon installations, floral displays (otherwise known as ‘Instagramable’ backdrops) at amazing venues such as the BBC Television centre, ME London and the Shard (just to name a few) all during a global pandemic. My work has also received recognition as I was awarded ‘TEC Best Balloon Display 2020’.

The first year for any business is always difficult, however adding a global pandemic into the mix makes it that much harder. With COVID19 restrictions hopefully easing up soon, I’m excited to see where we can take YCM Events.'

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

SiLL logos

18 February 2021

Finding a gap in the market. Nicola Lespeare Greeting Cards

Business experts will tell you that to be successful in a crowded market you need to have a great idea, an idea that stands out from the competition. Many great ideas are born out of a personal aspiration to solve a problem, a problem that affects a group of consumers and represents a gap in the market waiting to be filled.

In 2016, Nicola Lespeare set out to do just that. She launched Nicola Lespeare Greeting Cards “to solve the problem regarding the lack of visible representation and availability of Black characters in greeting cards in the UK”.

Nicola Lespeare holding one of her greeting card deisgns

"The UK is a multicultural society, yet the vast majority of greeting card shelves fail to reflect this.”

Her vision was to “initiate change and increase diversity in the greeting cards industry”. Every year, Nicola would search retail stores, looking for the ideal birthday card for her sister. “I asked sales advisors which aisle the Black greetings cards were located and the response was always the same, ‘we don’t sell them’.”

Having rediscovered her passion for drawing, Nicola embarked on amplifying the prominence of Black character cards and creating lasting change in the greeting cards market.

Nicola Lespeare greeting card with a Black woman wearing an orange dress

“My sister deserved a card that she would resonate with – an illustration that looked like her, instead of a generic card with pictures of flowers, teddies and cupcakes, so I decided to create my own! I purchased a set of coloured pencils and sketched an illustration of a Black girl with radiant skin and a fabulous afro, surrounded by a bunch of vibrant balloons. My sister loved her surprise and was so excited to receive a birthday card that reflected her deep skin tone and afro hair. Seeing her eyes light up with joy made me want to recreate the same happy experience for others.”

Nicola had identified a gap in the UK greeting cards market and consumers in the Black community who shared her struggle to find relatable, stylish cards. Armed with pencils and a great idea, she was ready to launch her brand.

“Nicola Lespeare Greeting Cards is an aspirational brand specialising in distinctive, illustrated designs inspired by fabulous afros and deep skin tones. Representation is key to instilling self-worth, building confidence and creating a sense of belonging. Receiving a card that you identify with, whatever your age, is a special feeling, a Nicola Lespeare Greeting Card instantly makes you smile because the giver has considered a card that reflects you!

“The response has been brilliant, customers and card recipients leave feedback and respond to our newsletters with comments such as ‘This card looks like me!’, ‘Great to see positive images’ and ‘Representation matters!’

Nicola Lespeare greeting card with an illustration of a Black woman holding balloons

“Being new to starting a business, I found the British Library’s webinar, Introduction to Copyright for Business, valuable when registering my logo and the Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Cultural Changemakers was a highly insightful event. An informative one-to-one business session with an advisor at the Business & IP Centre Nottingham facilitated mentor support through a Nottingham business programme, this enabled me to align my priorities with my brand vision.

“The Metro, You Magazine and The Strategist have featured my cards in online articles which has increased our circle of brand supporters and social media presence. Nicola Lespeare Greeting Cards recently joined online greeting card retailer Moonpig as well.

“This is a really exciting milestone because it means enabling a wider audience to celebrate with Black greeting cards and choose touching sentiments that reflect the important people in their lives.’’

For more on Nicola Lespeare Greeting Cards, visit the website. You can also follow Nicola Lespeare Greeting Cards on Instagram.

10 February 2021

How entrepreneurs have Reset and Restarted their businesses

Around the Business & IP Centre National Network, Reset. Restart webinars have been supporting entrepreneurs to pivot and adapt to the ever-changing business climate. We’ve caught up with businesses from around the UK who have made changes to their businesses since attending the programme's webinars.

One business which is putting its best foot forward is Esentzia, who produce luxury men’s home slippers. The slippers are designed to be comfortable with added health technology in the insole. Brigitte, who founded the company, manufactures the product in the UK using only biodegradable and recyclable materials.

Brigitte with a prototype of her slipper

The Reset. Restart programme came at the right time for Brigitte, who is at the start of her business journey, who used the webinars to learn about business models, market research, marketing, finance and more. “It has also helped me to clear my mind and to focus on my business. I feel more confident in knowing where to find information and who I should address when I need help. Finally, I feel part of a group, part of a community that helps me to launch my dream, I feel to be in a positive environment to succeed.”

Alongside the main programme, Brigitte also attended the smaller group Q&As which helped cement all the elements from the main webinars to take into consideration and to keep in mind “what people value”. From these follow-up sessions Brigitte received additional practical support, with spreadsheets to help her create her financial forecast and the idea to use offcuts from mattress production as a recycled material in her product.

It’s not just Brigitte who is looking for ways to make her product more sustainable, BIPC Leeds’ entrepreneur, Omar Bahadur, founded Faraday after graduating from Bradford University. Faraday is natural raspberry rose flavoured water with similar caffeine to your typical energy drink without the artificial ingredients, high sugar content or carbonation. Sustainability is also at the fore of the business as it’s served in an aluminium bottle that’s resealable and reusable.

Omar Bahadur, founded Faraday

Whilst working on his business as a side hustle to his full-time job, Omar invested everything he earnt into his idea. “Since our limited first run of 2,000 bottles in July 2020, Faraday is now stocked in a total of 10 independent stores in Bradford and Leeds, as well as making sales on our website offering free UK delivery on our cases of 12.”

“Faraday’s first offering has been subjected to two years of R&D since inception in November 2018 prior to commercialisation. We are in a proof of concept phase collating feedback on our pricing, recipe and packaging. We landed a Bounce Back loan last year and this will be used to scale-up before seeking angel investment next year.”

Before the pandemic Omar used BIPC Leeds, in Leeds Central Library, for workshops, access the free market data and IP clinics. During the lockdown, Omar, with the help of BIPC staff has continued to access data remotely and attend Reset. Restart webinars on dealing with retailers along with one-to-ones with the delivery partner. “The webinar highlighted the importance of storytelling, and on a deeper level the DNA behind the brand as opposed to simply focusing on the product. This prompted me to work on developing this, for example, what are the three things I want Faraday to stand for in the minds of consumers? Natural, sustainable and inspiring. This then dictates everything we do from packaging design through to recipe and choice of words on the website as opposed to vice versa.”

Omar has also made sure his intellectual property for his product is protected and has taken out UK and US trademarks and a patent for the resealable bottle, which is a novelty with aluminium. This allows the product to be cheaper and more sustainable than using a traditional glass or plastic alternative.

Customer feedback is key to Omar’s plan, “we’re keen to implement the feedback from our customers across all areas. This also includes packing less into a case, strengthening our online presence via our website and Amazon, as well as tweaking the flavouring. Increasing our retail presence is likewise on the agenda. The pandemic has been beneficial for us in the sense that we landed the loan last year, without this I don’t think Faraday would exist today.”

It’s not just Omar who has been thinking about how his brand is seen by consumers. Susan Widlake, founder of Mill House Millinery, used BIPC Cambridgeshire & Peterborough’s Reset. Restart webinars to revisit the messaging to her customers in order to address her appreciation to her local community, which she’ll reflect on her website.

Susan wearing one of her designs in front of an NHS wreath made from sewing thread

Susan had always had a passion for hats and after travelling the world as an IT auditor, decided to leave the corporate world behind her, return to the UK and turn her passion into a business.

“I now make hats at my home studio, a windmill, just outside Saffron Walden on the Cambridgeshire/Essex border. My hats are named after places and locations that have captured my imagination. I love to incorporate local silk, woven in Sudbury in Suffolk in my designs, and my millinery wire comes from twenty miles away in Essex. A case of inspired globally, created locally.

“Everything I make is unique, from wedding hats to show stopping creations made for racegoers and millinery competitions. I’m particularly proud that one of my pieces was selected from hundreds of entries to be exhibited at London Hat Week in 2020.”

Barcelona hat design and matching mask

2020 was a challenging year for Susan, with no weddings or events, it could have easily forced her business to stop, however Susan quickly pivoted to online fairs to showcase her designs and started sewing face masks. The thought of her local community was at the forefront of her designs with her Etsy shop stocking prints relating to the local area with crocuses and windmills. These struck a chord with the local tourist information office who saw her designs on Twitter and now stock Susan’s face masks and have put in multiple repeat orders.

She didn’t stop there. “Some ladies in a business network I belong to, Thrive Collective, asked if I’d consider making some sequin face masks for Christmas. I was a little dubious, as wanted them to be both comfortable and washable, so made some samples and got them to market test them. When they were road testing them, people were asking them where they came from, and I was referred to a local boutique, Blue in Saffron Walden. They asked if I could make some for them, and they were then featured on ITV’s Lorraine. These sales totally turned my business around, and have given me a huge amount of local and national exposure.”

Before Reset. Restart, Susan used BIPC’s webinars to help with her online presence. In the space of a few weeks after attending a Getting your business online webinar, “I’d stopped procrastinating, and purchased a domain name, and set up social media accounts”.

“Alongside Reset. Restart, I’ve been attending a millinery business course, and all of the topics have really reinforced the learnings I’ve been getting on the course.” Susan’s best piece of business advice is ‘done is better than perfect’, “I had to accept that in the real world getting your font choice and size doesn’t have to be perfect, and doing something is far better than nothing. My Etsy shop went live with just six product listings.”

Another business owner who attended our Reset. Restart programme is Lea Fletcher. In February 2020, Lea started a small business as a sole trader, offering business support services. “This started as a friend who had a business needed support and asked me to help out. I used the opportunity to set up Girl Friday Business Support Services. As my friend was an essential service business with key workers, I was required to work during the first COVID-19 lockdown period. My contract came to an end and I was offered other contracts by other businesses. I also applied to Anglia Ruskin University to complete a Master's in Project Management in order to provide additional services from my Girl Friday business and expand the range of services too.

Lea Fletcher

“Unfortunately, I was in an abusive relationship and I had to leave home for my safety and go and stay in a Refuge. Whilst I have been living in the Refuge I have not been able to work, however, my current situation and the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown gave me the idea to focus on undertaking a project to help domestic abuse victims and survivors.”

Lea wanted to create a safety application that could be located discretely within existing commercial websites and an online community platform, in collaboration with other service providers, agencies and businesses etc. “The aim is to provide essential information, access to resources, and necessary products and services to help assist current victims and survivors with their ongoing recovery journey. I am very passionate about this having gone through my own experience and now have a back story I can utilize to help others. I am currently researching this project and entering the first stages of establishing the concept.”

The Reset. Restart programme has supported Lea since it started in November 2020. “I have been attending lots of workshops and one-to-one sessions. They have proved to be very helpful and informative. I have attended all the workshops so far, but the one I enjoyed the most was my one-to-one session with a business advisor who helped to give me clarity with my ideas. The workshops came at a crucial time for me and have assisted to give structure to my business and also explore possible pitfalls that I could avoid, amongst other things.”

Lea’s new business to support her first project is called Adhoc Project Management. “I am currently going through the process of setting up and applying for funding in order to undertake my project to help victims and survivors of domestic abuse.”

If you'd like to see what webinars are taking place with your local BIPC, or from London, visit our Reset. Restart webpage.