THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

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

Introduction

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

10 April 2019

How having a mentor can benefit your business

Having a mentor at a crucial time in your business can make all the difference. You’ve started your business, you’re working at least part-time on it, your website is up and running, you’re generating revenue … then what? You might feel you need someone to help with professional and personal development, give advice and encouragement, explore new ways of thinking, help expand your professional network. You might want to consider becoming a mentee and pair with an experienced and successful entrepreneur. Our mentoring programme, for those based in London, matches mentees with a mentor from our Innovating for Growth programme.

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One mentee, Tina Bernstein, founder of Mapology Guides wanted a mentor as they can “potentially help you move mountains. They don’t do the work for you. They believe in you and lend a much needed guiding hand, which is priceless when you run a small business.”

Sarah Orecchia, fellow mentee and founder of Unbeelievable Health agrees, “It was a bit daunting starting my business in wellness, an industry which was new to me, and I asked my father, an entrepreneur himself, for guidance. He suggested getting in touch with people doing similar things or those with market knowledge to ask for advice which I thought was a bit mad, 'contact strangers?! No way…'. He said at least one or two out of 10 people asked would be flattered and would probably be chuffed to help. One of my mentors (a father of a child in my daughter's school who I approached), had built and sold a very popular supplements brand and was immensely helpful, he shared all sorts of tips and contacts and gave me the confidence I needed to crack on and was there, quietly in the background for years, offering up help and advice when needed.”

Mentors will guide you through the challenging and rewarding process of running a high-growth business. One of our mentors, Amelia Rope, founder of Amelia Rope Chocolates encourages those who are thinking about having a mentor, “Mentors don't necessarily have the answers but they can help you find your own answers. For myself, I value someone who is non-judgmental, open, trustworthy, honest, has a solid track record and top of the list... a very good active listener. Some of the time, as a mentee, you need to talk, to air undigested ideas/thoughts... be listened to. Oh and a sense of humour is pretty vital too! Always appreciate the time your mentor gives to you. They are doing it out of kindness, free of charge and as an altruist.”   

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Tina also sees the benefits as a recent mentee, “Ask yourself: have you had bad experiences with people advising or guiding you in the past? Are you fearful of something? If so, what? What do you imagine would happen? Now turn it around and dream up of what could happen. Where do you see yourself in three years and how will you get there? These are all things that a mentor can help you with. They gently guide you, they hold you accountable, they are on your side, they want you to be successful. The most successful business people have had mentoring. The wise amongst us know that having a mentor is a crucial part in the journey of a business.  I’d go as far as to say it’s critical!”

Amelia Rope has seen both sides of the journey and has benefited from mentors during her business lifecycle, “I have had mentors along my way. I have found that the right person tends to appear at the right time and then leaves when they have shared what I was in need of learning. I see it as a 360° experience, people move into your world when you need them (even if you are not aware at the time) and then they move on when you have absorbed what you needed to absorb.”

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If you are interested in finding out more about our mentoring programme, click here. You can also find our FAQ blog with some additional information.

04 April 2019

Happy returns make for happy customers

Royal Mail published a report on delivery for online shopping, Delivery Matters. In this guest blog post, they explain how businesses can make their customers happy by making their online shopping, and returns, experience as convenient as possible...

As online shoppers become increasingly savvy, they look for reasons to shop with a particular brand. The perfect example of this is the growing trend of being able to ‘try before you buy’ – already offered by numerous retailers. This is a convenient and flexible way of shopping online and is proving increasingly popular with online shoppers. In fact, 76% of consumers said they would ‘definitely’ or ‘maybe’ purchase more items if they were offered a ‘try before you buy’ option, with shoppers saying they would order an average of three extra items each month.

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With 17% of global retailers already adopting this kind of model, it’s important to consider putting ‘try before you buy’ at the heart of your returns offering – and staying one step ahead of your competitors when it comes to customer satisfaction. By giving people what they want (and expect), it is more likely they will continue to shop with you in the future.

One in three (34%) of those that return items have used ‘try before you buy’ services. 18 – 34-year-old shoppers (49%) are more likely to use a service like this if it was available. Clothing (52%) and footwear (39%) are the categories people are most likely to use this service for, followed by electrical goods (39%). Two in five shoppers (40%) believe they would purchase more items if a retailer offered a ‘try before you buy service’.

Reasons for returns

The average online shopper in the UK sends back an online purchase every month*. Over half (53%) of those that return clothing or footwear said the most common reason to return is because the item didn’t fit or was the wrong size.

The study, part of Royal Mail’s annual Delivery Matters report, reveals women are more likely to return something because the item is not what they expected. Men are more likely to return a non-clothing item because it’s incompatible or not useful for its intended purpose.

Clothing (75%), electrical goods (42%) and computer software/hardware (33%) are the most commonly returned items. Over half of clothing is returned because it didn’t fit or was the wrong size. For electrical goods, the most common reason for returns is because the item was faulty or arrived damaged.

What online shoppers want

According to the study, six in ten (60%) online shoppers will not use a retailer again if they have a difficult returns experience so it’s important to get it right. To keep customers returning to purchase time and again, retailers should make sure their returns experience is a simple and affordable one.

There is a recurring theme when it comes to what online shoppers want when they return items: ease and convenience. People want the option of local, easy access, as well as knowing they won’t have to wait indoors all day for someone to come and pick their parcel up. They also want to use a returns provider they can trust. Royal Mail continues to lead the way on that score, with over three times as many online shoppers trusting them to return their item over their closest competition. Shoppers need to be able to trust that their items will get back to who they bought them from safely to get their refund. With branches up and down the UK, people prefer returning items at the Post Office® more than anywhere else.

Speed of refund after an item has been sent back is also important, with 93% of shoppers believing it’s crucial to receive a notification of a refund after they have returned something. Almost three quarters (73%) of respondents think it’s important for retailers to provide clear returns information on their site and at the point of purchase, as well as wanting marketplace sellers to make returns information easy to find (68%).

Peace of mind and reassurance are key when returning items so it’s important to provide tracking. Not only does tracking allow someone to keep up-to-date on where an item is at any given time, it also provides the much-needed proof of posting and delivery which are vital when someone is expecting a refund.

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Key conclusions

‘Try before you buy’ is a huge trend that appears set to stay. Smart sellers can satisfy savvy shoppers by offering them this convenient, flexible returns option. What’s also clear is that the returns process needs to be as easy as possible with many online buyers not prepared to shop with a retailer again if they have a difficult returns experience.

Factors such as speed of refund remain important, as does clarity of information about a company’s returns policy at the point of purchase. Shoppers now expect more from sellers and increasingly want to be able to return an item how they want, where they want and when they want. If retailers keep up with change and meet customers’ expectations then shoppers will continue to buy from them again and again.

*Taken as an average from the research that revealed online shoppers, on average, returned three packages within a three month period.

The research was independently conducted by Trinity McQueen and based on a sample group of 1,503 UK online shoppers that make returns.

01 April 2019

A week in the life of... Frankie Fox, co-founder and Head of Innovation for The Foraging Fox

To celebrate the British Library's Food Season, this month's Week in the life of... follows Frankie Fox, the co-founder and Head of Innovation for The Foraging Fox, a multi award winning producer of all natural condiments sold across the UK, Germany, The Netherlands and North America. Frankie is an alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme.

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Monday Starts with feeding the chickens and then the school run, dropping off the kids before racing into London to an office in Shoreditch for a feasibility exercise with an external consultant on some particular NPD (new product development) we have been looking at. This involves looking at the whole of market in our major territories for a class of products where we have gathered data ourselves and from our major importers. We look at the products themselves, whether they can be made within our brand values, potential manufacturers for these products, price point, competition, distribution and most importantly the size of the market, potential market share we could gain. It certainly feels a far cry from where it all began with our Original Beetroot Ketchup which started as a kitchen project with the children to teach them to cook with a surplus of beetroot and apples. We spent three years in the family kitchen developing this product, testing it out on family and friends. During which time I took pictures of all the condiments shelves in all my favourite stores looking for a market opportunity for our all natural flavoured ketchup. Once I was convinced there was an opportunity we worked on branding the branding and finally by booking a small producers stand at a trade show with a box of handmade samples to get proof of concept that there was actually a market before launching the company in earnest. 

There are always emails to catch up on. My co-founder and a member of team are exhibiting at a trade show in New York and so it’s nice to hear how it’s going and I need to catch up with the manufacturers and suppliers on upcoming production runs for our existing product ranges, and calls with the rest of the team on various different ongoing day to day business. However, I need to dash back as it’s parents evening for my youngest and I make it to her school just in time to meet my husband before sitting down with her teacher.

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Tuesday I start the day by dropping the kids at school, early doors as usual and go for a quick run through Hatfield Forest on my way back. It’s hard to fit exercise in around work and family commitments, so I like to make it part of my daily routine as much as possible. Running is time efficient and I like to be outdoors as much as I can as it really helps to clear my mind for the day. On a purely spiritual level, starting your day in an ancient forest puts everything into perspective!

I am working in the kitchen today on NPD (new product development) on adding products to an existing range and ideas for a new range altogether. This means a lot of time spent on research and time spent in the kitchen developing recipes by trial and error. I put music on whilst I work in the kitchen, and get all the ingredients and utensils out and plan what I am going to do. It pays to be really organised at this stage, and I fastidiously note down and to keep track of any changes I make with each version of any recipe. This is the favourite part of my job. At the moment I’m learning about a new type of preservation process, which is absolutely fascinating and I have spent hours on YouTube and looking at and trialing various recipes and ideas. I always feel a huge sense of excitement whenever I initiate a new range idea. The process from product inception to the shelf of a supermarket can be a long drawn out and painstaking process which is very involved and you need to invest a lot of time throughout the process so you need a lot of energy and passion for the product to take it through to market. When I am happy with a kitchen recipe for a product and have done the basic costings and understood price points by doing a feasibility exercise I will source and take the recipe to a manufacturer where we will work on manufacturing costings and their kitchen recipe to replicate my kitchen recipe. We have a confidentiality agreement in place with anyone we work with (read more about Trade Secrets in this Irn Bru case study). This next stage can go on for months, one product had so many countless kitchen version from the factory that weren’t quite right I started to feel so despondent that this product would never reach the shelf. It did, and I am really glad that we were so thorough and patient with this stage of development. When you are happy with their kitchen trial, then it can go on to the factory trial stage, which is a smaller scale version of full scale production the factory itself. This is when you may find you will need to tweak the recipe and method again to suit the machines, cooking and the factory processes. It’s always trial and error at each and every stage with larger volumes at stake but we are always learning. 

I clear the kitchen, fill the fridge and shelves with my samples, file my notes, shower and get into my evening wear as I am attending an awards ceremony tonight. However, my daughter is competing in her first swimming gala after school today so I need to be there for that first as it’s on my way. I look rather overdressed standing at the poolside cheering my daughter and her school on in a bright red cocktail dress and heels - but she was amazing and so were her whole team so I am bursting with pride and have no time to be self-conscious as I have a train to catch! The event is the Chef’s Choice Awards at The Shard in London, it’s a Food Service Catering Awards event to celebrate the best products in the catering industry. We have created a new food service format for our range of All Natural Beetroot Ketchups to reach a new audience of customers - to date our offerings have only been available in a retail glass format.  We decided to enter the awards to support the launch in this market, raise awareness for the products and the brand with wholesalers and food service customers and ultimately boost sales! Our OOH (Out of Home) salesperson is also attending the event with me to ensure we make the most of the event, speak to all the right people and get and convert these leads into sales. It’s a fun evening and we strike up conversations with other suppliers and wholesalers. To our absolute joy we win the Condiment Category and amazement we win the overall Product of the Year! I’m grinning ear to ear on the train home, everyone is asleep when I get home and so I leave the award out on the kitchen table for my husband the kids to see in the morning and we can celebrate over cereal.

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Wednesday Drop kids into school, a quick run and then catch up with my emails and calls the team about the awards ceremony and decide who we need to follow up with and how. We put together a press release with quotes from the judges to send to relevant media contacts and potential leads. Interview with The Grocer magazine for their piece on the win.

Thursday Drop kids early and dash into London to meet the team in White City, the day is spent in and out of internal meetings. My co-founder and I tend to start the day with a management meeting, then we have a whole team meeting which gives us an update on what everyone is working on. Then we have a specific sales and production planning meeting afterwards to discuss sales figures and stock levels in all territories to manage stock and plan productions. 

Friday Back in the Shoreditch office to do an in-depth taste testing session and follow up on the Monday NPD (new product development) meeting. Our monthly Board call to discuss work in progress and priorities. No day is the same and as a founder of a start-up business I have done every role at some point from bookkeeping, packing boxes, trade shows to in-store sampling sessions, so you care passionately about every single detail of the business even if you now have team members doing these functions. I always want to be there to support them in any way I can. It may be Friday but you never really clock off but it’s nice to look forward to spending the weekend in the garden, digging over the vegetable beds with the chickens pecking for worms - chitting potatoes and planting strawberries plants in the polytunnel with the kids and planting new raspberry canes in the fruit cage. Back to where it all started in the garden with the kids. Spring is my favourite time of the year, full of potential and endless possibilities.

26 March 2019

Six reasons why you should be writing a blog for your business

Our next big exhibition here at the British Library is Writing: Making Your Mark from 26 April to 27 August. It will follow the remarkable evolution of writing from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs carved in stone and early printed text such as William Caxton’s edition of The Canterbury Tales, to the art of note-taking by some of history’s greatest minds, and onwards to the digital communication tools we use today.

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Which brings us very neatly to blogging. Blogging continues to be one of the most important ways of marketing your business. And according to online marketing experts HubSpot:

With all the hype around video content, it’s tempting to think that blogging is over. But ... Your strategy should still involve blogging as usual. Because blogging is, and will remain, an essential game plan to reach your audience.
...

  • You have a 434% higher chance of being ranked highly on search engines if you feature a blog as part of your website (Tech Client).
  • Businesses using blogs as part of their content marketing mix get 67% more leads than those who don’t (Hubspot).

I have been blogging for over ten years on behalf of the Business & IP Centre here at the British Library, and have learnt from experience its enormous power. 

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Here are my six reasons why you should be writing a blog for your business:

  1. To build trust – 
    Today customers want to deal with real people vs anonymous business. This is your competitive advantage as a startup, and your blog will communicate your personal passion.

  2. To build an audience –
    You can start to tell your story even before your business goes live. You might even attract some pre-launch orders.

  3. Increase your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) without risk –
    Google loves blogs, but hates cheaters, so keep away from search engine optimisers with claims of ‘magical’ abilities.

  4. Drive more traffic to your website –
    By 434%...

  5. Be seen as an expert in your field –
    You will have the knowledge and experience of your industry to provide insightful, quality content on a regular basis.

  6. Reach a wider market –
    You will share your blog content via your social media channels, so you might even get to go viral.

For those of you who are not convinced here is some hard evidence of the power of blogging. In 2011 I wrote a post about the British Standard for a cup of tea (BS 6008 in case you are interested). Eight years later and this post still comes up as number one on a Google search...

British Standard for a cup of tea

Even if you are promoting what might appear to be dry or boring topic, a tangential blog post can be the an ideal marketing tool.

So, for instance, if you want to promote an "Award-Winning Pet Insurance" business, why not write a review of the British Library Cats on the Page exhibition, which ended in March, on your Animal Friends blog

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Neil Infield, Business & IP Centre Manager at The British Library

Neil is a manager in the Business & IP Centre at the British Library, where he leads a team of business and intellectual property reference specialists. The Centre provides information and advice to inventors, business start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Neil is a SFEDI accredited business advisor, and runs regular advice clinics. He has also delivered a range of workshops including What next for my business idea, and Introducing social media for small business.

Prior to joining the British Library Neil spent 16 years working in the City of London for an investment firm, managing their business information services. He has spoken widely on innovation in business information. He blogs at www.inoutfield.com, and tweets at @ninfield.

He has been active in SLA Europe for nearly 20 years, including President in 2004, and being made a Fellow in 2006. In 2011 he became a Fellow of The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA).

Click here for more information about the Writing: Making Your Mark exhibition and click here for more information about how the Business & IP Centre can help take your business to the next level.

19 March 2019

Business support in London by Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Rajesh Agrawal

As Deputy Mayor of London for Business, I would like to thank the British Library Business & IP Centre for giving me the opportunity to tell readers about the importance of business support in the capital and what the Mayor of London has to offer London’s SMEs and entrepreneurs.

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With over 1 million micro-businesses and SMEs in the capital, we recognise the crucial role that small and medium sized enterprises play in London’s Economy. And as an entrepreneur myself, I closely identify with the many entrepreneurs that I meet through my new role in city government – and I know the kind of challenges that SME owners face day in day out.

I also know that there is help, advice, support, and funding out there to help businesses grow, but it can be difficult, complex and time consuming to find. But the vast majority of businesses that do take advice find that it adds real value to their business. So, to help more businesses access the type of support that can really make a difference, in 2016 we launched the London Growth Hub, funded by the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP), London’s local enterprise partnership.[1]

Initially an online support tool, the original objective of the London Growth Hub was for it to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all the available business support in the capital. Since its launch, it has provided support to hundreds of businesses and entrepreneurs. The website offers various forms of support, such as fact sheets that provide key information for starting a business. Using the Growth Hub’s support search tool can help you find new solutions that you might not have initially thought about. Users can also filter their search to find support specific to their needs, and their sector.

Networking is a great way to meet potential clients, collaborators, investors as well as mentors. So, we’ve created an events calendar, updated daily, where you can find relevant events taking place near you. Shared and open workspaces are also a fantastic way of broadening your networks, as well as marketing your business. The Growth Hub’s interactive workspace map lists over 400 workspaces, studios and more in, as well as incubators and accelerators.

The Growth Hub team also meet with businesses from around the capital to find out how business support programmes in London have helped them to grow. The portal hosts a series of inspiring case studies showcasing business support in London, as entrepreneurs who have benefited in the past take you through their business journey, the ups and downs that come with starting a business, and the importance of perseverance.

However, we also understand the importance of providing face-to-face support to entrepreneurs so we have now launched a series of free pilot programmes that provide one-to-one mentoring, master classes and tutorial events. The Growth Hub launched Mentoring for Growth last summer, a programme that matches up SMEs with high potential for growth with leaders from top British businesses. The London Growth Hub can link you up to the right mentoring scheme for you through government, local councils, trade associations and more.

Meet the Buyer, launched in 2018, helps small companies access buyers from street markets, through to major multinationals. The programme offers London’s SMEs the chance to learn how to pitch products to different sectors and types of buyers and gain the essential knowledge to present ad pitch successfully, as well as attend events where they can meet potential future clients. Participants have also been able to network with other SMEs that have successfully pitched to buyers and find out the lessons learned to hone in on their technique.

We have begun to work with London’s entrepreneurs to ensure that the face-to-face programmes we offer are inclusive for all Londoners. LEAP began hosting a series of roundtables with BAME female, disabled and LGBT entrepreneurs in 2018, as a way of initiating discussion with London’s minority entrepreneurs to get guidance and recommendations on what we can do to help access to growth. One of the outcomes of this has been an events series with Funding London, aimed at supporting BAME and female-founder start-ups.

We also teamed up with the British Library Business & IP Centre on their season of Digital Disruption, which included a series of including workshops, mentoring, talks and online webinars, taking place at the British Library. As we covered a variety of topics, including marketing, SEO, social media and more, SMEs were able to learn what it takes to be noticed and make their mark. These events helped SMEs in all sectors get ahead by embracing change and forging new, creative solutions to existing problems.

Click here to find out more about how the London Growth Hub can support you.

[1] Chaired by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, LEAP is responsible for allocating over £440m government funding across regeneration, skills and business support initiatives. LEAP is also investing over £300m in London’s Royal Docks Enterprise Zone and provides strategic oversight for London’s £650m EU structural funds programme. It brings entrepreneurs and business together with the Mayoralty and London Councils to identify strategic actions to support and lead economic growth and job creation in the capital.

11 March 2019

A week in the life of... Angela Steel, founder and CEO of SuperWellness

Angela is the founder of SuperWellness, a company that specialises in workplace well-being and nutrition. Since she started working with corporate clients in 2014, Angela’s mission has been to make ‘nutrition smart’ workplaces the norm. This means supporting employees to make diet and lifestyle choices which benefit both their mental and physical well-being, but also fit with working life. Angela is an alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme. SuperWellness’s range of services includes a Monthly Plan of eye-opening and engaging communications content, interactive workshops and programmes which deliver measurable results.

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Monday After dealing with the most urgent emails, a long brisk walk to the station and off to my co-working space in Victoria. The commute takes well over an hour so it’s always tempting to stay and work from home but I get much more done when I’m in a buzzy atmosphere.

I focus on project work – a couple of new clients going live next week. One is running an Awareness Day in the City – a chance for us to inspire employees to join a longer term programme of their choice. The other is a global company organising a team meeting in Krakow. We’ll be providing a half-day mindfulness workshop kicking off our SuperMind programme, which the team will subsequently attend via webinar.

Tuesday I start the day early – at my desk by 7am – to prepare an email to our subscriber list. I want to gauge interest in a new subscription based well-being communications package planned for launch in April. Having pressed ‘send’ and with an eye on the responses (always an exciting moment), I get my head into our sales figures and projections for the month to come. I have my weekly call with one of my board advisors at 12pm, which helps me to stay on top of the numbers. With all of the business’s key performance indicators on a single page report, I can see at a glance how we’re doing and where we need to focus our attention. After a bite to eat, it’s off to a local park for some fresh air and a walk with my partner Johnny.

Wednesday I’m excited about my meeting today. I’m visiting a Charity near Canada Water to discuss a corporate partnership. The idea will be to donate 10% of revenue from our new subscription programme to support its mission to tackle food waste and fight hunger. Being into food and nutrition, the idea that 1 in 8 people in the UK go hungry is really difficult to accept. I spend a couple of hours being shown around the London warehouse and meeting the corporate fundraising team to discuss possibilities. I’m impressed by the quality of the food they get to redistribute and the fact that 50% of it is fresh produce. Fantastic!

I make my way back home in time for our 4pm monthly team meeting on Zoom. We have 15 associates around the UK and one of our challenges is to stay connected as a team where everyone works remotely. Most of our nutritionists run their clinical practice with private clients in parallel to their work with SuperWellness. We meet physically as a team every quarter and in between, keep in touch through our monthly online meetings. It’s a chance for everyone to share project updates, including new learnings. We also get to brainstorm solutions to challenges which come up. Our projects can be very bespoke and we have to be creative to fit specific work environments. Last year we delivered programmes on board six cross Channel ferries, which involved a lot of logistical planning.

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Thursday Today I’m meeting with a potential client – a large construction company at the early stages of planning a well-being strategy. One of the most exciting, but also challenging aspects of our industry is that it’s still in its infancy really. More and more employers are considering well-being as a part of their business strategy and seeing the benefits it can bring to the business.

I learn about the company’s challenges and begin to brainstorm some ideas. At this stage the next step is to win buy-in to the overall plan from the board of directors and secure budget for a project next year. I promise to follow up with an outline of a business case to help my contact present her initial plan.

I open an email from one of our clients with fantastic feedback from a recent ‘Ready Steady Smoothie!” competition with their staff. Nice way to end the day.

Friday I begin the day with a 30-minute workout at my local kickboxing gym. It usually takes a bit of motivation to get going, but I find the high intensity exercise amazing for my energy and mood. I can feel the endorphins flowing after this! It sets me up for a day of writing and creating content for one of our workplace posters, called Switch off and Take a Break. I read through the latest studies on the subject, highlight the content I feel will be most insightful and then start writing the tips for the poster. The result will go to the designer next week to create our poster infographic for August.

Weekend Saturday is my day of rest. Johnny and I will often have a day out and I’ll switch off completely from work. I’m trying to keep Sundays off bounds too but it’s not always the case. After relaxing with the Sunday papers and a walk, today I have to organise a shipment of binders ready for the SuperMind programme being run in Krakow in a couple of weeks’ time. I can start next week feeling all is under control – well for now at least...

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04 March 2019

Targeting your audience through blogging

Here are some top tips from our partner UK2 on best ways to target your audience through blogging. UK2 is one of the UK’s leading hosting providers with over 20 years’ experience providing services to the UK's finest start-ups and businesses. To see more from their blog, click here.

Creating a website to share your message is an incredibly exciting time, and often turns out to be a lot more work than many realise. Website tools and platforms are great at helping you create a place to share, but not as helpful when deciding what to say and who to say it to...

Whether you are an ecommerce business looking to add a blog or an individual blogger looking for growth, having a firm grasp on who you are writing for is a crucial attribute to your online success. Far too many bloggers focus on what they are writing rather than who is reading your valuable information. In reality, once you find loyal blog followers, they will be interested in your topics because they are interested in you.

However, identifying this audience is 90% of the battle. In this post we will help you identify exactly who you should be targeting with your content creation. We will offer helpful tips for identifying your audience and creating a blogging strategy for the future.

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Why pinpoint an audience?

It may seem like a lot of work to target a specific group of people, especially when broadcasting your content around the globe feels like a such an enormous group.

Unfortunately, writing content for the entire world will yield very few results. Your message will quickly be drowned out by the hundreds of thousands of other voices all competing for attention.

Instead, you must target a specific demographic of readers to speak to. By pinpointing your audience, you can specialise the message you send and gather more engagement for your website. To be a truly great content creator, your audience must relate to the message you send. By understanding your audience, who they are, and what they want, you harness a powerful form of focus to widely spread your content.

Sighting in your scope

It can be easy to fall back on industry knowledge for your blog content. However, your audience most likely doesn’t want to learn how to do what you do. Instead, they would rather pay you to do it for them, with either actual money or their attention. This is not to say that how-to guides don’t serve a purpose, they absolutely do as long as you keep in mind that you are not the star of your blog: your customer or reader is.

So how do you learn enough about your customer to appeal to them? Let’s look at some methods for reaching this goal…

What do you already know?

Brainstorm everything you know about your current audience. Where do they live? What are their job titles? Use any resources that you may currently employ like Facebook Ad pages or LinkedIn contacts. Make lists of who currently engages the most with your brand or persona. If you are an ecommerce business, think about who is currently purchasing your products. What do you know about your customers? If you are in the early stages of building an online presence, you won’t have much to work with. However, any details that you can set in stone will help build a foundation for your eventual targeted audience.

What do you still need to learn?

Use Google Analytics or other site analytics tools to reach as many readers as possible. Look for important information like age, gender, education and income levels, location, occupation, and other background information. Don’t be shy about creating fictional readers in your mind. Large corporations will often create personas to represent their various targeted demographics.

Engage and evaluate!

The next step is to engage with your audience as much as possible. You might consider turning on your comment option for your blog as well as investing additional hours on social media platforms.

Once you have a pretty good picture of who you are creating content for, ask yourself if this audience is enough to meet your goals. If your answer is no, then go back to the beginning and broaden your scope as much as necessary. However, keep in mind that “everyone” is not an adequate audience. You cannot appeal to everyone all the time, so try to pinpoint and drill down as much as possible.

Important note: You should spend just as much time promoting your content as you do writing it. Blogging is a two-fold process of creating and sharing your message with your audience.

Consider all the variables

There’s a lot to keep in mind while writing your blog posts. Creating content alone isn’t enough. You also have to consider how your content will affect your brand, your marketability, and your search results. Try out the content exercises below to vary your reach and boost your blog:

Follow the experts

To be truly valuable as an expert content creator, you have to know who is doing (and writing) what in the digital space. Be sure to take a look at QuickSprout’s Complete Guide To Building Your Blog Audience.

Along with the tested and true content creators like Brian Clark from Copyblogger and Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz, pay attention to who is trending in your specific industry. For example, if you are writing about technology, it’s worth following TechCrunch and Gizmodo. However, if you are in the beauty industry, then you should follow Zoe Sugg and Refinery29.  

Keep Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in mind

SEO can be tough for bloggers who focus on writing and promotion. There is a different thought process that goes towards satisfying search algorithms. Luckily, there are many resources available to help you turn pesky search results into a stream of organic traffic. Use Google Analytics to help you find keywords, and employ an SEO tool like Website SEO Guru to help you stay on top of meta descriptions, broken links, and other areas of your website that could damage your search engine results.

Promote your blog on social media

Social media is a great way to draw attention to your blog. It also helps you identify who is interacting with your brand. Profile pages contain basic yet crucial information about the people who are reading your blog posts. Make sure that you just focus on a few social media pages and update them regularly. Do not share posts that could be seen as offensive to your audience and interact with readers as much as possible. Well-managed social media accounts open up a window onto your audience if handled appropriately.

Start with a great platform

Having the right hosting platform affects your website more than anything we’ve covered so far. You need a host who focuses on security, uptime, and speed to be sure that your web pages are available when readers find your website. Your website will also need the proper tools to drive traffic, such as Website Builder, for example, which comes with everything you need to get online, or WordPress, a preferred blogging platform.

Your web host helps you find the perfect domain, the best website platform, and the tools you need to maintain a prosperous blog. Partner with a web host with the reputation, experience, and expertise to help you along the way. Learn more about what you can expect from industry-leading web hosts at UK2.NET.

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To see all of our upcoming workshops, webinars and events, including ones from UK2, visit our Events page

25 February 2019

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs at the Business & IP Centre

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs (EYE) is a programme that gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to work with experienced entrepreneurs in other European countries. EYE is run at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre by Nigel Spencer, who is responsible for services to support innovation and entrepreneurship. Nigel looks at some of the success stories to come out of the programme…

“One year ago, I wondered how I was going to pay my rent, and this year, I ask myself why I did not join the EYE programme sooner.” James Markey

In early 2017 we held an event at the Business & IP Centre to promote EYE, as we are an Intermediary Organisation for this programme and manage these exchanges. James Markey came to the event and shortly afterwards he joined the programme. In December 2018 James received the exciting news that he had been shortlisted for the EYE programme’s Entrepreneur of the Decade Award and will be presenting his story at the awards ceremony in Brussels on Monday 18 March.

After joining EYE James told us about his plans for a business and we worked with him to identify the type of support, skills and knowledge he would need to help make them a reality. This gave us a clear idea of the type of mentor that would make the best match for an exchange. We then used our networks to find such a person. James was particularly interested in the application of virtual and augmented reality in a training environment. Over the past eight years we had worked on a number of projects with a business support service in France called Laval Mayenne Technopole (LMT) who were also an Intermediary Organisation for the EYE programme. LMT are located in Laval in the west of Normandy and we knew this to be an international hub for virtual reality. LMT quickly identified Arnaud Cosson, the CEO of HRV Simulation as someone who would be an excellent mentor and James spent January to April 2018 working with Arnaud in France. Before his exchange he went on an intensive French language course to enable him to really immerse himself in the work of HRV Simulation and the local community.

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“I was given opportunities, both to work on my own business, and pick up live business experience within the host company. This ranged from supporting Arnaud with an investment pitch, demonstrating products to potential clients and getting involved in creating both the CRM system to support the growth and the marketing channels to create a future pipeline. In my final week with the company I pitched my business, after which they became my first client.”

When he returned to the UK, James developed his business model based on what he had learned in Laval and launched his business, JPMentors. He now has clients in France and the UK and has taken on two members of staff and sponsored a youth football team in Portsmouth. The business is growing well and the future looks very bright.

James has definitely been a success story, but is just one of the 68 exchanges we have arranged over the past two years and the vast majority of these have been great experiences for those involved.  50 new entrepreneurs have learned from experienced hosts in the UK and 20 new entrepreneurs from the UK have spent time overseas. We have been able to send people to places like Berlin, Lisbon, Valencia, Ljubljana, Vilnius, Naples, Dublin, Amsterdam, Brussels and as far away as Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles. We have welcomed entrepreneurs from Portugal, Italy, Germany, Romania, Poland, Turkey, Greece, Lithuania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Spain and Hungary.

One of our more unusual combinations saw an entrepreneur from Anguilla spending time in Finland.  Njeri Richardson owned Branches of Learning, an education service in the British overseas territory of Anguilla. Njeri was aware Finland has pioneered the most innovative approaches to teaching children with learning difficulties and she wanted to adopt these methods in Anguilla, so spent four months in 2018 working with Shirin Kulkarni at the Council for Creative Education in Tampere.

On Friday 1 February 2018, the Business & IP Centre’s contract on the EYE programme was extended until January 2022 and we are looking forward to offering these great opportunities to many more entrepreneurs. The geographical coverage of the programme was previously limited to European Union countries with some additional countries such as Turkey, the Ukraine and Serbia, but has now been extended to include Israel, Singapore, New York State and Pennsylvania in the USA.

The programme is funded by the European Union, but we believe that the only risk from Brexit is from a no-deal scenario as this would mean that all UK activity would end immediately. If you are interested in going on an exchange as a new entrepreneur or acting as a mentor to a new entrepreneur from overseas as a host entrepreneur, please contact us on research@bl.uk. You can find out more or apply for the programme here.

18 February 2019

12 tips for starting up a fashion business

As London Fashion Week is coming to an end and to coincide with the new season, The British Fashion Council, who organise the bi-annual event, have released figures from Mintel showing the fashion industry directly contributed £32.3bn to the UK GDP in 2017.

This represents a 5.4% increase after 2016; a growth rate 1.6% higher than the rest of the economy. Womenswear represents 51% of the fashion market, with menswear accounting for 26%.

However, despite the importance of the sector, it is one of the hardest to succeed in, due to high start-up costs, sizeable competition and the diversity of products available.

So it’s essential for anyone starting up a fashion business, to have a business plan in place outlining their strategy, and to understand where their fashion brand or idea sits in the overall marketplace.

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Fashion Angel is a fashion business accelerator offering mentoring, workshops (including at the Business & IP Centre) and access to funding to both new and established fashion industry entrepreneurs. Alison Lewy MBE, Fashion Angel founder and author of Design, Create, Sell – a guide to starting a successful fashion business, gives some top tips for anyone planning to start a new fashion business:

  1. Develop a business plan before you start – a business plan is your personal roadmap outlining your goals, visions and objectives and not just needed for raising finance. It will be central to your business development and be a useful tool to measure your progress against your projections.
  2. Don’t underestimate your start-up costs – fashion business start-up costs can be high so avoid nasty surprises and list all your potential costs. Include the cost of your sample collection, stock, equipment, marketing materials, website, IP and professional fees, insurance, and of course any deposits required for rent or utilities.
  3. Research the marketplace – find out about the size of the market for your type of product and whether it’s an expanding area. The British Library’s Business & IP Centre is a very useful resource for this as has numerous up-to-date fashion sector specific market research reports you can access for free. Identify your key competitors and analyse their business and marketing strategies. This will help you define your competitive edge and what differentiates your brand from other similar products.
  4. Create a strong brand – your visual branding and brand story are central to the way the public perceives your label. Your customers should develop an emotional connection, and brands that create a strong identity are the ones most likely to endure.
  5. Profile your target customer/s – conduct primary research to understand your customers’ buying and lifestyle habits and create profiles for each type of potential customer. Keep this information in mind when you are designing your collection/products and setting your prices. Remember, you are not designing for yourself!
  6. Plan your product range – offer a focused tight collection to start with, and do it well, rather than try to please everyone. It will be easier to produce too! You can diversify and expand once you have built your reputation and have sales history to base decisions on.
  7. Identify your sales channels – think about your route to market and how you will reach your customers. Do you plan to be a wholesale business selling to retailers? If so how will you manage this? If selling direct to the consumer, are you planning to open a bricks and mortar shop or will it be online or both?
  8. Work out a marketing plan – you may have an amazing product and lovely website, but how are people going to know about it? The marketing strategy is a key element of any business plan and should detail how you will promote the business, and budget needed accordingly.
  9. Adopt a realistic pricing strategy – your pricing must be in line with similar offerings in the marketplace. Unless you are a well-known luxury brand, every product has a ceiling price that customers will pay.
  10. Offer excellent quality and customer service – this area allows a small business to shine and can give you a competitive advantage. Reputation takes a long time to build but can be destroyed very quickly. Customers expect value for money whether you are operating at the value or luxury end of the market.
  11. Keep a tight control of your finances – monitor your cash flow on a regular basis, this will help you foresee any potential problems arising and allow you to find solutions, rather than suddenly being faced with not being able to pay your bills or suppliers.
  12. Take advantage of any networking opportunities – you’ll need all the help you can get, so make sure you tell everyone you meet what your business does. Always carry business cards with you and always ask for one, so you can start to build your own database of useful contacts.

Starting a fashion business isn’t easy, but with passion, drive and a clear vision it can be one of the most exciting and rewarding industries to work in.

To see all of the Business & IP Centre's upcoming workshops, click here.

Fashion Angel

14 February 2019

Brexit resources available

It's an uncertain time for many businesses around the UK regardless of whether Brexit goes ahead with or without a deal. We've compiled a list of resources currently available to help you find the information you are looking for. 

Prepare your business for EU Exit

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Use the information from the Government to understand how leaving the EU may affect your business and what you can do to get ready, including guides on employing EU citizens, importing and exporting, intellectual property and funding, amongst others.

Brexit Business Resource Hub

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The London Growth Hub and the Mayor of London have launched this new Brexit Business Resource Hub, bringing together key resources from a range of partners to help with business planning, support for mapping business areas with potential exposure to Brexit.

Using personal data after Brexit

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The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has put together an online resource on what to do if there are changes to the rules governing the use of personal data. You can also access slides from their recent webinar series, Preparing for Brexit.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have recorded their webinar on personal data transfers in a No Deal scenario. Download How to Brexit-proof your business data

The Institute of Export and International Trade Customs Procedures and Documentation

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A comprehensive look at the information that is required to be submitted to customs to enable goods to be imported and exported. It also looks at the differences between EU and non-EU trade. 

IP and Brexit: the facts

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The Intellectual Property Office's facts on the future of intellectual property laws following the decision that the UK will leave the EU.