Innovation and enterprise blog

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


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

30 August 2021

Introducing Rose Arouca-Claro, Rosy Clean Spaces

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIPC Quote Tiles London Aug 6

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

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

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit

SiLL logos

23 August 2021

Meet Sally Paull, Owner and Managing Director of Positive Signs

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

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

Sally Paull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Positive Signs

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

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

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

20 August 2021

The Story Cube: What you do matters

What does your business do?

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

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

It’s best illustrated with an example. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Story Cube

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

Click here to sign up.


Blog by Robbie Dale, creative director at The House London

16 August 2021

Introducing Shari Bollers, founder of Self Love Club

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

Shari Bollers, founder of Self Love Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shari Bollers Quote Tile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit

SiLL logos

28 July 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 July 2021

Waltham Forest Winners

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

Here are just some of those flourishing businesses...


Sweet Paper Creations

Sweet Paper Creations - Ice Cream Pinata

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

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


Price Management Consultancy

Marjorie Price

Price Management Consultancy Ltd. was founded by Marjorie Price, who is a specialist in training those in a management of leadership position with the essential skills to manage their workforce more efficiently and effectively. She provides mentoring services and coaching, supporting managers and leaders to harness their ideas, and turn them into action.⁣

"The SiLL programme has been an invaluable resource that has supported me with setting up and running my business. The 1-2-1 support with Sarah has been brilliant, from signposting me to relevant services outside of the programme, to practical help with developing my website and much more.  Sarah is friendly, supportive, encouraging and a good listener. The overall training provision has been well thought out; there is a course to help you at every stage of your business journey."


Firm Feet

Charlie Boyd

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

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


Haven Coffee

Haven Coffee

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

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


Bushwood Bees

Salma Attan

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

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

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


Authentic Worth

Esther Jacob

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

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



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19 July 2021

Introducing Authentic Worth, founded by Esther Jacob

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

Esther Jacob

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

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

Authentic Worth Homepage

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

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

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

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

BIPC Quote Tile

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


Click here to visit the Authentic Worth website.

Authentic Worth logo


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12 July 2021

Meet Judy Chicangana-Matthews, founder of Delmora

We are shining a light on one of our fantastic, fashionable Start-ups in London Libraries (SiLL) businesses, Delmora, founded by Judy Chicangana-Matthews. Demora offer a variety of beautiful jewellery items and accessories for women. We spoke to Judy to find out more about her business journey and her experience with the SiLL programme.

Judy, founder of Delmora

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

Delmora is a brand that helps women turn a 'good look' into a 'great look'. How do we do that? We sell the best jewellery and accessories for women's outfits. I always say "we" because I foresee Delmora expanding into a company that offers many jobs and does great things for its community. At the moment, it's just me doing the production, packaging, quality control, marketing and so on. But behind Delmora's progress, it's not just me. There are a lot of people and small businesses behind the curtains. For example, my husband that motivates me during those difficult moments as an entrepreneur, all the Delmora suppliers (at the moment, 85% of our suppliers are British) and finally our partners, we donate a part of our net profits to the Charity LAWA based in London.

What was the inspiration for Delmora?

My father and aunt are entrepreneurs, and I always had the idea that I would follow in their footsteps, so I studied business. I remember once I suggested to my father that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and he told me that he wanted a better future for me. He wanted to see me working in a big office for a big company. So, I shut down my dreams, believing that being an entrepreneur wasn't good enough. Now, looking back I am grateful for the advice, but I suggest to any parents listening, please support your children and help them try to achieve their dreams.

I choose jewellery because:

  • It is my passion
  • That market doesn’t have many barriers to entry which is good, but it also makes it super competitive
  • The initial investment required wasn’t too high
  • I found suitable suppliers quickly

Why did you want to start up a business?

Independence and support. I am looking for financial freedom and being able to manage my life in a way that I can care about myself. While working in offices, I was tired of doing nothing but working for someone else. I used to dream about having a hobby such as painting or crafting. I love working with my hands and creating new things. That is how I found out that jewellery would be perfect for me.

My second motivation is supporting others. When I was living in Colombia, I was a lecturer in a university that aimed to help people that couldn’t afford private, professional education. It was great! I worked there for 6 years, and I felt fulfilled because I was doing something good for others. One day I realised that I was not achieving my dreams. The working conditions made it almost impossible to dream about having a house or having enough money to travel for holidays. I had the same car that my father gave me before graduating from University. So, I realised that I needed to help myself first to be able to help others. I decided to launch Delmora and look for that financial independence to help myself at the same time as I help others. Currently, Delmora is supporting the charity LAWA based in London. My dream is that in the future, I will be able to help many girls that are living through domestic violence or any other type of abuse.

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

SiLL is a terrific project because it's available to anyone. Even if you don't have your own business and you have an idea. That is how I started the programme; Delmora was just an idea when I decided to attend the masterclasses. Although I have a business background, I didn't know where to find information or how to address the British market. That was the most significant help. Learning about COBRA and how the library supports businesses with industry guides and multiple resources such as Mintel and Euromonitor reports, helped me to create my marketing strategy to start Delmora.

In the marketing masterclasses, I learnt how to approach the different e-platforms with good content and how to reach my final customer. As Delmora has a presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest, that was super important. There is still so much to do, but this was an excellent starting point.

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

Learning about all the free tools that the Library offers to entrepreneurs. After I enrolled in the project, I started to be more interested about the activities, webinars and seminars that the Library provides and I have attended the ones on Intellectual property, marketing and how to take photos with an iPhone.

I am an avid consumer of the market reports to educate myself about the behaviour and product preferences of my customers. When I go to the Library, I spend hours taking notes and reading all this info.

The masterclasses are also very helpful as they teach new trends that help entrepreneurs to improve their processes.

Can you tell us a bit about the business community that is developing as a part of SiLL

I love when I’m around other entrepreneurs as you can learn from other business’ experiences. Also, being able to share your experiences is therapeutic and make you realise that you are not alone. SiLL facilitates those conversations and networking. I always look for other small business that could potentially be my suppliers.

Making black Tshirt

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

The impact was huge. I launched my first product at the end of February and then in March, Covid hit. In the beginning, people were buying the essentials such as food and toilet paper, so jewellery was considered a luxury. Nowadays, many people are concerned about their jobs and how that is going to impact their finances.

Covid also affects my KPI’s in terms of delivery. I use the service Royal Mail 24, and I have had severe delays on the delivery of the parcels. To compensate my customers, sometimes I offer discounts as a part of the customer service. This practice has seriously affected my margins, so surviving has been very difficult.

My response has been offering discounts to my customers and creating programs to increase the brand’s recognition. For example, I offer the Delmora Club discount to all my customers in which the members have exclusive access to special discounts and pre-launch of our collections. We also recently created the program named “Delmora Brand Champion” that aims to get more positive reviews around our online presence.

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

Do it. I was petrified before I started Delmora as I had a good job with a steady income, and I felt my professional future was promising. I had job interviews in big companies, and I was starting to love the London nightlife with cocktails/wine on weekends and shopping during my free time. So, starting a business required for me to save money and Goodness knows when I will take a steady pay cheque again however, I really enjoy being my own boss and working for myself instead of using my talents to line the pockets of other business owners.

When I started, fear was always a factor but I'm glad I went through that phase and decided to create Delmora. It gives me a purpose and the learning has been immense.  After a year, I have spent all my savings and I am not at the point of taking a salary yet. But the reward has been incredible experiences, and I have known incredible people that are going through the same.

Also, it is good to remember that the options are endless. If an idea doesn't work, there is always another idea that could be the one, but you will never know if you don't try.

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

Before I started my business, I took the Clifton Strengths Test, which reveals your main strengths. One of those for me is that I am a Learner. That was a big revelation because I wasn't aware of that, but I have since realised it is true. This has been crucial for me as an entrepreneur.

When I started, I thought that a bachelor's degree, a postgraduate diploma, an MBA and a qualification in Project Management would be enough. But I had to learn Photography, Photoshop and I am in the process of learning Illustrator and how to shoot videos.

I also thought the most difficult thing would be negotiating with suppliers, but that was the easiest part. Establishing processes and organising all the info to give the customer the best possible experience is very difficult. For example, every time I sell something, I need to go through a long quality control procedure involving a 30-point check list to ensure the customer journey and service levels are excellent and consistent. It is easy to get lost in the countless files and e-files that I manage.

Another example is when I receive raw material, I need to assign a code to every unit, and I need to fill in a file that records all the updated stock, which is crucial when I am planning a new collection. Also, I need to put that info on my cash flow to monitor where the money is going.

Key points, I would say, organisation and the willingness to learn have been skills of paramount importance that I have developed during this process.

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

It is a great help. All the masterclasses and tips will help you at some point. I would advise you to organise the information by subjects, and then you can come back as and when you require. I was always taking notes and filing the info I got from the programme. For example, I haven’t done my Canvas business plan but thanks to the programme, I know I have the template and all my notes ready to start it.


I think it is vital to say thank you to all the people that have helped entrepreneurs throughout their formation and to the Bexley Library and British Library for offering these programs and making them available to anyone. Thanks to Bexleyheath library for the time and effort invested as well as to the instructors for sharing all the tips and information. Finally, thanks to you Ioanna, because you have been an approachable person from the beginning of the programme showing a sincere interest in helping us.


For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit

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28 June 2021

Introducing Katherine Tinoco, founder of ArtPerÚK

This week we're shining a light on Katherine Tinoco, founder of ArtPerÚK; a business created to share Peruvian culture with the wider community in London and the UK, through the art and enjoyment of dance. ArtPerÚK burst onto the UK dance scene in mid-2019, offering Peruvian folkloric dance classes representative of the three regions of Peru: Coast, Andes and Jungle.  We spoke to Katherine about her business journey and experience with the SiLL programme.


'We believe that dancing is a great way to keep fit, happy and develop your self esteem. It is also a great opportunity to improve your wellbeing, you have the option to meet people and explore different cultures, whilst reducing stress and avoiding negative feelings. We do not just dance, we take you on a journey through the exploration of the wonderful culture and history of Peru, that will awaken your interest and curiosity for Latin American issues by several detailed choreographies.

The services ArtPerÚK offer are: 

  • Dance Classes for adults and kids (online and face to face group classes) 
  • Private dance classes (online and face to face classes) 
  • Performances at private, corporate events
  • Public performances  and community events 
  • Team Building activities 
  • Fitness workshops 

I've joined more than 10 online webinars and workshops, where I was able to learn more about how to reboot my business in this time of crisis.  The marketing workshop has really helped me to improve my social media presence on Instagram and Facebook, the finance workshop helped me understand how to manage tax returns effectively.  I was also able to enrol in several 1-2-1 meetings with a business expert, like Sophie White, who was amazing! She helped me align my ideas for the business and connect me with people to receive support on finance, and  helped me to promote my events. That’s why we were able to launch 2 workshops for the Croydon community, offering free dance lessons online. 

Free events are run every month for new joiners who haven't tried a lesson before, they can experience the classes and try them out to see if it's for them before signing up to one of the plans. 

We offer private and public dance lessons including online for the pandemic, and we've also performed at several corporate events to bring a a colourful taste of exotic Peruvian culture. 


We hope to present all our colourful choreographies in the near future to the public, with the traditional costumes that are such an integral part of Peruvian culture. Follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Youtube) where you can keep up to date with our latest offers, choreographies, tutorials, and flashmobs - when we can finally get out and make some!

My advice to anyone thinking of starting-up a business is to do a lot of research to make sure that your idea will work and manage expectations. Look at your finances for the initial years and the funding that you will need to operate well.

I learnt that as a women, mother and entrepreneur, we have to be resilient all the time and keep going. Using any trouble or problem as an opportunity to improve, see the glass half full and not half empty. As an entrepreneur, we faced lots of challenges and we need to see this to learn more and keep going with the same passion from the beginning.

Lockdown came at a really bad time for ArtPerÚK, when we were just starting to expand our physical classes and attracting interest through free trial dance classes around South London.  However, “every challenge is an opportunity”, and when lockdown was implemented, I reinvented the services and switched to online classes. Suddenly we were able to attract several clients to the classes. Online classes also allowed us to attract clients from outside of London, like Germany, Japan, USA, etc. This allowed us to expand our client base beyond physical constraints of having to be present in a certain place. Lockdown meant that people wanted to keep fit and maintain social contact, and that is what ArtPerÚK offered. While in lockdown ArtPerÚK launched more than 151 online dance lessons private and public, created several online challenges and driving awareness and participation. Ironically lockdown also made some things easier, by allowing people to dance from the comfort of their own home and not have to travel, which actually helped get a lot more participants.


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24 June 2021

A week in the life of Silvia Pingitore, founder of The Shortlisted Magazine

And so, here you go. After taking part in plenty of brilliant one-to-ones, webinars and events at the BIPC covering a range of essential business topics, from IP to marketing to bookkeeping and sales, after speaking at Start-Up Day Reloaded workshop in April 2021 and after facilitating a case study about you and your business, you were eventually asked by the lovely girls at the BIPC to write an article about a week in your life as a media entrepreneur, journalist and founder of The Shortlisted Magazine.

Silvia Pingitore
Silvia Pingitore, founder of The Shortlisted Magazine

You try hard to figure out a typical week in your life but you cannot find anything that won’t entail purposeless references to exercising, housekeeping and how you do take your tea, especially because you don’t really drink any tea and you know this won’t grant you any sympathy in the land of Shakespeare.

You continue rifling through your life to try and find some kind of repeated structure to fill out a weekly plan, but your weeks and days really have nothing instagrammable to show off. No yoga classes, no vegetable smoothies, no healthy morning routines. Often, not even any mornings at all.

Life as a media business owner and journalist is just an overly-complicated mess, and you wonder what you could say to be useful to those who might be interested in reading this post. In the end, the sole business-related activity closest to a five-day disciplined programme that you may think of is the process of securing, arranging, conducting and publishing celebrity interviews. And so, here’s what a week in the life of a media entrepreneur and rockstar chaser looks like.

The Shortlisted Magazine selection of interviews

Monday After four weeks of extenuating email exchanges, follow-ups and phone calls, you’ve finally got a confirmed phone interview with some big music celebrity for this week, but you don’t know the exact day and time yet. They said they “would be in touch soon” and then they disappeared. You know they won’t be in touch and that you’ll need to follow up again, but not today. That’s your number one rule in business: never email people on Monday unless it’s to threaten to sue their customer service.

You spend the day reviewing your list of questions for the celeb and watching videos of their past interviews to get accustomed to their accent and style. You also spend a great deal of time sourcing, selecting, giving appropriate credit, optimising and compressing the pictures to go with the interview.

Tuesday Time for a follow-up early in the morning. Time to try to remember who you’re actually going to follow up with, which is not that obvious when you receive at least 70 pitches and press releases per day every single day and - for God’s sake - everybody seems to be called the same. You had this vague impression at some point that all the publicists out there had identical names and so you eventually ran a poll into your nearly 6,000 LinkedIn connections just to find out that it’s true: if you’re called Chloe or Alison, you’re 85% going to work into PR, just as you’re certain to be getting into recruitment if your name is Rebecca, Matthew or Adam.

When she receives your follow-up email on Tuesday morning, the PR girl sees your message and starts to panic. She suddenly realises that she kept you hanging since last Thursday. She thought she had confirmed the interview date and time at the end of last week. She responds immediately. She’s nice and everything, and you can gauge how guilty she feels based on the number of “xxxx” she uses to greet you.

You now have a day and time for your interview, which is going to be tomorrow afternoon. If the celebrity is really huge and you’re a fan, you definitely don’t want to get too excited and start fangirling around. If the celebrity is Robbie Williams or Roger Taylor, the above doesn’t apply because you’ve already fainted to the ground.

Either way, you decide to cool off with a range of tasks you hate. Social media is the king of the tasks you hate. Back in the day, you created a magazine logo with a little round face that could virtually be turned into anything, and so you transform it according to the social media days of the month, because when the world is crashing down, there is always going to be some urgent Pink Cake Awareness Week posting to do.

Wednesday Time is up and you’re getting more and more stressed out. You check your technical devices and internet connection relentlessly in the hope that nothing horrible will happen to you and your equipment as you dial the celebrity’s telephone number. You would love to have met them in person and regret not living in the good old days when you would just hop on a horse and travel the world without anybody or anything annoying you on your way up. Time flies. You get super excited. They’re just brilliant to talk to and you would like the conversation to last forever. You’re having the honour to speak with ladies and gents that have made the history of rock and roll; people who were once speaking to John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Freddie Mercury are now on the phone with you. How crazy is that? You are so happy. You send a thank you note to the PR girl saying that the conversation was amazing and the interview will be out by the end of the week. You’re so joyful that you spend the rest of the day doing accounting until 5am.

Thursday You wake up at midday completely devastated. The interview seems like a million years ago. The excitement is over. All that’s left is a 45-minute mp3- recorded file with a persistent noise in the background to transcribe, fact check, proofread, edit, refine, make SEO friendly and publish.

As you’re taking a painkiller to get rid of your terrible headache, the rockstar you just interviewed briefly appears on the telly. You start to detest them. Also, you’d better not forget that, in addition to the transcription, you’ve also got an introduction to write from scratch. Introductions really are your thing and you don’t want to disappoint the readers when it comes to that. For some reason, the more your interview openings have absolutely nothing to do with the topic of the interview - like the one with Andrea Bocelli, Moby and John Steel of The Animals - the more the audience seems to enjoy them.

You start transcribing the mp3 file using Otter, which is an amazing artificial intelligence transcription tool that takes most of the hassle out of the process for you but only works wonders if the speaker has comprehensible elocution, which is not something to take for granted when there are Americans involved. Once the transcription is ready, you’ll have to go all over it again and triple check everything word by word, following through with headphones. The worst part is when the chap starts making lists of names and places that sound exactly like hundreds of other names and places. You’ve got to double-check everything, hoping you’ll guess the correct spelling. The fact-checking part is enormously time-consuming and may well take even longer than the proofreading process itself.

Many hours later the interview transcription is done, but you still need to write the introduction. For a good introduction, you need some good inspiration. But you cannot go and buy a tin of inspiration at that time in the night, so you stay up and continue to work until the right introduction magically appears on the page.

Which is just when the sun is rising out through the window.

Friday, I’m In Love The Cure knew what they were talking about when they famously released their Friday I’m In Love song in 1992: it’s Friday morning, you did get three hours of sleep in total and look your ugliest, but you’re happy as a sandboy. The interview is published. Time to celebrate by picking the celebrity’s loudest song, blast it on the stereo and throw a party between you and the cat. Such a shame that, in fact, you do not have a cat. You’ve always wanted one. What’s more, people are loving your article. You can tell it from your Google Analytics data. Some even spend as many as 40 minutes reading on.

Followers are liking and sharing the post on social media and they also say that they love your introduction. The PR girl is over the moon and sends you lots of xxxx.

Mission accomplished. You can now sit back, relax and look forward to Saturday morning when you’ll have a great time yelling on the phone with the HMRC because of those missing paperwork you’ve been waiting for six months.


To read more of Silvia's interviews, visit The Shortlisted's website.