26 October 2022
A week in the life of Amarachi Clarke, founder of Lucocoa Chocolate
Come with us as we take you behind the scenes of London's first bean to bar chocolate factory, Lucocoa Chocolate, founded by our previous scale-up programme alumni Amarachi Clarke.
Amarachi founded Lucocoa in 2015, after teaching herself to make chocolate in her home she learned that the bean-to-bar quality chocolate could be much better than that available in the mass market, even than perceived luxury brands. Since taking part in our previous scale-up programme last year, she has had some incredible opportunities come her way.
"Some new stockists approached us that we could only have dreamed of, as well as some high-profile media. Our team has grown a lot so we are now a team of 7 covering production, comms, sales and creative. Previously we only really dipped our toe in seasonal but we now have the capacity to really engage with Halloween, Bonfire night, Black Friday, Christmas, Easter etc. It’s also fun for us to think creatively about how we sell our chocolate.
We’re also looking at a new, larger factory to move to so if all goes well we will have a new Lucocoa home soon!"
Read on to get a taste of what it's like to run your own chocolate factory...
Today will be the most chill day of the week! Looking at the calendar we have a lot to get through so planning is key. I start the day by mapping out what success looks like at the end of the week and then work back from there plotting every key task for me and my team members, that we will discuss at the Tuesday morning team meeting when everyone is in.
We also start by roasting the cocoa beans of the chocolate that we’ll be making in the week, going through stockist orders and planning when we will get them out by.
We have our weekly team meeting, this is a good chance to get the team up to speed with a lot of things that have happened in the last week, catch up on projects and have a chat about how we felt the previous week went.
The weekly stocktake happens and gives us a snap shot of how much product we have. We have a baseline of product we are comfortable with. After the stocktake, we then prioritise the making of products to get to the baseline or just above that.
I had a meeting with Mercury Spirits a fellow British Library scale-up programme alumni. We discussed the possibility of working together on a Christmas product – chocolate and negroni, a combination that never fails!
All the cocoa beans are crushed and winnowed and the machines are switched on. They won’t stop until Thursday when the chocolate is ready. We’re making Natural Blonde and 60% Haiti this week.
Lots of tempering of chocolate today as we have to keep the stocks up!
We were invited to a Black History Month fair in the Aldgate Tower, it was a nice little lunch market for staff in the building. It was great to meet a lot of other Black founders.
I got back to the factory and hopped straight on a call with ITV as I will be baking our signature brownies on This Morning with Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary, there are a few things logistic wise that needed to be sorted so I hopped on a call with the guys at ITV to iron those out.
The coconut sugar, lucuma and cocoa butter are all weighed out and loaded into the machines slowly throughout the day.
In the evening a few of us went to a screening of Chocolate War a documentary by Miki Mistrati, highlighting the issues with child and slave labour in the chocolate supply chain. With the amount of money big chocolate companies make, we know they can fix the problem, but haven’t been required to, which is a great shame. We have been working on how we fix this problem and raising awareness on the issue through a campaign and podcast.
Today we were invited to speak at a conference in Brussels by Meta in November which is flattering, we hopped on a call and got some more details.
I caught up with our sales lead on where we are sales wise and putting a strategy together on meeting our targets
We had a request from the BBC show Dreaming whilst Black to have our products placed in the background of the show. I finally got around to signing the contract and sending that off. Now to get the stock ready to go out next Monday.
This is bake day and always a little stressful as Friday which is supposed to be a bit of a winding down day, always seems to be one of the busiest. All the bakery orders that come through online throughout the week are baked and dispatched on Friday for delivery on Saturday.
We had a brainstorm session with a new partner – Glebe Farm, the only oat milk company in the UK using British oat. We have been using their oat milk for our hot chocolate and their gluten free flour for our brownies for a few years now. We got some great ideas down and now to get them rolled out.
We form part of the Spa Terminus market on Saturday so we have the shop fully stocked with chocolate, chocolate gifts, hot chocolate and our signature Bourbon biscuits.
I left the shop early to head over to my Spanish lessons.
Are you a creative business looking to grow and open doors to new, exciting possibilities? Join our Get Ready for Business Growth scale-up programme now!
14 July 2022
A week in the life of Laura Sheeter, co-founder of Chalk & Blade
To celebrate the British Library's Breaking the News exhibition we wanted to get behind the scenes of news-breaking podcast producers Chalk & Blade, with a rare 'Week in the Life of' blog!
Founder and Creative Director, Laura Sheeter spent more than 10 years working as a news reporter in the UK, USA and former USSR - reporting on everything from the fate of abandoned Soviet military bunkers to the villages with only grandparents and grandchildren left behind in the exodus of Eastern European workers to the rest of the EU, the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the rebuilding of New Orleans in the years after Hurricane Katrina.
After a brief career shift, working as a Russian to English translator, Laura and her business partner, Ruth Barnes, set up Chalk & Blade - one of the first podcast-only production companies in the UK - in 2016, before podcasting appeared to be a business at all. Soon the time came to grow their business, so they joined our scale-up programme, Innovating for Growth.
"The British Library’s Business and IP Centre was the first place, Ruth and I went to learn about how to set up a new business. It’s since become a bit of a North Star with us returning to its resources whenever we encounter new opportunities and challenges.
The sessions with the marketing and brand teams have helped immeasurably with the visibility of the business, particularly embarking on a new redesign of the website and relocation of the offices. The Chalk & Blade team is equipped with SEO-super charged ideas and branding tactics to position ourselves as the premium destination for podcast making."
The company makes premium branded content for brands and organisations including Net a Porter, Adidas and the UN, the hugely popular TV companion series Obsessed With for the BBC (now also a show on BBC3), and award-winning, critically acclaimed narratives including In Search of Black History with Bonnie Greer (audible), The Messenger (audible), Hunting Ghislaine (Global) and Taking on Putin - an independent production with John Sweeney.
So what goes into creating all this ear candy? Read on to find out.
It’s a new work and the first in our shiny new Chalk & Blade offices. While the rest of the world came to a standstill over the last few years, the podcast industry has seen a huge boom. IAB saw an ad spend of $1.4 billion in the space last year alone. With such demand across originals and branded content, we’ve been busy growing and developing the team and the relocation was all part of this investment in the next phase of the business.
Previously in a shared co-working spot on Old Street, we’re now settling into a Shoreditch warehouse space with our own front door and freshly brewed organic coffee on tap (high on the list of requirements during the multiple recces!). A new week gives me a chance to check in with a lot of the team’s projects and look ahead to line up meetings with potential creative partners, commissioners and journalists all bursting with great ideas that could lead to a project.
The team is in full swing juggling a multitude of shows this summer. In any one week, we’ve got a BBC show recording for TV and our first foray into visual podcast production (a fascinating experience and, yes, branded cushions are a must!), drafting and refining a very personal show which requires careful briefing, a narrative podcast in pre-production (our office walls are currently decked out with story arc ideas) and talent meetings to unearth some welcome fresh voices into the mix.
The news tells me that we’re gearing up for a heatwave here in London so this afternoon after school pick up I take the boys to get ice-creams (they both choose waffle cones like the sensible sorts, they are). When my co-founder Ruth and I set up the company, we were both parents and so we’ve always been very open about having to juggle the demands of a busy production schedule alongside homework/baking a sponge for the school summer fete or taking the dog for a spin around the park. This is something we’re also incredibly aware of for our team too and want to offer all of them the same flexibility, whether it’s heading to a spin class on their lunch break or needing to take a duvet day when they’ve had a tough week.
I get a text from my colleague, and Chalk & Blade’s Development Lead, Jason who is at the Children’s Media Conference meeting with other production companies and commissioners this morning. Behind the scenes, we’ve been scoping out opportunities for audio ideas for kids. We’re really excited about inspiring young imaginations through podcasts, both as audio experts and as parents who know the value of great content for our kids.
The final episode of our podcast series with investigative journalist John Sweeney, Taking On Putin, is out in the world and I couldn’t be prouder of the team! I first worked with John as his Executive Producer on our hit podcast Hunting Ghislaine so when he suggested we follow Hunting Ghislaine with a series about Vladimir Putin, I was all in. We actually started work on Taking on Putin nearly a year ago. At the time I had to keep checking with my business partner, Ruth Barnes, that it wasn’t too niche or geeky. Russia wasn’t fashionable, and those warning about the threat Putin posed were seen as paranoid, crackpots or warmongers. We never expected it to be headline news.
Taking on Putin has shown the true value of telling serious stories deeply, with character and humanity, because when the world takes alarming turns we need to understand not only the what, but have a trusted guide explaining the why of what’s happening too.
And that’s precisely the kind of stories we want to hear and tell through our podcast productions at Chalk & Blade.
18 February 2022
BIPC Style Guide
As London Fashion Week A/W 2022 comes to a close today, we’re feeling like it's about time to update our wardrobe! Stuck in a rut with your wardrobe too? Maybe you're feeling inspired to create runway pieces at home? From shoe making classes to vintage inspired clothing, we have BIPC businesses that are transforming the fashion industry to help pull you out of your rut. Find out how below
The Fold Line
The Fold Line is an award-winning online sewing pattern shop. Founded in 2015 and based in the UK, they are the home for people who love sewing and making their own clothes, offering an extensive range of paper and digital PDF sewing patterns plus copy shop printing services. They are on a sewing mission to help makers find the perfect project and create a handmade wardrobe they love. If the designs from London Fashion Week has inspired you to try your hand at sewing, why not try making one of The Fold Line's best selling sewing patterns for beginners.
Co-founders Rachel Walker and Kate Underdown took part in the Innovating for Growth Free Scale-Up programme and with the help of experts' advice, marketed their new online shop to an established community following.
I Can Make Shoes
If shoes are more your style, why not try I Can Make Shoes, a London-based shoe-making school for beginners. Amanda founded the business back in 2010 to teach total beginners how to make their own shoes from home. Since we last spoke to the Innovating for Growth alumna, a lot has changed - she spent the first lockdown filming the same course content she had been teaching in-person for over 10 years and released it as an Online Course, this turned out to be great timing as people from all over the world had been wanting to take one of their courses but weren't able to travel the distance.
The past two years have been a very rocky road, as is the case many small businesses, but I Can Make Shoes has come out of it in a great position having had a chance reset the business and find their feet in the world of online training.
Inspired by beautiful bygone eras Revival Retro’s garments have classic style, feminine tailoring and flattering cuts. They are the perfect antidote to the fast fashion and throwaway culture of the chain brands on the high street and are committed to enabling individual style with inclusive sizing (8-28). For the discerning woman who wants a better shopping experience, their thoughtful design and considered approach puts people, planet and provenance first. Clothing that women will choose to wear again and again, that are easy to care for, enabling this desire and therefor lowering impact on the environment.
Since completing Innovating for Growth in 2017 where they learned to create a solid foundation for their business plans, their small business has built upon lessons learned and stayed true to their values whilst navigating the challenges of the last few years.
Sabina Motasem is a multi award-winning bridal boutique featured on vogue.com and in Elle. The entrepreneur and designer behind it is Sabina Ali whose dresses are proudly made right here in London with beautiful craftsmanship by an extraordinarily talented team. Having started in 2007, with a single wedding dress made as a present for a friend, Sabina's presence has steadily grown and she took part in our Innovating for Growth programme in 2012; it's an experience she calls "life changing" as it taught her the value of detaching herself and gaining perspective.
Like so many small businesses Sabina had to close her bridal shop in Islington but she believes it was the right thing to do. Her boutique is now online, becoming one of the first bridal brands in the country to pivot in this direction, and in 2022 she has started offering in-person appointments at bridal pop-up shops in Kings Cross, London.
Maria Grachvogel London
The Maria Grachvogel brand of Fashion and Luxury is about fit architecture – making clothes exist for the wearer, rather than the other way around. She engineers beautiful clothes, in fabrics that make every shape and size of woman look and feel her most confident, beautiful, and feminine. With a deep belief that cut and fit is transformative to the body and soul, each piece is carefully considered with seams that sculpt the body and fabric that drapes perfectly to move and flow as you do with thoughtful design details to enhance and flatter or allow for many ways to wear and style. The finest craftsmanship goes into every, considered piece so it can be loved and worn for many years.
Watch the latest fashion film by Maria Grachvogel, Genesis - A New Dawn, which premiered during London Fashion Week on 21 February.
B_Boheme’s showcases how vegan, sustainable and ethical shoes can be desirable. The collection is 100% animal-free using the latest innovations in sustainable, plant-based materials, as well as natural and recycled materials. With their latest collection, they’ve upped the ante to create a collection with the lowest possible carbon footprint. It features three key styles that are designed to be bolder and brighter as well as durable and timelessly chic. They’ve focused on styles that women can wear to be comfortable while still elevating any outfit, the elegant flat shoe, the designer sneaker and the utility Chelsea boot.
25 January 2022
Small Business Resolutions for 2022
A new year is a time of reflection, it's a perfect opportunity to make important changes and set goals you'd like to accomplish in the year ahead. For small businesses, 2021 remained unpredictable under COVID-19 conditions and in order to adapt, pivots were essential - a tricky environment to set goals and resolutions in. We spoke to businesses we have supported, through Innovating for Growth, our National Network and Start-Ups in London Libraries programme, to find out what their top three resolutions are for this year. If you're struggling to set resolutions of your own, we hope they inspire you!
Paul, Triple Double
Triple Double is a creative studio, founded by Paul Jenkins, that unleashes how youth engage in sport and education, using the power of design and creativity to transform their lives. Innovating for Growth alumni Paul doesn't usually set resolutions focusing instead on goals, this year he's decided to use themes to guide him rather than setting fixed aims:
- Responsibility. We can't control what happens, but we can choose how we react. This year I'm going to take more responsibility and empower those around me to do the same, so we can collectively highlight and fix the problems, not just put a band-aid over them.
- Future Thinking. 'What is the future of... X?' These are the questions I want to be asking this year, and beyond, within the spaces of youth, sport and education that Triple Double works in. Using design and creativity to be in pursuit of the answers rather than just trying to predict them.
- Team. I want to continue to identify people around me that truly understand why I'm doing what I'm doing, and invest in these relationships – reducing or cutting ties with those that don't. It's impossible to speak and please everyone, so it's about spending time with those that matter most. Goes back to responsibility above ultimately.
Jennifer, Stitch & Story
Founded by Jennifer Lam and Jen Hoang, Stitch & Story gives novice crafters a stress-free experience in learning to knit or crochet, their all-in-one kits contain everything you need to get started and learn the basic techniques. Read on to find out their top three resolutions for 2022:
- Focusing more on the systems and processes for the business. As our business grows, we’re needing to find leaner and more automated ways of working so that our team has all the right information needed to make decisions. I often find systems and processes quite dull compared to the front facing parts of the business, so this year I’ll be making extra efforts!
- Delegating more to my team so that I can get away from the day-to-day and focus more on planning for the business.
- Make sure I plan in adequate leave/holiday in advance - otherwise I’ll end up with the bad habit of not taking any time off.
Tina was inspired by Taiwanese bubble tea concept and British tea drinking culture to develop a delicious, well-balanced, vegan tea latte beverage - HumaniTea. As well as taking part in the start-up arm of the Innovating for Growth programme, she was also mentored by a successful entrepreneur from the scale-ups programme. Then, in 2021, HumaniTea began being stocked in the British Library canteen! Let's see what Tina's plans are for the coming year:
- Make HumaniTea accessible to even more people by launching our Vegan Tea Lattes into a nationwide retailer
- Explore new product development ideas to expand our range of HumaniTea Oat Milk Tea Latte flavours, like turmeric and rooibos
- Increase our sales to support more wellbeing and sustainability initiatives through growing our list of stockists in the UK and abroad
Fiona & Jennifer, Amaze Associates
Amaze Associates, founded by Fiona Wedderburn-Graham and Jennifer McLean, is a transformational coaching company that empowers individuals and businesses to achieve their goals and to navigate work and life challenges. Their top three resolutions are:
- Review the business plan and celebrate our achievements: as often we don't lift our heads above the parapet long enough or take time to consider what we have actually achieved.
- Take social media by the horns: By planning/scheduling reels and stories in advance and introduce lives as part of our marketing strategy.
- To be limitless: As a business we have set an aspirational income target, this acts as a real motivating factor for us and has informed our goal setting for this year.
ArtPerÚK, founded by Katherine Tinoco, is 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. Katherine let us know what her top three business resolutions for the new year are:
- Run events and performances outside London to increase Peruvian folklore visibility
- Create new and energetic choreographies with traditional costumes to increase our variety and diversity
- Run a Dance Performance with more than 30 dancers in one Theatre in London.
Hellen, Small Stuff
Hellen Stirling is the founder of Small Stuff, an eco-conscious children’s store in South Yorkshire. Hellen used BIPC South Yorkshire’s free market research reports and recently their IP support to become a trade marked brand. Her three goals for 2022 are:
- Continue to grow and expand Small Stuff, both online and in real life by taking on more specialised staff to share the load.
- Collaborate with the local community, support and engage with other local businesses, shoppers and residents to get Crookes high street on the map!
- Travel and promote the business nationally, but going back to Small Stuff’s roots and utilising pop-up spaces and empty units around the country to promote the brand and our sustainability ethos.
Paul Pringle, Founder and Managing Director of Solarglide, who are based in the North East, produce blinds, curtains and window shades for ships. They received help from BIPC North East to help take their business to the next level in terms of sustainability. This year, Paul is looking forward to progressing three things:
- We’re looking at the transport we use, when we travel to shows or to see customers in other parts of the world. What we can do to either offset that, which is not really the way we want to go, we want to try and get as low a carbon footprint as we can, so we’re just looking at every aspect. The support we’re getting to take that forward is great. It just means we’re getting guidance on how to go about it. I was unsure where to turn, now I feel a lot more confident. Our goal is to get the lowest possible carbon footprint that we can get as a business. Yes we’re a manufacturer, but we’ve got lots of other ideas and ways in which we can reduce our power consumption, the processes to make us more environmentally friendly and also the products and see what else we can do to make them more sustainable.
- One of the big developments happening at Solarglide is we’re going very motorisation with everything we do. For the last 10 – 15 years it’s been all manually operated products we offer. We are now heading into the era of motorisation, i.e. blinds and curtains. We’re investing heavily in research and the development of our products.
- The other area is we’ve moved in to the yacht industry, which is still under the umbrella of maritime and we’ve developed a whole range of products for the yacht and super yacht market. It’s an exciting time for us. We’re also looking at land-based projects, without diverting too much away from the maritime market, i.e. motorhome, caravan, as our products fit that type of environment very well as well. We’ll stay true to our maritime roots and won’t diverge too much.
10 August 2020
Meet Sol Ramos, co-founder of London Basketball Nation and Start-ups in London Libraries participant
There were a strange couple of months in 2020 where team sports were essentially non-existent. As they are slowly creeping back to normality, we wanted to celebrate one of the sports businesses who took part in our Start-ups in London Libraries programme. Here we speak to Sol, co-founder of London Basketball Nation to find out more about her business, how it came into being and her advice for anyone else thinking about starting their own business.
‘We are London Basketball Nation Ltd. We organise basketball tournaments and events related to the sport.
The business came into being after years of unsuccessful attempts to find where to play amateur basketball in London. We started in 2018 with the experience of being unsatisfied customers who could face a challenge. The CEO of the company (and my husband) is the coach of an amateur basketball team. I spent some of my weekends at basketball courts watching games but also listening to almost everyone involved in the activity complaining about the poor quality of the service they were getting. They were paying to do something they loved during the scarce free time they had, and they were having a terrible time! This concern was shared not just by players but by staff working for existing organisations.
What first started as a chat about how bad things were, ended up in more serious talks about how much better things could be, and we took the matter in our own hands. Having experience in the amateur sports sector and a multidisciplinary team on board was really helpful. We got the support of two experienced officials that have been giving valuable insight from day one.
I have a background in Management and I get easily bored. I was motivated by the challenge but also by the potential results. Seeing people doing what they love and making that possible is very satisfying. As someone who has several hobbies herself, I can also identify with our customers.
There was little to no information available online about related services so we conducted some research, talking to other teams and players about what they wanted. They were all looking for the same: good venues, but above all, sensible people behind the activity. We thought of offering an “all-inclusive” format (fixture, staff, venue, etc) – from the players’ perspective, they then just had to be there and do what they do best.
We set up a company (just in case “it worked”) in March 2019 and organised a short tournament in June that year to test the waters. Teams decided to give us a chance and we ended up organising a 7-month tournament for adult men (18+) afterwards. We are looking forward to expanding our reach and have not only more teams but also a Women’s division. We celebrated our first year as a company in March 2019.
I found out about the SiLL project thanks to a British Library newsletter around September 2019 and registered for the ‘Get ready for business’ workshop that was taking place in December. My SME Champion, Loretta, got in touch with me to know a bit more about the business and I shyly accepted a meeting. She talked me through the Business & IP Centre services for new businesses. I was amazed by the number of resources and support given to entrepreneurs.
SiLL helped us see the organisation as a business rather than something to do on weekends. It provided us with key insights and added value to our service. This is my first experience as an entrepreneur and I had to learn a lot about legal and financial aspects of a business in the UK, as well as networking; social media… you name it! There is a lot of information out there, so much that it can be not just overwhelming, but also misleading. The SiLL project served as a guide.
I would have loved to have known about the project from day one as I think it would have saved me tonnes of time and work.
Coronavirus has, of course, been a huge challenge. With people not being able to gather in groups and the basketball courts being closed, we have been forced to stop our operations during this period. It really is just me and my husband running the business alongside other jobs right now, and so we have had a real split focus over the past months.
However, it has given us some space to focus on our brand and the digital aspect of the business. My husband is a web developer and he was able to dedicate time to work on the website and to bring more functionalities on board. We are also currently working on LBN Courts, a portal to find and rate outdoor basketball courts. We think this will help players to get back in shape - both physically and mentally - whilst encouraging people to make the of their local facilities (and that way, diminishing the use of public transport). The portal will not only show the location of courts, but it will allow players to rate their features, and to organise training groups - always according to the latest government advice of course.
I consider myself extremely lucky to be part of the Greenwich business community. Loretta’s insights and support are invaluable. She is a connector, she puts together ideas to create new things, and people to make them come to life. She is always happy to have a one-to-one to talk about the progress of the business, and she makes sure I keep up to date by sending training and promotion opportunities. Not to mention she has such good energy! I am deeply thankful for her support.
I have learnt so much from starting up my own business – the main one being that everything takes at least double the time and the money than you expected/calculated, especially admin work! Reaching people is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re new in the game.
However, it has also given me lots of advice that I would p[ass onto anyone else thinking about starting their own business:
- Do your research: know the market, the customers and the competence.
- Someone has already done it: maybe not exactly what you are thinking about doing, but someone has already walked the steps to set up a business. Someone has already made the mistakes and reached success. Use it and share it.
- Be organised and have a plan: Having a plan, even a vague one, and keeping records of things you want and what you are doing to get them is really helpful. It’ll keep you focused, and with time it’ll give you information to analyse and understand what happened and why, and identify what can be improved.
- Be responsive: reply to everything (emails, calls, social media messages, etc) as soon as possible.
- Do not assume anything. It is better to talk about things rather than thinking they are a certain way. Ask for confirmation, repeat things, write down dates and meeting notes.
- You can’t make everyone like you or what you do, and there’s no point in trying to do it. Focus on providing a good service and listen to feedback, let your actions speak louder than words.
- You can’t control everything. Deal with it.
- You can do much more than you think.
- Just start!’
Find out more about London Basketball Nation.
If you’re interested in joining the online Start-ups in London Libraries webinars and workshops, you can find all of the information at bl.uk/SiLL.
01 June 2020
Meet our delivery partner: Expert Impact
Expert Impact curate the popular Profit With Purpose events, which regularly feature founders of businesses trading for an environmental or social purpose explaining how they launched and scaled.
The quarterly series of evening panel discussion events aims to provide business insight for new social and ethical enterprises and encourage existing businesses to seize opportunities to become more socially and environmentally conscious.
Profit With Purpose events are for those interested in how business can be good for both people and planet. Usually half of the event time is given over to the audience to ask questions.
Discussions usually take in the following topics;
- Motivation and experience required to run a social enterprise
- Startup finance and support available
- Market research and networking
- The challenge of making social enterprises sustainable
- How to measure the social impact of the work
Some of the social enterprises who have participated since 2018 include Rubies in the Rubble, which uses discarded food to make condiments as a way of reducing food waste; Change Please, a coffee company that trains and employs homeless people as baristas (both former Innovating for Growth participants as well), and Ovo, a green energy supplier.
Expert Impact created the Human Lending Library® which is now an in-house programme at the Business & IP Centre where leaders of social enterprises and charities looking for business advice can ‘borrow’ a business Expert, for free, to help them solve their challenges and scale fast. Hundreds of social impact leaders have benefitted from this service to date.
There are many reasons why social entrepreneurs seek advice but common enquiries include business development, governance, strategy, raising investment and marketing and public relations.
Most of the Experts have started and scaled businesses that have gone on to become very successful. Some of the Experts are serial entrepreneurs, having started and then sold several companies.
There are more than 50 Experts available, including the founders of Pret-a-Manger, The White Company, Carphone Warehouse and Mumsnet.
The Experts represent a full spectrum of business experience across different sectors including tech, retail, marketing, public relations, publishing and more.
For more information on the Profit With Purpose series, the Human Lending Library or Expert Impact, please contact Lee Mannion, Head of Communications, Expert Impact.
19 May 2020
Happy Birthday Start-ups in London Libraries!
Earlier this month, Start-ups in London Libraries - our programme designed to take business support out to high streets across London - turned one year old. We originally launched the project on 2 May 2019 at City Hall with an event chaired by our BIPC ambassador Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon and with a keynote speech from Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal. Our ambassador, Tim Campbell MBE, who joined our panel discussion on the launch day, summed up the aim of the project: "everyone should have access to this business information and support. Libraries are not only books. They are about connecting people, social mobility, making a real change and impact on people's lives."
Since that day last year, over 1200 aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs have received support from our team in local libraries across 10 boroughs and have begun to change the face of entrepreneurship across the capital.
Of course, given the current circumstances, we will have to delay our official celebrations for our first birthday, but we couldn't pass up on this opportunity to celebrate some of the incredible early-stage entrepreneurs who have taken part in the programme and become part of the fabric of SiLL. Read on for just some of their stories...
Salma turned her hobby of 10 years - beekeeping - into a successful business. Her company, Bushwood Bees, sells honey, bee-based products and hosts beekeeping experiences at one of her hives on the roof of the East London Mosque. During this period of lockdown, they have been running digital tutorials and demonstrations of beekeeping on social media and continuing to sell their products online.
It was the strong ethos behind her own beekeeping hobby that spurred her to take the leap: "I have always been an advocate of beekeepers sourcing locally reared bees rather then importing so it just made sense that I should supply this growing demand for buying local. This was far more a motivation then anything else."
She used the Start-ups in London Libraries programme to ground her business idea and get it up and running, particularly in terms of technology. About her one-to-ones with our Waltham Forest Business Champion Salma says "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."
"The workshops are immensely helpful when it comes to developing your business ides. The Start-up Champions are great, they have real knowledge and can steer you in the right direction. And if they don’t know, they will they to find out!"
Ahmad's educational app company, Baracat Bros is going from strength to strength and his product, Foodology has recently been featured on ProductHunt, the go-to platform for launching new products. Designed with the aim of fostering learning through their interactive and engaging nature, Ahmad now has two products - Foodology, which focuses on educating children about nutritional value in foods and Bubblo World, designed for preschool-aged children.
He said about his experience with Start-ups in London Libraries: "I came out of the workshops with actionable advice like how to access funding, how to create a business model canvas and where to find resources to continue learning... Loretta [our Start-ups in London Libraries Greenwich Business Champion] is building a business community for people who want to pursue their own businesses and need the practical knowledge and the support network to do so successfully. I really believe that such communities are invaluable for anyone building their own business."
While studying speech therapy, Warda noticed how much of it didn't take into account culture and family background. Aiming to change the one-size-fits-all that she was witnessing, she started Language Waves, providing a fully-accessible and culturally diverse speech therapy service. Since registering her business (after taking part in the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops) she has been able to trademark her training manual, been awarded several funding grants to help further her business and received multiple top notch testimonials for her work.
Her local SiLL Business Champion, Loretta, helped her through the start-up stage: "I see her when I’m at different stages of the business. Her feedback helps me plan, focus and set realistic expectations for myself. Also her belief in my business has motivated me as she has brought out the best in me. I meet lots of people who want to start their own business and I always refer them to the SILL programme and Loretta. This is because it’s so accessible, well set up, and you know that you are getting advice and support from people who know what they are doing."
Read more about how Warda created a fully-accessable and culturally diverse speech therapy service.
Charlie Boyd’s business, Firm Feet, focuses on various sessions to achieve movement and connection with your own body: "I recognised that movement was something I required for healing and liberating myself. I love dance and the type where I could feel as free as possible and let go. So I designed a session drawing on my qualifications and experiences that I knew worked for me so would surely help others." Her focus is on improving mental and physical health through movement and she has recently pivoted to develop audio sessions for people to use during this time of heightened anxiety (also designed with the aim of lessening people's screen time!)
Discussing her one-to-one advice sessions with the Waltham Forest Champion, Sarah, she says "Sarah has been instrumental in helping me gain clarity on moving forward and valuing myself. She always goes above and beyond supplying me with important documentation and hints and tips. I would say to anyone to not hesitate going to speak to your latest representative, there are only things to gain by doing so."
Sol and her husband are big fans of amateur basketball and her husband even coaches a team. Trying to rectify the poor experience of amateur basketball tournaments they were experiencing, they started London Basketball Nation. After setting up their company "just in case it worked", Sol organised a short tournament in June that year to test the waters. Teams decided to give them a chance and a 7-month tournament followed. They celebrated their first full year as a company in March. Sol says "we are looking forward to expanding our reach and have not only more teams but also a Women’s division."
"Start-ups in London Libraries' helped us see the organisation as a business rather than something to do on weekends. This is my first experience as an entrepreneur and I had to learn a lot about legal and financial aspects of a business in the UK; networking; social media… you name it! There is a lot of information out there, so much that can be not just overwhelming but also misleading so the SiLL project served as a guide. I would have loved knowing about the project from day one."
Haven Coffee is a socially-conscious coffee company. 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, the founder of Haven, 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.
Usman took part in our first round of workshops and has received support from our Waltham Forest Champion, as well as from TERN (The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network).
Oz is the proud owner of The Scissors of Oz, a creative hair and healing Hub in Peckham. Her ethos goes beyond hair, providing a space for other womxn to test business ideas in collaboration with her and her space, exchanging skills and running workshops. A fundamental part of the business's ethos is 'breaking stigmas of conventional pursuits of “beauty”.
Oz is preparing for re-opening when she is able to and explains "my next step for our relaunch is to introduce more sustainable ways of hairdressing , use of products and services. I'm aiming to look into new ways of reusing items for environmental benefits and sustainability, as well as running workshops to empower people through hair."
She used Start-ups in London Libraries in Southwark saying "the SiLL project has given me the confidence and support every new business owner needs especially if you are going at it alone. My mentor Dean is very understanding and experienced and he is there to guide me with every step I take. It’s nice to have someone by your side who really cares about getting you to where you want to be."
As a 21 year old with English as a second language, accessibility was a key consideration for Channing Cloirec when taking part in any sort of business support programme: "I'm not well-placed to start any business without experience in the UK. SiLL is the best way to find exactly what you need with reactivity. Without SiLL I wouldn't have been able to realize the formalities of the company."
Channing's car export business, Channing's Shining Cars, is continuing to grow and develop. Since registering in July 2019 he has built a healthy profit margin, and displayed impressive growth of his business, including recently selling his 15th car! His new venture is called Pops n Bangs, a car lottery.
After being made redundant, Aleksandra was looking for ways of using her practical skills and passion for yoga into something that could provide a salary. Focusing on our ever-increasing older population, her idea was to create a specialised yoga and meditation programme to improve the quality of life for this demographic. She wanted to create a different environment for older yoga lovers, making it less intimidating, more welcoming and focusing on exercises that would help specifically with mobility. She has recently adapted her business, Happy Stance Yoga, to offer Zoom sessions for older isolated people to help with fall prevention and ensure they are getting their daily exercise.
And just a few weeks ago, Aleksandra ran a stretching and meditation session for our SiLL team to help us during this high-pressure time, so we can testify to her ability as a guide!
She says: "I attended all the SiLL workshops and it was breath-taking how in no time I learned about all the practicalities so I could move on and test my business idea. So many people have ideas, but they do not know there is a treasure box in the reach of their fingertips. It is free and highly professional, effective and tailored-made for each individual, each business idea."
Moses launched his Greater BRiTs campaign at the Start-ups in London Libraries Greenwich Christmas start-up market, which took place at Woolwich Library last year, after taking part in the core SiLL workshops. "These two workshops gave me invaluable information on the support available to business start-ups, most of it free of charge. As a result of information I received from the workshops, I was able to successfully trademark and protect my BRiT logo."
Moses explains: "the Greater BRiTs campaign came about as a positive response to heal a divided Britain from the feeling of general anxiety about the future of the UK post the Brexit referendum. The British people have the creativity, inventiveness, energy, perseverance and resilience to see Britain thrive." Moses developed Greater BRiTs with the mission of "celebrating Britain's Unity, Inclusivity and Diversity". Moses has designed a BRiT t-shirt with over 300 customised messages to reflect the diversity of the British lifestyles, personalities, professions and communities.
We may not be currently in your local library but the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops are now all online. Visit the Startup in London Libraries website for all the information and to register for the next round of free webinars.
This programme is run in collaboration with ten London boroughs: Bexley, Croydon, Greenwich, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
04 October 2019
Start-up Day: What’s going on at the British Library
With Start-up Day 2019 drawing closer, we take a look at what’s going on in London and introduce you to some of our speakers…
Whether you’re looking for motivation, practical advice or some tailored advice, Start-up Day is for you. Our full day of free talks in the Knowledge Centre cover a range of business topics, from UK trends, advertising, mental health and more, you’ll be able to apply what you learn directly to you and your business practices.
If you want to know more about the UK market trends, Mintel’s Jack Duckett will be looking at the ‘experience economy’ and how businesses can stay relevant in today’s competitive market.
How do you combine profit with purpose? 24% of last year’s Start-up Day attendees said their motivation to start a business was the opportunity to make a difference. With our partners at Expert Impact, we’ve brought today a panel of case studies to discuss how they built a thriving business that helps makes the world a better place and how you might be able to maximise the positive difference you make as you turn your business idea into a reality. Moderated by Lee Mannion, Head of Communications and Community at Expert Impact
If advertising is causing you confusion, Arjun from the Facebook Family of Apps will be talking you through how to define your advertising goals, reaching your target audience and how to measure a successful advertising campaign and more. This talk will not be webcast.
Mental health impacts both business and personal lives and at last year’s Start-up Day, 16% of people said they wanted to start a business to improve their work/life balance. At our talk on how to build a business without burning out, Mind’s Mental Health at Work Campaign, presented by Dane Krambergar, and Julie Deane OBE, founder of Cambridge Satchel Company will arm you with strategies to keep on-track when it all gets a bit too much.
Whether the idea of networking can fill you with dread or confidence, to build a sustainable business, networking is key. Our panel will talk you through how they mastered the art of building their networks to allow their businesses to grow.
20% of 2018’s Start-up Day attendees said that lack of finance held them back from starting a business, but can you start-up on a shoestring? Our panel, founders of We Built This City, BathrommsByDesign and Pip & Nut, share their hints and tips for keeping costs low as you scale your business.
Holding the day together will be Lisa Bent, a presenter, writer and qualified Counsellor, best known for her radio show Self-Central on Colourful Radio and host for the Precious Lifestyle Awards and Precious Nights.
Our keynote speaker will be Steph McGovern, journalist and broadcaster.
Steph has progressed from Black & Decker engineer to BBC Breakfast business reporter and co-presenter as well as fronting Watchdog, Pocket Money Pitch, Made in Great Britain, and Shop Well For Less. In the process, she’s been trained in lean production, explained monetary and economic policy, danced an impromptu Irish jig live on-air – and been subject of an awkward mistaken identity in Grimsby Fish Market.
It isn’t just our free talks taking place on the day, we have a workshop on how to use the Business & IP Centre, plus a tour; free headshots and advice on how business photography and speed mentoring.
Experts will be on hand throughout the day to give advice on a range of topics including:
- Protecting your business idea
- Creating a marketing strategy
- What you need to know about standards and regulations
- Managing cash-flow
- Getting your business online
- Funding your start-up
- Building your business brand
The 2019 Startup has since concluded. You'll be glad to know that the Business & IP Centre are running workshop and events all year round, giving practical advice or tailored advice and more, for all inspiring entrepreneurs and business owners access to knowlgade to benefit better insight into all things business related. Visit our Business & IP Centre website for more information on how to access and grasp this opportunity for further wealth of information.
10 June 2019
Food Season at the Business & IP Centre
With the British Library’s Food Season coming to a close, we take a look back at the past few months and the events the Business & IP Centre has celebrated with, including panel talks, inventors’ club, speed mentoring, workshops and one-to-ones for budding foodie entrepreneurs, or those who wanted to grow their existing business.
The UK’s food and drinks sector going from strength to strength. In 2017, consumer spending in the sector exceeded £219 billion with food and drinks exports worth more than £22 million to the economy. With almost 7,000 micro, small and medium businesses active in the sector last year, there’s no shortage of brands eager to take a bite out of the market.
Expert Impact’s Profit with Purpose: The Tastemakers II heard how Rubies in the Rubble (Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni), LEMONAID, The Dusty Knuckle Bakery and Ben & Jerry’s became successful social enterprises. Here’s a little taster of the evening…
Our own Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Recipes for Success followed with the founders and co-founders of Eat Natural, Riverford and Pip & Nut, moderated by food journalist Victoria Stewart. Here are some highlights from the Q&A, with questions from audiences both in London and around our National Network, as well as those watching via our live webcast.
With work/life balance being a main motivator for a lot of entrepreneurs (whether or not that ends up being the reality), finding a happy medium between business and non-work time can be challenging. Pip Murray, founder of Pip & Nut still struggles, even with products in over 5,000 stores in four and a half years, “The first couple of years I was like a headless chicken. It’s inevitable it [the business] will take over everything. Since building the team, it’s given me headspace to enjoy my weekends. There’s only so much you can keep going at that pace and something needs to give. I’m very much involved in everything. There’s still an element that sucks you in, but you just need regular breaks.”
Guy Singh-Watson, founder of Riverford, decided to make the company employee owned and he became one of 650 co-owners. Guy said, “I strongly believe in giving people as much autonomy about how their day goes, what they’re doing and how they do it. Giving them the ability to grow and get better at it. The third motivator is purpose. In agriculture, the work is very very demanding, and I think fewer and fewer people are going to want to do it and we have to make sure we keep the best ones.”
The panel of founders also highlighted the need to not being afraid of trying things, not waiting for perfection and just going for it. Praveen encourages, “If you have an idea, just go for it. You don’t know what’s going to happen until you speak to consumers. If you believe in it, you have to give it a go. We love failing – it happens all the time.”
The panel finished with their most rewarding moments in business…
- Riverford - the day we became employee owned 👥
- Pip & Nut - seeing our products on the supermarket shelves for the first time 🥜
- Eat Natural - getting the first crop of honey from our own beehives 🍯🐝
You can see all speakers’ videos and the Q&A on our YouTube channel, including questions on influencers, ethics, marketing and getting into supermarkets.
23 January 2019
A week in the life of... Dr Jan Kattein, founding director of Jan Kattein Architects
Dr Jan Kattein is founding director of Jan Kattein Architects, a design studio that advocates socially engaged working methods. The practice embraces design as an opportunity for dialogue and exchange. Their work strives to make a civic contribution, using design as a means to support economic, cultural, educational and social prosperity. Jan took part in the British Library's Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme in 2018 and is now working with Global Generation to design a community garden to support the Library's outreach programme.
Monday... I was hoping for a slow start in January, but there are already a raft of emails in the inbox, annual staff reviews need to be scheduled, a tender is due later this week, a new member of staff is joining the team and a number of new projects are starting.
The week starts with a meeting with Westminster Council's regeneration team. Westminster has firmly committed to consultation and dialogue with their communities around regeneration projects and has set up a series of local regeneration bases in several areas of the borough. Regeneration has attained a somewhat tainted reputation in recent years because it is often associated with the displacement of communities and gentrification of neighbourhoods. Whilst I understand the root of these concerns, I can also see the very tangible benefits that an inclusive approach to regeneration can bring for local people. When embracing the Mayor's principles of 'Good Growth', regeneration is principally about creating opportunities for all sections of society. And this is mainly what our work is about at Jan Kattein Architects. Working together with local authorities, the private sector and the third sector, we can unlock educational, economic or cultural potential in projects and find a way of using the design process as a means to bringing greater community coherence. I often think that as a profession we need to become much better at accepting accountability for our work. In the knowledge that an inclusive city is a more prosperous city, the smart players in the private sector are doing that already and local authorities are increasingly taking the view that an integrated and transparent way of working brings real tangible benefits. Architects have traditionally had the role of synthesizing a range of different parameters that allow the built environment to function and are well placed to act as mediators between the various interests that inevitably collide when working in urban regeneration.
Back at the office, I need to put the finishing touches to tender submission. Tower Hamlets Council has invited us to submit a bid for a small high street regeneration project in Roman Road. High streets are such an important part of civic life and London would not be London without its 600 high streets, the jobs they provide, the contribution they make to public life and the cultural diversity they bring. I have now been involved in delivering some 30 or so high street regeneration projects in London. In high street regeneration, our engaged way of working finds particular bearing. The aim of our work is never just about physical change, it's about shifting people's perception of their environment, about sewing a seed for a mindset change and instil confidence in a struggling but vital sector of our economy. There are challenging years ahead for the high street and if we really want to protect this important civic asset, we have to come up with some inventive new uses that service communities and the experience economy. We also need to carefully consider our spending habits and the tax regime that currently creates an uneven playing field which is heavily skewed to benefit multi-nationals.
Tuesday Today starts with a talk at the Cass School of Art and Design. I still lecture and teach at intervals. I am pleased to give a share of my time to a new generation of designers and thinkers making their way through university but am also aware of the contribution that this interaction makes to rehearsing and disseminating our message. I have found that the communication of our work relies on a thoughtful and nuanced message which is best brought in person, with patience and the opportunity for critical discussion.
In the afternoon an internal resourcing meeting. We introduced these weekly meetings to better manage workloads and to predict capacity. The challenge with our work is that things are rarely predictable. What we do is subject to public scrutiny, brief changes, political whim and an evolving social or economic context. Whilst these are challenges that are tricky to manage when running a business, it makes our work profoundly human too and that's why I am happy to tolerate uncertainty and why everyone at Jan Kattein Architects needs to become a master at improvisation.
Wednesday Staff reviews today. Our office is open plan and designed to encourage social interaction. The arrangement of our workspace is a direct representation of the horizontal management structure that we are striving to achieve. A supportive environment where people talk to each other and lend a hand or provide advice informally is critical to everyone giving their best. The downside of our office space is that there is very little privacy; so that a private conversation has to take place at the local pizzeria. This year, that's exactly where we are doing staff reviews, over lunch. It's been beneficial so far, getting out and away from the desk has brought about some friendly but frank conversations. We clearly have to review how we support our team. I suppose the crux with horizontal management is that the level of responsibility taken on by staff needs to be matched by just as much support, empathy and engagement. I always thought we were doing quite well in this field, but I suppose one can always do better.
Thursday Good news this morning. Camden Council have emailed the planning permission letter for our designs of the Story Garden, a new temporary community garden for Somers Town residents behind the British Library. The project was conceived in a partnership between educational charity Global Generation, the British Library, Stanhope and Central St. Martin's College (CSM) to create an ecological outdoor education space on a disused site just north of the Library. Enabled by the Library and Stanhope and through Camden Giving and the Mayor's Greenspace Fund, the garden will host workshops and events, provide growing space for local people and a maker space for CSM students until the end of 2020. A community-built straw bale roundhouse will provide a field classroom, a public kitchen, sheltered outdoor dining space and small office are the communal hub of the garden. CSM are bringing a digital workshop onto the site and a commercial greenhouse will provide all-season growing space for food and to propagate shrub and tree seedlings ultimately to be planted in estates, parks and squares throughout Somers Town. The space will also be used by the British Library to work on community learning, business and engagement projects.
Friday Spanish Architecture Magazine A+T have published a six-page spread about our Skip Garden project in King's Cross. It's a real joy to read how others perceive one's work.
In the afternoon meeting at Lendlease's office in Elephant & Castle to present the designs for a temporary placemaking installation that will form part of a large-scale regeneration project. Interesting discussions about what makes a good street and a good public space, how to foster cultural activity in a new neighbourhood and how to respond flexibly to people's changing needs in the urban environment.
I really enjoy working on meanwhile projects because they are a great platform for design innovation and because they provide an opportunity to engage with communities and start a dialogue about the sort of place where we all want to live without quite committing to a permanent and finite solution. After all, some of the world's famous landmarks like Gustave Eiffel's tower in Paris and the London Eye started their life as temporary projects - and I wonder whether they'd ever have received planning permission in the first place if they had been conceived as permanent structures from the outset. Temporary projects have made a really valuable contribution to the way we think about architecture and urbanism during the last decade.
Back in the office, an internal review of our exhibition design for the forthcoming Spare Parts exhibition at the Science Gallery at King's College. We have made the decision to manufacture the exhibition components ourselves. Just like most other architects, we work with contractors, specialist fabricators and makers to realise our designs. But ever so often, we build ourselves, sometimes as a team at Jan Kattein Architects, sometimes together with communities, apprentices or craftsmen. Building together engages the team, teaches new skills and provides room for experimentation and innovation - and as architects it makes us better at instructing others to build. If you are free, come to the Spare Parts exhibition opening on Thursday 28 February 2019!
I enjoy the heterogeneity of my work, the fact that what I do makes a difference to people's lives and the day to day interactions with my team, but now I am happy that it's Friday.
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