24 July 2018
Each year 1.4 billion tampons are flushed, ending up in the sewer system, causing flooding and pollution. Water companies spend 88 million pounds per year getting all the un-flushable items out of the sewers. What can be done to solve this problem? Martha Silcott is on a mission to find a sanitary solution for this sanitary problem with her corn starch, biodegradable fab little bags...
Tell us a little more about FabLittleBag?
FabLittleBags are biodegradable opaque, sealable sanitary disposal bags that prevent aquatic pollution and actually make disposal feel good!
What inspired the creation of the product? Did you have a ‘Eureka’ moment that convinced you that this was a good idea?
Sitting on the toilet thinking “there must be a better way of doing this” as I performed the LooRoll Wrap with reams of toilet roll for the umpteenth time… Recalling the times when round at friends houses and there was no bin in the downstairs loo so I resorted to doing the Handbag Smuggle. I got cross that there was not a better solution out there, I researched it expecting to find one, I didn’t so I decided to invent one myself. I did loads of research in the British Library, researching the market, the companies involved, the blockages caused by flushing etc. My Eureka moment was when I finally figured out the design of FabLittleBag; its unique one-handed opening and that it had to seal – I ran around the house gathering bits of sandwich bags, sellotape, staplers etc. and made a Blue Peter version.
What steps did you take to protect the IP in your design?
I learned a lot about IP form the British Library sessions and their intro to an organisation called Ideas 21 – so I had a free session with an IP lawyer to establish if it was a starter or not – and it went from there, applying for my patent in 2006.
Did you use the resources and training available through the Business & IP Centre to research and launch the business?
Yes, general market research; access to huge data resources at no cost, if you were to buy the info yourself each one costs thousands of pounds! IP information, a basic course on social media later on, all very useful along the journey.
Tell us more about how are you working with the British Library to bring FabLittleBag to more users?
We are currently trialling FabLittleBag in two toilet blocks, these are ones which have a very high level of blockages causing cost to the Library and inconvenience to users. The Library has a lot of through traffic and we know that approx. 60% of UK women flush their tampons and with other habits and cultures passing through blockages are a real challenge for the Library loos! So our gorgeous new dispensers are installed in these blocks and we have already had direct email contact from a few users telling us how fab they think FabLittleBag is! We are offering all British Library users who email us a free sample pack of FabLittleBags to try, so don’t be shy!
What is the vision for the future of the company? Where will FabLittleBag be five and 10 years from now?
We have BIG plans! We already have customers from lots of countries all over the world but we want to ensure that any Binner that dislikes doing the Loo Roll Wrap and wants to feel more in control and calm at point of disposal have FabLittleBags in their life and that we convert as many Flushers out there as possible into Binners – frankly whether they use FabLittleBags or not, we just want to stop the flushing of non-flushables and so prevent blockages and aquatic pollution at source.
One of our Missions is to #screwthetaboo and break down the ridiculous taboo that still exists around periods in 2017! Involving men and boys is important in this journey as they are involved even if it is not them having periods! Replacing feelings of awkwardness and anxiety around disposal of sanitary products is a core mission of ours, helping women to feel more relaxed and calm as they know that even if there is only two bits of loo roll there, or there is no bin, because they have FabLittleBag, they will be able to disposal of the product easily and without stress. We also want to support our chosen key charity (WellBeing of Women) and to expand our charitable impact as we grow, also helping to support smaller local charities and some abroad where the issues of menstruation has huge negative impacts of girls and women’s lives.
So five years' time to be a normal ‘must have’ in the handbags and bathrooms up and down the UK, Europe, USA, etc. and other countries where disposables are still the most common form of managing ones period (therefore disposal solutions are especially needed). 10 years time to be so successful that our charitable foundation Fab Friends, is making a huge positive impact on menstrual health and practical management for millions of women across the globe.
FabLittleBags will continue to be trialed at the British Library to help prevent the negative impacts of flushing sanitary products.
29 August 2017
Are you a business virgin? We’ve partnered with Virgin StartUp to support new business ideas around the UK
On Thursday 21st September, the British Library is to co-ordinate a Start-up Day taking place across eleven UK city libraries through the Business & IP Centre network. The event is set to be the largest national effort to help turn fantastic ideas into business realities, with over 3,500 aspiring entrepreneurs predicted to take part in over 100 sessions over the course of the day. Joining us in this huge effort are our event partner Virgin StartUp, a start-up loans provider, who themselves have lots of experience in funding and mentoring. We are delighted to be working with them on our Start-up Day 2017 campaign, and here’s why.
In less than four years Virgin StartUp has helped 2,000 people change their LinkedIn profile to read ‘business founder’. In that time over £24m has been distributed to help each one of them turn their great business idea into a reality. These people are now running businesses the length and breadth of the UK, from the toe of Cornwall to the tip of John O’Groats in the Scottish highlands.
2,000 is a big number, but behind it are thousands of ‘ones’. One person, with one goal, striving to live out one dream. Such as Cemal Ezel, who took out a £25,000 start-up loan from Virgin StartUp to launch his coffee business Change Please. He used the funds to buy his first mobile coffee van which was managed by a homeless person near London Bridge who he trained to be a barista. Fast-forward to today and that business now has multiple vans across London and the U.S. which are exclusively run by homeless people, providing training, income and stability to help lift them off the streets. As part of this journey, Cemal won an all-expenses paid trip to Necker Island where he was mentored by some of the best social entrepreneurs in the world including the one and only, Sir Richard Branson.
Another ‘one’ in the 2,000 is Melanie Goldsmith, co-founder of Smith & Sinclair who also received a £25,000 start-up loan, plus one-to-one guidance from a Virgin StartUp mentor. Melanie used the loan to produce her first product – an alcoholic fruit pastille. That first batch flew out the doors and the company are now manufacturing much larger volumes with products listed in Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and more!
These are just two of the thousands of entrepreneurs who’ve taken a Virgin StartUp loan from ranging from £500 - £25,000 per co-founder. These loans are funded by the British Business Bank and given at a fixed rate of 6% interest pa over a 1-5 year period. Every single one of those founders has also been given access to their own locally-based mentor. Virgin StartUp mentors commit 15 hours of face-to-face support over a 12 month period. Even though a lot of people first think about the loan, it’s the mentoring that makes a real difference to the success for your business.
Like the British Library, once you become part of the Virgin StartUp community other opportunities do crop up. At Virgin StartUp, founders and businesses can take advantage of a whole range of activities including the popular scale-up accelerators, the most recent being ‘Platform-X’, which linked up with Virgin Trains to find start-ups who had ideas that could impact on the future of train travel and improve customers’ experience. Five of the entrepreneurs we took onto that programme are now developing offerings with the likes of Virgin Trains and the Department for Transport.
Working with big businesses is something that we, like Virgin StartUp, urge start-ups to do. Winning contracts with corporates can give a small business the platform it needs to thrive. A recent attendee on the ‘Doing Business with Big Business’ event was Jamie McCloskey of Love Corn. Since going along he’s managed to secure deals with a whole host of retailers for his roasted corn snack product, including big high-street players such as WHSmith and Sainsbury’s.
Virgin StartUp will be at all our Start-up Day events and will be running a special master class in London at 1.15pm. This is free to attend but make sure you book your place soon to secure your seat as places are filling up fast! Come along on September 21st to find out how Virgin StartUp can help you take the first steps on your business journey. Don’t forget to check out the full programme for the day too, which features advice on a whole range of business topics including marketing, cash-flow management, building a website and implementing a social media strategy, all designed to help you turn your great idea into a booming business.
05 July 2017
So many small businesses lack IP awareness and understanding, but IP is something of an unsung hero and can prove critical in making or breaking a business.
The Business & IP Centre team are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and SMEs understand what IP is and why it’s important, what IP they might have created and how they might increase their business success and profitability by protecting and exploiting that IP in the future. Over the years the team have supported thousands of small businesses unlock the value of their IP, and much of the support we provide in the Centre uses case studies and real-life stories to demonstrate how having a handle on your IP gives you a huge commercial advantage.
One such example is Julie Deane OBE, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company, who has taken her business from the kitchen table and a £600 start-up budget to a global success story with a turnover of £10 million. Along the way Julie has overcome numerous business challenges including managing designers, manufacturers and overseas distributors, establishing web and physical retail sites around the globe and dealing with thousands of imitator brands. Here, in a free 30 minute podcast with the Intellectual Property Office, Julie lays the truth bare on how she’s developed strategies to tackle copycat websites, build the brand, keep putting the quality of the product at the heart of the business and “hang on to the passion that made you start the business in the first place.”
Here are our 3 ‘top tips’ for what you need to know when it comes to your Intellectual Property:
- Think about trade marks - Is your business name protectable in the countries that you wish to trade? Is it already being used or does the word have another meaning in a different country. Future investors will want to know that you have the rights to trade in the countries that they wish to trade in, and you need to consider this right from the start to give your business the best chance of success.
- If you’re creating a ‘thing’ - Do your research before filing for a patent; is there a market for your product? It is expensive and takes a long time to protect your idea so make sure you do your market research and can be confident that somebody will buy it at the end of the day. If you have paid for your product to be patented and want somebody to manufacture it for you, you also need to ensure you have agreements in place limiting their rights to your initial idea or design.
- Founder’s agreement - It is easy to set out a document with your business partner right at the start when setting up your business agreeing things like % of ownership and what should happen in the case of a dispute, or if one of you wish to sell then business and the other one doesn’t. Once a dispute has started it is much harder and messier so you need to make sure all parties are clear on this from day one.
You can find further help, support and information on IP in any of the eleven Business & IP Centres up and down the country, including the British Library in King’s Cross. Speak to any one of our specialist staff face-to-face, over the phone or by email. You can also log on to our free of charge online workshops to grow your knowledge about IP, and increase your chances of business success.
Julie Deane is Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library and a huge champion for ambitious business owners. She recently gave advice and practical tips on Intellectual Property at the Library’s Scale-up Summit alongside Will Butler-Adams, CEO of Brompton Bicycles. Cambridge Satchel and Brompton recently launched a range of colour-matching bags and bikes where the satchel fitted perfectly to the handlebars. This ‘made-in-heaven’ brand match caught the attention of the press and delivered extremely high sales. Will and Julie's opening keynote presentation on ‘Getting your business in the media’ was a great success too.
As a business owner you’ll know what it means to have to do everything and anything to get your business off the ground and flying. You’ve experienced the highs, the lows and no small number of frustrations along the way.
But at some point you’ll reach a limit to growth. And any one of these things (or more) could be holding you back; time, finance, being ‘too involved’ in the day to day, staffing challenges, cash-flow, finding new customers and markets, limited marketing and having to navigate ever changing conditions and trends.
But there’s a way through and beyond all of this; and it’s scaling-up.
The British Library’s Business and IP Centre has been supporting businesses to successfully scale up with its wealth of information, advice and support as well as the successful Innovating for Growth Scale-up Programme.
We’re thrilled to now be presenting this unique opportunity to get some of the best business brains in one place, for just one day, so you can hear first-hand how they kept their business flying and climbing higher. It’s our first ever Scale-up Summit, and it’s happening next, Tuesday 11th July, 9.30-6.30pm.
We’ll be introducing you to the founders of some great household names and brands such as Paul Lindley (founder of Ella's Kitchen), Julie Deane OBE (founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company) and Rob Law MBE (Founder and CEO of Trunki) just to name a few.
Hear how our top-notch speakers kept their businesses going and growing through their various challenges and what tips they have to share to successfully scaling-up. There’ll be plenty of time to ask your questions and pick the brains of no less than 20 business experts appearing throughout the day.
Here’s a taster of what to expect on the day with a few of our speakers’ top tips to whet your appetite
Raising your business profile and building a brand
As you will already know, getting your business in the press or media can be the key to raising your profile and achieve rapid growth, but lots of businesses struggle to identify their unique hook and generate a buzz around their brand. Our panel will give you the inside track on how to maximise your media coverage, pitch effectively to journalists and create strategic partnerships to increase the visibility of your business to access new audiences and scale up.
Our keynote speaker on this topic will be Julie Deane OBE, founder of the Cambridge Satchel Company and a Business & IP Centre ambassador. Having started from her kitchen table with a budget of just £600, The Cambridge Satchel Company now has a turnover of over £10million and has collaborated with the likes of Google and Vivienne Westwood.
Julie will share her own journey to business success and her tips for raising your business profile and building a brand. During this interactive Q&A session you’ll also have the opportunity to put your questions to our panel and get their tips and tricks for making people aware of your business and making sure they don’t forget it.
On brand and scaling-up, Jenny Costa (Rubies in the Rubble), another panellist for our branding roundtable says, ‘“Know your why.” The journey and the day to day can be overwhelming, so it’s important to keep looking up and focused on the end goal. Knowing and believing in what and why you do what you do will get you through any challenges you may hit along the way.’
Going global for growth
Small businesses that seize on export opportunities are much more likely to survive and grow. However, with so many factors to consider, trading overseas can feel overwhelming and many business owners struggle to identify and exploit the market opportunities that would give them the best chance of achieving fast growth. If you’ve ever considered ‘going global for growth’ or are struggling to make your mark on the international stage, this discussion will give you a true insight into what it takes to trade successfully overseas.
Someone who has definitely capitalised on the potential of international trade is keynote speaker, Sean Ramsden, founder and Chief Executive of Ramsden International . Having identified opportunities for global growth, Sean was able to turn his food exporter business (Ramsden International) into a market leader, distributing over 23,000 British branded-food and drink products to 133 countries across five continents.
Another of our panellists Paul Lindley of Ella’s Kitchen says scale-up businesses should ‘Keep your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds. Meaning stay humble, grounded and real, but don’t be afraid to imagine, explore and be free thinking.’
The panel will also feature, Matt Lamb (Tangle Teezer) and Bill Russell (Head of Bilateral Relations, Intellectual Property Office) who will share their experiences and expertise in both growing a business internationally and also ensuring that you stay in control and your Intellectual Property is protected as you ‘go global’.
Raising finance for growth
A cash injection can fast-track your growth ambitions exponentially, giving access to the resources, expertise and people-power that you need to realise your scale-up ambitions. But raising the necessary cash isn’t always easy and access to finance can often be one of the first hurdles that a scaling entrepreneur must overcome. In this section our experts will give their input on a variety of business financing options including VC, angel investors and crowd-funding to help you decide the best way to fund your business growth.
To discuss this topic and describe the best options available small business owners will be Darren Westlake, co-founder and CEO of Crowdcube the world’s first investment crowdfunding platform. In 2015, Darren was named by Debrett’s as one of Britain’s 500 most influential people and is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years’ experience in the internet and telecoms industries.
Leadership for scaling businesses
Most businesses start off with just one or two founders, but as a business grows, the team behind it needs to get bigger too. But how can you be sure you’re hiring the right people to help your business reach its potential, and when is the right time to delegate responsibility? Hear from our expert panel on how your can build a terrific team with your business values at its core.
Leadership for scaling businesses will feature a key note presentation on the theme of building a terrific team, delegating responsibility, embedding and upholding company values and ethos as your business grows and providing strong leadership.
Our speaker on this subject will be Rob Law MBE, founder and CEO of Trunki , the brand behind the much loved children’s ride-on suitcase.
His company has been trading for 11 years, now employing 80 people and was named SME of the Year at the National Business Awards in 2012.
Focusing on these four key topics for scaling businesses, this event will provide a platform for entrepreneurs to ask the questions that really matter to you as a growing business. You’ll get practical, immediately implementable ideas and solutions from those in the know and have the opportunity to network with like-minded business-owners who share similar goals and ambitions.
Matt Lamb, CEO and co-founder of Tangle Teezer, says “I am happy to support the British Library’s Scale-up Summit because we recognise that scaling up is every bit as hard, if not harder, than starting a business. We are delighted to share our experience in the hope that it may help others.”
Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to take your business to the next level. Tickets are selling fast so take this chance to get inside knowledge and advice on successfully scaling up and reaching your business’s peak potential.
Book your ticket to avoid disappointment.
29 July 2016
At the Business & IP Centre we frequently help customers starting and growing food related businesses.
2016 is the International Year of Pulses
This year two sustainable food topics have caught my attention. We are halfway through the UN’s International Year of Pulses (IYP2016) to 'position pulses as a primary source of protein and other essential nutrients'. And secondly, the growth in the consumption of insects as a nutritious source of food, or entomophagy to give its official name. I recently helped two examples of start-up businesses using the Business & IP Centre creating innovative food products with insects.
The IYP 2016 portal aims to heighten public awareness of nutritional benefits of pulses as a superfood. The hope is that it will result in sustainable food production, global food security and better nutrition for a growing world population. This site showcases ways in which we can ‘Love Pulses’ (see Twitter hashtag #LovePulses) with food competitions, recipes, photo gallery and a whole lot of inspiration to get your pulses racing.
Only 6% of UK adults consider themselves vegetarians
According to Mintel report Menu Flavours 2016 (available in the Business & IP Centre) only 6% of UK adults consider themselves vegetarians, while '54% of diners say that they enjoy dishes which contain a lot of vegetables'. Mintel puts this down to using 'new interesting flavours and methods'. This is great news for pulses, and certainly over the last ten years we have all seen a growth in by-products such as hummus, falafel and bean burgers.
There are innovative examples on IYP2016 of new product developments by young entrepreneurs, such as the award winning Crisps made from Lupin flowers by Charlotte Reynolds, ice cream from bean milk, bean jam etc.
Now that I have convinced you to eat more pulses I am also going tempt you with the insect protein market. London South Bank University is championing entomophagy and suggests we can introduce it in our diet for food sustainability. You may squirm at insects in our diet, but we once had the same feelings about lobster, prawns and even sushi, before they became acceptable in our Western diet.
Insects could solve the problem of world food sustainability
Lobsters were once called ‘cockroaches of the sea’, and were cheap to buy. There are a few reports on the market for insects such as Canadean’s ‘Foresight: Edible Insects’. Insects are seen by food experts and nutritionists as a solution because they are more sustainable than other food sources. For example, insects do not require a lot of land to farm, and edible insects are more protein-dense then beef.
There are some countries and societies who are large consumers of insects, apparently the Bodo tribe in Northern India have long traditions and celebrations of insects as part of their diet. Research by insect production company Chapul also finds that 80% of countries around the world have insects on the menu one way or another. There are apparently two billion people who already eat insects with over two thousand species of insects considered to be ‘edible’. Chapul’s e-commerce store is selling cricket powder and cricket bars online. Closer to home, there is Grub selling protein bars with cricket flour.
Paradigm shift required
The two businesses I met in the Centre were on the cutting edge of food technology with their use of insects. They were well aware of the paradigm shift that would be required to reach a mainstream customer base. which such innovative products that are not in our diet currently. Both businesses thought that the Television program ‘I’m a Celebrity get me out of here’ was something of a double-edged sword in promoting entomophagy. It is good for exposing edible insects but also may be a turn-off for some audiences.
However for businesses like these, it would certainly be rewarding and satisfying to win Western consumers over and change behaviour on eating insects. One of the strategies discussed is to engage with the younger generation who are generally more experimental, and who also want to actively change the world for the better. One example of this is at the Shambala Festival, where in 2016 they have made a meat and fish free policy, but they do have an insect bar.
I haven’t yet eaten insects knowingly, but I am certainly a pulses fan and incorporate it in my diet. Be it pulses, insects or something else innovative in the market. This really is an opportunity for us to try new sustainable ingredients and hopefully help towards more sustainable food production, technology and market.
Written by Seema Rampersad
25 September 2013
‘Fashion has nowhere to go but in circles’ was a statement that my friend’s mother told her and I can see the validity of the statement in many ways since starting at the Business & IP Centre. Fashion is one of the most popular industries among users of our Centre.
In my opinion, there have been some important business changes in the last 10 years of the fashion industry such as commercially viable vintage shops, boutiques, swish parties and other conscious efforts for ethical and sustainable business success without compromising people and the environment.
A couple of years ago, I acquired a heightened state of awareness of sustainability which was brought on by a night of fabulous fashion at an ethical fashion show themed ‘Fashion with a Conscience’ by the Ethical Fashion Forum at the William Morris Gallery in London.
The London designers on the night created items that were ethically sourced, manufactured and distributed – this was a splendid ticketed fashion event which showcased their designs in the Gallery’s spiral stairwell with various stalls and raffle prizes for goods served over a glass of wine and canapés. It was memorable evening but more than anything – it made me more conscious of ethical fashion in principle.
Roll on one year – whilst being part of the Women’s Network working for the Greater London Authority, we were in the process of organising a number of events for the 100th International Women’s Day and it was my suggestion for us to have an ethical fashion show not only to display some ethical fashions but to bring staff together and celebrate the day with some fun and facts!
Photo Source: Wikimedia
To cut a long story short, I eventually connected with designers Queenie and Ted who were very keen from the onset to take part and thus provided numerous marvellously designed ‘upcycled’ jackets for staff to model. Coincidently, it was also the week of the Academy Awards Oscar’s in 2011 where Colin Firth’s wife Livia Giuggioli, eco-entrepreneur at Eco-Age, was also doing her bit to champion ethical fashion on the Oscar’s red carpet. Personally, I thought it all ended being a grand success on a monumental and fun occasion.
Queenie & Ted’s Upcycled Jacket
The event was also a great way to meet with designers and female entrepreneurs Queenie and Ted who started their own company part-time by applying decorative resuscitation techniques to tired garments to create amazing one-off clothes. Their business has grown since then and they now have a permanent presence and shop on Columbia Road market with even international customers when I visited.
Back to the present, this brings me back to the saying above ‘Fashion has nowhere to go but in circles’ - this is definitely true in a business and design context such as with upcycling, vintage, ethical global sourcing or sustainable fashion to consumers in the UK.
There are numerous resources in the library that can help you research sustainable fashion businesses or practices with help from our very popular Fashion Industry Guide and workshops which sometimes focus on fashion.
For vintage and upcycle fashion design inspiration – download the ‘Guide to Fashion Resources at the British Library’ that we prepared earlier this year.
Seema Rampersad on behalf of the Business & IP Centre
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