THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

106 posts categorized "Start-ups"

19 March 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04 March 2019

Targeting your audience through blogging

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

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

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

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

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Why pinpoint an audience?

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

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

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

Sighting in your scope

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

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

What do you already know?

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

What do you still need to learn?

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

Engage and evaluate!

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

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

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

Consider all the variables

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

Follow the experts

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

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

Keep Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in mind

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

Promote your blog on social media

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

Start with a great platform

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

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

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

25 February 2019

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs at the Business & IP Centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18 February 2019

12 tips for starting up a fashion business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next Fashion Angel Business & IP Centre workshop is on Wednesday 3 April. To book, click here. To see all of the Business & IP Centre's upcoming workshops, click here.

Fashion Angel

12 February 2019

A week in the life of... Rachel Walker, co-founder of The Fold Line

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Rachel is a co-founder of The Fold Line, an award-winning online sewing community and sewing pattern shop. Championing independent pattern designers, they are the one stop shop for all your dressmaking pattern needs. Founded in 2015 they are the home for people who love sewing and making their own clothes and are alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme.

With a background in science research, it wasn’t until after finishing her PhD that Rachel decided she wanted a career change. She started to work part-time for a sewing company in London, teaching classes and helping at events, as she had always enjoyed sewing as a hobby. She then retrained in pattern cutting and over the next year, moved into overseeing pattern production and development, using the project management skills she had gained from her studies. During this time she met Kate (co-founder) and after a couple of months they decided to start a business together.

As avid makers, Rachel and Kate struggled to keep up with all the sewing pattern releases and growing number of bloggers sharing their makes and tips. They were inspired by the growing online sewing community to build a home for everyone interested in dressmaking. From this The Fold Line was born, a place you can meet other makers, share tips and ideas and get lots of inspiration for your next project while keeping up-to-date with the latest sewing news and pattern releases.

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You can expect to find lots of inspiration and catch up on all the latest sewing news on their sewing blog and vlog. They also have an extensive sewing pattern database where you can use a pattern finder tool to search over 10,000 patterns plus read lots of sewing pattern reviews from the community. 

Monday The first thing I do on a Monday morning is take my enthusiastic Labrador for a long walk to tire him out. Once back home I begin the week with catching up on everything that has been going on over the weekend. I reply to any outstanding emails, pay invoices and browse social media channels for news in the sewing community. I also take the time to reply to questions and comments from our community of makers on our website and social media.

In the afternoon I plan out my tasks for the week ahead and check we have everything we need. I will usually spend the rest of the day on accounts, making sure our freelancers are paid and looking at our spending over the last week.

Tuesday Another long dog walk. When back at home I start the day by emailing the freelancers who work with us on creating content and sharing it across our social media channels. I’ll also order more stock for our warehouse and check on the status of orders that need to be sent out.

In the afternoon I will work on one of our consulting jobs, creating content and scheduling it for the week ahead.

Wednesday First thing in the morning I photograph any sewing patterns that have been delivered so that we can get the new products added to our website. Later in the morning I visit our warehouse and the team that picks and packs all the orders that go out from our online shop. It’s a good opportunity to take any new stock with me and also talk through problems with the team.

In the afternoon I email new pattern designers about adding their sewing patterns to our new online shop. I’ll also update stock levels depending on what products I took to the warehouse. I’ll also spend time on social media looking for new sewing challenges people can take part in, sewing meet ups that have been arranged and sewing pattern releases so we have new content to share with the community.

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Thursday Another long dog walk! I then meet up with Kate, who is the other founder and director at The Fold Line. Over tea we talk about how we are getting on with big projects we have planned and chat through any difficulties we’ve had during the week. We also analyse sales of sewing patterns from our online shop and look at current trends. We brainstorm about new content for blogs over the coming months as well. If it’s been a challenging week we will treat ourselves to a nice lunch!

In the afternoon I’ll update our diaries and schedule with the plans we have made. I’ll also do more work on one of our consulting jobs.

Friday I usually spend Fridays working on the second consulting job we do, designing and testing creative content for publication.

Weekend We often attend sewing meet ups on Saturdays where we join a group of sewing enthusiasts for fabric shopping or a fashion exhibition. We might also be guest judges of handmade outfits at sewing parties. On Sundays I try not to work. If I have time I’ll try and do a bit of sewing for myself and make a garment such as a top or jacket. I do like to reply to all the emails that we have received over the weekend on a Sunday evening so that I can start Monday with an empty inbox!

06 February 2019

Why have a mentor? Discover more about our Innovating for Growth: Mentoring programme

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Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs, Jamie Oliver has Gennaro Contaldo and Lady Gaga has Elton John. We’re talking about mentor and mentees. Are you looking for your own Elton? Do you want guidance like Mark? The Business & IP Centre runs a mentoring programme as part of Innovating for Growth, pairing up entrepreneurs who have completed our Scale-ups programme, with those who have started their own new business (to see the eligibility criteria, click here).

We found many enquirers had misconceptions about being a mentor/mentee, didn’t really know what it was or just wanted more information, so we picked the brains of those currently in the mentoring programme for some insider knowledge.

Deborah Wood, founder of Ascendit highlights the importance of having a mentor, “Open your mind to be able to learn from and be supported by others. Business lessons are universal so there will always be something to draw from someone else's experience that can help you develop your business. If you have a skilled mentor then they will quickly identify a point that will make a difference to your development.

“[I wanted a mentor as] I’m a great believer in mentorship. I was very fortunate to have my very first one at the tender age of 15, when taking art in school. I had absolutely no experience but clearly was talented. My art teacher thought I would benefit from studying at art college. My first choice was to apply to Central Saint Martin’s in London. I got in and the rest is history.” Tina Bernstein, founder of Mapology Guides

Eligibility

What are the programme’s eligibility requirements?

  • Your business has to have been registered as a Sole Trader or on Companies House for at least six months by the application deadline (see below)
  • Your business should already have a ‘live’ website
  • Your business should have already generated some revenue from sales (e.g. from trading at local markets, trade-shows)
  • You will be able to attend the Introductory Mentee Workshop
  • You or your business must be based in London

Tina confirms how mentoring at this stage of her business helped more than if she’d had someone at the start, “I suppose having a mentor right from the start would potentially have helped with avoiding making so many mistakes. However, being good at business is all about learning the lessons and mistakes are part of the journey. Personally, I wouldn’t have wanted someone to guide me right from the start. I’m grateful for all my mistakes and what they’ve taught me. I’m sure I benefited more at this stage of my business.

Can I still apply if:

… I haven’t been registered with Companies house for six months, but I was previously trading in another country before then?

Yes, as long as you also meet our other requirements.

… My company has not yet generated any revenue, but we are expecting some invoices to be processed by our clients soon?

Sadly, no. You must have generated some revenue from sales at the time of your application. We encourage you to apply for future cohorts when this happens.

… I am rebranding my company and/or taking it in a new direction?

Yes, as long as this is a development of your existing company and not the creation of a separate business entity. The mentoring programme is a chance for you to grow your current business endeavour with a Mentor.

 Deborah confirms “The matching process was perfect as my mentor and I are from the same broad industry category. This meant that he immediately understood my business and was able to draw lessons from his own business development to guide help me. [Having being registered for over a year and generated revenue helped] as we had some operational experience to work with and shape.

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 The Programme

Who are the Mentors?

The Mentors are alumni from our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme who have volunteered to take part in the programme.

Sarah Orecchia, founder of Unbeelievable Health, an Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni who is a mentor says, “The Innovating for Growth program is something I shall always be grateful for. Having access to invaluable advice from so many professionals in the fields of IP, marketing, sales, supply chain, finance and more helped us to strengthen the foundations of our business and also taught me what being a good mentor is all about. I'm a real Business & IP Centre nerd and recommend it to anyone I come across who's starting a business! When I started my business I was really fortunate to have a couple of great mentors and it truly made a world of difference. Their straightforward advice and support helped me to avoid numerous pitfalls and guided me in the right direction. As Maya Angelou said – ‘If you get, give. If you learn, teach.’”

Amelia Rope, founder of Amelia Rope Chocolates wanted to become a mentor "Because it was important for me to give back'; not only to the Business & IP Centre, but also to individuals who were at the stage when a mentor may be of some help. We all have so much experience gained from getting things hopelessly wrong or delightfully right. If you can share an ounce of these with a budding start-up in the hope its saves them making the same mistakes it has to be worth it. The thorough training from the Business & IP Centre before we kicked off was invaluable. One fellow mentor I met on the course will be a friend for life."

I understand that the Mentee Introductory workshop is mandatory. If I am unable to attend in person, can this be done remotely?

It is essential that you are able to attend this workshop so as to have a greater understanding of the programme, your expectations as a mentee and also the expectations of your prospective mentor. If you are unable to attend the workshop, you must let the Innovating for Growth team know by e-mailing mentoring@bl.uk.

Should you unexpectedly not be able to attend after receiving a place on the Introductory Mentee Workshop, we do allow you to defer your place once to start with the next cohort.

I’ve been successful in getting a place on the Mentee Introductory Workshop. Am I now guaranteed a Mentor?

The Innovating for Growth team work hard to make sure that we can match you with an appropriate mentor so as to try to ensure the most positive experience as possible for you. This careful decision process is based on the information you provide on your application form, your interactions during the Introductory Workshop, and the experience/skillsets that our existing pool of Mentors have to offer.

Therefore, if we feel like we are unable to match you with a suitable Mentor this cohort, we will automatically enroll you onto the next cohort. In this instance, you will not need to reapply or attend a second Mentee Introductory Workshop.

The mentor appointed to me understood retail and my various challenges, that’s because they’ve themselves been through them at an earlier stage. I felt we spoke the same language. I think the matched approach is imperative to a successful mentor/mentee relationship. I was very grateful for the hand-picked approach.” Tina Bernstein, founder of Mapology Guides

How often does the programme take place?

The programme takes place on a bi-annual basis (approximately).

How much time will I need to commit to the programme?

If successfully matched with a Mentor, your mentoring sessions will consist of two one hour introductory meetings of one hour at the Business & IP Centre, followed by five meetings of 1-2 hours over the course of four months. The time, dates and locations for the remaining five meetings will be decided between you and your Mentor.

What type of Mentoring will I receive?

This is something that will be discussed in greater detail at the Introductory Mentee Workshop. However, it is good to know that the purpose of the programme is to provide a holistic mentoring experience, and we cannot guarantee that you will receive mentoring on a specific topic i.e. marketing, finance, international trade, etc.

Does the programme provide any financial support?

No, the programme’s purpose is to build your entrepreneurial confidence and it seeks to offer the following non-monetary benefits:

  • Practical advice, encouragement and support from experienced entrepreneurs
  • Identification of goals and establish a sense of direction
  • Exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking
  • Strengthen your interpersonal and communication skills and learn to listen actively and accept feedback
  • Increase your confidence and motivation
  • Expansion your professional network
  • Will I need to pay to participate in the programme?

No. The Innovating for Growth project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the British Library, making this programme completely free to you. All we ask is that you pay for your Mentor’s coffee or tea during your mentoring meetings as they are volunteering their own time to help you.

Sarah explains the importance of having a mentor, “As humans, we tend to wage an internal battle between lacking confidence and feeling like we can do it all. Starting a business takes a LOT of time and many mistakes can be made along the way. A mentor helps to guide you and provides often, invaluable advice and insight. I had several mentors for different areas of my business. Sometimes just a few meetings or conversations are needed, and sometimes the relationship may last longer. To those who are unsure about having a mentor - I ask - what is the downside? Go for it! And once you've built your enterprise, get out there and give back by mentoring others! It's very rewarding!”

Other

I would like to become a Mentor for the Innovating for Growth: Mentoring programme. Is this possible?

We only recruit our Mentors from our Innovating for Growth: Scale-up programme. If you meet the Scale-up programme eligibility requirements, we encourage you to apply so that you might Mentor with us in the future.

If I don’t get onto the programme, are there any other Business & IP Centre opportunities available to me?

Yes, certainly. The Innovating for Growth programme in general offers a Start-up and Scale-up programme, both with the goal to help your business prosper. Additionally, we invite you to take a look at the Business & IP Centre website for all the fantastic programmes and events we have on offer all year round.

If you have any further questions for the programme, or would like to clarify anything you have read here, please reach out to mentoring@bl.uk. The deadline for this round of mentee recruitment is Friday 8 February.

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05 February 2019

A week in the life of... Merilee Karr, founder and CEO of UnderTheDoormat

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American by origin, Merilee Karr is an adopted Brit, having lived in London for the last 18 years, always in the southwest near Putney. She founded London’s premier short-term lettings company back in 2014 and is an alumni of our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme. Passionate about providing visitors with a ‘home from home’ experience and not leaving homes empty when their owners are away, when others could enjoy them, UnderTheDoormat was born. Now hosting over 200 homes and attracting over 5,000 visitors a year, UnderTheDoormat is paving the way for 'responsible short-letting’ across London, for both homeowners and guests to enjoy. 

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A typical day for me is varied – and no two are ever quite the same! As a founder of a young and growing company, it’s important to be ‘hands on’ in the running of the company. On the flip side, my role involves a lot of external focus to grow the business and includes everything from speaking at conferences, meeting with property companies for partnerships, carving out potential strategic partnerships with suppliers and of course meeting new investors and keeping my current investors and board members up-to-date. Every day is a challenge for me, and I love it when I have a combination of internal and external things are on my to-do list.

My ‘work day’ can include any of the following:

  • A team meeting going through our monthly results and key metrics for the business
  • An external meeting with Westminster council or an MP about the industry standards we are building and how we can make them effective as we roll them out
  • Releasing payments to suppliers and paying our homeowners the money they earned from working with us
  • Lunch or coffee with a fellow founder of a sharing economy business to discuss our businesses and potential to collaborate
  • A meeting with a property company or developer about partnering to provide them with short-let options for their portfolios
  • Developing a bespoke proposal following that meeting with a business case for working with us and the value we can deliver
  • Phone call or meeting with a potential homeowner looking to let their home with us
  • A PR meeting with STAA (Short-term Accommodation Association) for which I currently sit as Chair. I take this role extremely seriously as it promotes ‘responsible’ short-term letting which is the key USP of UnderTheDoormat
  • Media interviews and discussions – particularly with property press or newspapers like the Evening Standard
  • Increasingly I am asked to speak at conferences as the spokesperson for the industry. With three planned this month already it’s a busy time and I thoroughly enjoy these. It's great for networking and learning what other people are doing in our sector and beyond. 

My time away from the job is also important to me. Outside of office hours, it's fair to say I combine more work(!) and my love of sport, keeping fit and keeping up with friends. This is my usual schedule of extra-curricular activities:

Tuesday morning I run with a friend (someone who I went to University with in Virginia who lives around the corner in London).

Tuesday or Wednesday evening Typically, a work event of some type- e.g. Tourism society conference speaking or Supper Club CEO’s dinner.

Thursday evenings are triathlon training - usually a swim followed by a social in the pub - I always order a pepperoni pizza and an apple juice and soda!

Saturday mornings are my club cycle ride which I find hugely enjoyable. My favourite is the Windsor ride via the Great Park (you really get to feel the seasons through the year and looking down at the castle from the top of the long walk never gets old). We stop for coffee at the Cinnamon Café and get gigantic cinnamon buns before heading back.   

Saturday evening Drinks or dinner with friends. This week I have a friend’s leaving drinks as she is moving to Hong Kong. 

Sunday Lie in day! Generally, it’s a morning of doing stuff around the house and then heading out for a walk and lunch with friends. I then swim in the evening which is a great way to set myself up positively for the start of the week. 

18 January 2019

Five tips to drive traffic to your website

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Grow are small business marketing consultants, whose founder and MD, Alasdair Inglis, is the Marketing Expert in Residence at the Business & IP Centre. Here they give us five tips to help drive traffic to your website.

 

You had to build a website for your business, that much was clear. You designed and honed your site until it was ready. Then what?

Like many people, your website is all dressed up and ready to go, but where's the traffic?

There are lots of brilliant websites like yours selling great products and services but don't have the traffic they need to be successful. If you find yourself at this point, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will run through some basic techniques to help your site rank on Google and get traffic.

  1. Find the right keyword phrases for your web pages

Keywords are the building blocks of how search engines work. Keywords are crucial for driving traffic to your website for free. When people perform Google searches, an algorithm decides what content to show them. You need to tell the search engine that yours is the best result to show. Using keywords throughout your web pages helps Google understand what you offer and when you should appear.

There's also a bit of a catch. Some keywords are so popular that you haven't much chance of ever ranking for them. If you tried to rank a web page for the keyword, chocolate, you will struggle.

The trick is to find less-popular keyword phrases e.g. "Where can I buy organic chocolate?", where you might be able to rank for the phrase, but you'll never rank for the keyword chocolate alone as it's just too competitive!

Targeting the right keyword phrases is crucial. When researching for the best keyword phrases, the key is to find the balance between low enough competition and high enough volume. There are many ways to do keyword research, and some software packages such as SEM Rush give you an idea of how hard it is to rank a keyword phrase in Google.

  1. Putting your keywords to work

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Sadly, it's not quite as easy as just putting the right keywords on your web page. You need to optimise your web pages in order for search engines to rank the web page for a particular search term.

Think about it from Google's point of view. Every person that searches is their customer – and they want to provide the very best service to that customer to keep them coming back (it seems to be working!). To do that they must strive to eliminate poorly written and irrelevant content and anything that could deliver a bad experience to their customer. Optimising your site is saying to Google, "I'm here, I've got good content, and my site is worth showing".  We’ve written a detailed guide to optimising your web pages.

  1. Create your content

Once you know your keyword phrases, it's time to start creating content. Many people dip their toe in the water with a blog. If you're reading this and can write, congratulations, you're qualified to create a blog!

Some find writing daunting, and others don't enjoy the process. Luckily for those people (and writers, too!), we're in the age of video content. Video content is on the rise at the moment and generally receives higher engagement.

A combination of text and video might be the ideal way to boost social media shares and links to your blog– and therefore your search rankings!

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*Tool tip: Yoast SEO is a great little tool for free on-page blog optimisation. If you're using WordPress, give it a try! If not, set up an account and test your content with Yoast before posting text your site!

  1. Get other websites to link to your web pages.

It seems strange to think about, but the internet is just a collection of pages linked to each other. Links are the fabric of the internet. Search engines know this and use links to help them work out the quality of websites and web pages.

The more links from quality sites that point to your website, the more important Google knows your website is. Quality links are one of the major ways Google and Bing rank your pages. If your chocolate-themed website is linked to from chocolate-lovers blogs and chocolatiers’ groups, great!

Link building (the process of acquiring links from relevant quality websites to your content) can happen quite naturally. If you have great content, people will often link to you. Millions of links are being created daily without anybody asking for them.

Sometimes, the organic way can be a little slow. Especially right at the start! If nobody sees your content, nobody can link to it. An outreach programme can be a good bet. Dust-off your best email manners and contact other businesses, make connections and show them what great resources you have! Once you have a good network within your niche, it will be easier to pick up links along the way. This process can be carried out with a relatively low budget by using mail merge software, but it can be time-consuming.

There are a number of different strategies you can use, such as contacting bloggers who write about your niche and asking them to link to a useful article you’ve written, is a great way to get a link. Bloggers are usually keen to be the first to break some news or get involved with something fresh. Perhaps think about what you can offer them in return? Sometimes sending them a product to review is a great way to do this. 

Another common link building strategy is to offer a complimentary guest post to a high-quality website. You will need to write an excellent guest post though!

  1. Use social media to share your content

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More than three billion people worldwide now use social media every month. That's also a lot of potential customers and website traffic back to your site!

Ensure that your social media profiles all link back to your website and that you're sharing your own content and driving traffic and engagement to your site.

Social media can also be an excellent tool for finding relevant bloggers and businesses to get links from and to share your content. Connect with people via Twitter and form a relationship. The clue is in the name… so be social!

Posting useful content, engaging with people and building your followers is a sure-fire way to increase traffic and promote your website. So, what are you waiting for? Your next blog, article or video post is just a few hours away.

Remember your keywords, build those links up and stay social.

Want to learn more digital marketing strategies with Grow? Visit our workshops and events page to see when their next Online marketing masterclass is running.

02 January 2019

Five elements to consider when choosing a winning domain

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Here are some top tips from our partner UK2 on choosing the correct domain...

The domain you choose for your next digital adventure is a major decision, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your web address outlines branding and website identity and also impacts how website users find you online. When the time comes for you to choose your new domain name, there are a few things you need to consider. We’ve assembled a list of the most important website elements including, uniqueness, typability, clarity, substance, and protection.

See our recommendations for these important elements and the questions you should ask yourself before registering a domain in the list below:

#1. Uniqueness

While it can be difficult to stand out on the internet - a place that holds everything and everyone in the world - it is important to attempt to create a unique identity for your brand and website. Your domain name is the perfect place to begin to find your originality.

Startups.co writes that “You need to establish an identity that gives your company direction and helps customers easily find you.” The uniqueness of your domain is important not only to try to create a name for yourself but also to make sure that you aren’t encroaching on anyone else’s territory. Check and double check the domain name you have in mind by answering the questions below:

  • Is anyone else using this domain, or something similar?
  • Is this domain brandable to represent your specific purpose?
  • Is this domain memorable, and will it lead visitors to your page?

#2. Typability

Whilst this word is clearly invented for our purposes, it represents a very important aspect of choosing your domain. When searching out your next domain name, it is important to remember that website visitors will be typing in your web address repeatedly. You will be repeating your domain name out loud for years to come, so you want to consider how it sounds.

Maqtoob writes, “Whether you’re launching a startup, ramping up a business or rebranding your company, it’s important that you have a domain name that rolls off the tongue, is easy to remember, communicates a positive image, looks professional, and inspires you and your team.” If you include unique words that are tough to spell or sequences of numbers that might be forgotten, you might lead people to the wrong site or error pages. To avoid this mistake, ask yourself the questions below:

  • Does your domain easily lead to mistypes or misspellings?
  • Is your domain long and convoluted?

#3. Clarity

Ensuring that your domain is clear lends an aura of respectability that you might otherwise miss out on. There are far too many spammy domains, email addresses, and social media accounts to make us wary of almost everyone we come across online. However, we realise that this is not an easy task. Paul Graham once wrote, “In a world where all the obvious names are taken, finding a good name is a test of imagination. And the name you choose tells whether or not you passed that test.” To be sure that your website gains the credibility it deserves, ask yourself the following questions:

  • From your domain, can site visitors get an understanding of what you offer?
  • Does your domain clearly represent your brand?
  • Could you easily be mistaken as another website?
  • Is your domain as short as possible?
  • If in doubt, is a simple is better than a shorter domain?

#4. Substance

If you’ve ever seen articles about the unfortunate domains for IT Scrap, Pen Island, or Who Represents websites, you know that understanding how your brand is displayed without spacing is very important. Do your best to make sure that you are not using numbers, hyphens, or a collection of smaller words that could become confusing when strung together. Ask yourself the following questions before registering your new domain:

  • Does the domain avoid hyphens and numbers?
  • Could your domain be misconstrued because of spacing?
  • Have you checked into the history of the domain and its other uses?

#5. Protection

The unfortunate truth of the digital world is that if someone has a chance to misrepresent themselves to earn a pound or two, they probably will. While we don’t want to believe that there are lots of unscrupulous folks hanging around the web, the truth is, there are. This is exactly why you want to be sure that you don’t register domains too close to an established entity and why you want to protect your brand by registering domains that are too closely related to you. Before registering, check the answers to these questions to protect your brand and your reputation:

  • Could others purchase domains similar to yours to spoof or misrepresent your business?
  • Are there other domains you should register to keep off the market?

Now that you have encountered the necessary elements of your new domain name, all that’s left is to choose the winning contestant. Check availability, add necessary tools, and register your domain with the help of UK2.NET today!

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23 November 2018

IP Corner: Registered designs and knitting

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When people think of intellectual property what most often springs to mind is patents, closely followed by trade marks. There are other forms of IP though and I came upon a good example of one when looking at gadgets to do with my favourite pastime – knitting.

This is the Wool Jeanie a nifty little device that holds the ball of wool/yarn whilst you are knitting releasing the wool evenly as you knit. The yarn holder is suspended from the frame using magnets and when not in use it can be disengaged from the frame and rested on the platform below.

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The Wool Jeanie is a UK registered design registered with the IPO UK and given design registration number RD6011452. The full design record can be viewed via the DesignView database upon entering the registered design number in the search box.

If you are not sure how to use the database, or if you are just interested, you can download our free IP guide A brief introduction to registered designs and registered design searching.

Registered designs protect the outward look of a product particularly the lines, contours, shape or texture, but they can also protect the material or ornamentation of the product. You cannot protect the way the design works, only the way it looks. To protect its functionality you would need to apply for a patent. For a design to be protectable it must be new and it must be unique.

A UK registered design gives the rights holder the exclusive right in the United Kingdom to make, use, sell, import and export any product embodying the design, if it is a shape, or bearing the design if it is ornamentation.

Registered designs can apply to a wide variety of products from packaging to furnishings, from clothing to jewellery and from household goods to textiles. However, registered designs do not last forever. Registered designs last a maximum of 25 years and are renewable every five years to the 25 year maximum. At the end of the 25 years, or if the renewal fees aren’t paid, the registered design falls into the public domain and is there for anyone to use.

So why should a business protect its designs?

By registering your designs you:

  • contribute to obtaining a return on investments made by you or your company into creating and marketing your products.
  • obtain exclusive right to the registered design allowing you to prevent or, if necessary, stop others from exploiting or copying your design without your written permission.
  • have the opportunity to sell or license the rights to the design to another enterprise for a fee.
  • strengthen your brand.

It is worth remembering that a vast majority of businesses today are web-based and the IP registrations the company holds, or the licenses it has to use others' IP, are assets of the business which can help increase the market value of a company and its products.

Within the UK unregistered ‘Design right’ also exists and automatically protects a design for a maximum of 10 years from the end of the calendar year in which the design was first sold or for 15 years after it was created whichever is the earlier. However, design right only applies to the shape and configuration of an object.

When deciding whether or not to register your designs it is worth speaking with an intellectual property attorney. Most will offer free 30 minute one-to-one advice sessions and you can find one in your local area via their website.

So what about my Wool Jeanie? Well, it has proved to be one of the best gadgets I have bought it my many years of knitting and crocheting and I am busy spreading the word about it to all my handicraft friends and acquaintances.

Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert at the Business & IP Centre London

Maria has worked in the field of intellectual property since she joined the British Library in January 1993. She is currently the British Library Business & IP Centre’s Intellectual Property Expert, where she delivers 1-2-1 business and IP advice clinics, as well as intellectual property workshops and webinars on regular basis.

To see all upcoming workshops, webinars and events, visit our website.