08 July 2020
Ahmad is the founder of Baracat Bros, an app company that builds games with hidden educational value. He took part in our Start-ups in London Libraries programme and is part of our SiLL community in Greenwich. We spoke to him about his business and his Start-ups in London Libraries journey.
Tell us about your business. Why did you start it up?
We believe games offer a unique channel to deliver educational messages and foster learning because of their interactive and engaging nature. Yet, many of the popular mobile games are designed for entertainment purposes and the educational games on the market lack engagement and the fun factor. We wanted to address that. We try to create edu-games, which are fun, engaging and educational.
We rely on academic research in the Science of Learning field, which uses cognitive-science research on how students learn, and uses that knowledge to offer practical actions to improve teaching, to guide the design of our games.
From a personal perspective, we believe that working in a corporate environment is not for everyone and, for us, starting up a business was a viable option to gain more freedom over which problems we wanted to solve and how to approach them.
How did the SiLL project help you in setting up your business?
I attended 3 sessions as part of the programme and it helped me gain the needed confidence to set up my business. The workshops also really helped to equip the attendees - I came out of the ‘Get ready for business’ workshop with actionable advice like how to access funding, how to create a business model canvas and where to find resources to continue learning.
What was the most helpful part of the SiLL project for you?
Meeting like-minded people who were trying to build their own businesses. It was eye-opening to see the diversity of their backgrounds as well as their business ideas.
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.
What advice would you give anyone looking to start up a business?
Make sure to invest time in building a circle of like-minded people, it really helps when things get tough and you need people to share your experiences with.
I really can’t stress enough having a support network that understand what it takes to start a business and how to navigate the space. I would highly recommend going to the Start-ups in London Libraries’ workshops as they will equip them with a support network and practical advice on how to start a business in the UK.
I would also highly recommend preparing oneself psychologically and mentally that building a business takes time and that there are usually no shortcuts to getting it to be profitable other than putting in the hard work.
What are the key things you have learnt while starting up your business?
When you are starting a business, the main way to think about it is how you are solving valuable problems for customers - the main way to figure out such problems is to actively talk to customers and potential customers. Once a valuable problem is identified, it becomes relatively easy to iterate on a potential solution.
What’s next for you and your business?
A few days ago, Foodology, a game Baracat Bros' created in 2 weeks to help people learn about food, was featured on ProductHunt (the go-to platform for launching new products)
10 June 2020
Last year, Salma Attan decided it was time to turn her hobby into her livelihood and started her beekeeping business Bushwood Bees. She maintains hives on the roof of the East London Mosque, making honey and other bee-based products from her local source. On top of this, Salma offers paid beekeeping courses to beginners and provides guidance to experienced beekeepers. Here she discusses what convinced her to make that transition to business-owner, where the Start-ups in London Libraries' workshops fit into her journey and how she is dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on her business.
Both myself and my husband had been hobbysist beekeepers for 10 years. It got to where our hobby had expanded to the point that it felt like so much more than that. I had been appointed Essex Bee Health Officer, I had been teaching and mentoring new beekeepers as well as raising healthy local colonies of bees through our local Epping Forest Beekeepers Association.
Now that my children were older, the idea of starting up a business seemed more realistic. I also seemed to have more and more friends, family and neighbours knocking on my door wanting a few jars of honey and asking why I don’t sell online or have a shop! So there was certainly the demand, but was this enough to risk a start-up business? I didn’t think so. Honey was not going to pay the bills! However, the question naturally came up: why not use my skills for myself? And get a wage out of it? I have always been an advocate of beekeepers sourcing locally reared bees rather than importing, so it just made sense that I should supply this growing demand for buying local. This was far more of a motivation than anything else.
In the early stages of asking myself “Is this really such a good idea?”, I took part in the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops which made me realise that, actually, it was. The plan was sound, I had the beekeeping skills to execute the practical aspects of my idea and with the SiLL workshops I could focus on the practicalities of starting up a business.
The one area I seemed to have zero skills was technology! This is where Sarah [the Waltham Forest Business Champion] was a great help. She was happy to meet and give me plenty of ideas on how to get started. Sarah also let me know about where to get further free help to improve my use of social media in terms of business promotion – this is something I’m still learning but less anxious about. Sarah also gave me really good ideas for improving my business plan. It was helpful to have someone with fresh eyes looking at my ideas. She was willing to help put a pitch together, gave really practical advice and was able to give me fresh perspective on parts of my plan that I would not have had otherwise. After talking to Sarah, I settled on the name Bushwood Bees and registered my business under this name, an exciting first step after all the ooing and umming!
I set up my 'Beekeeping Experience Days' on both Eventbrite and Airbnb. I also agreed dates with the East London Mosque about hosting my Beginner Beekeeping Courses and listed them on Eventbrite. The website with the online shop was also set up and although it did take considerable time, eventually all my courses/experiences and website went live.
I also decided to give some free beekeeping talks in order to promote Bushwood Bees and all that was on offer. We worked with the council to arrange a schedule of workshops and talks, including family/child friendly workshops every day of the May half term at a different Waltham Forest Library.
Then came along COVID-19 and everything had to be cancelled. All the talks and workshops, the courses and experience days suddenly came to a halt. I did wonder if this was possibly the worst year to start a business! But this was clearly something I had no control over so no point complaining. It was a case of concentrating on what we could do in the business. Fortunately, as bees are livestock, the lockdown rules meant I was obliged, and indeed encouraged, to continue beekeeping. This meant I was able to take orders for rearing and selling colonies of locally produced honeybees. This has not been to the same capacity as it would have - had the courses been running, obviously the bulk of new customers would have come from those we would have been teaching this year - but I can't complain.
The other silver lining of the lockdown rules is the number of new honey customers I have gained. With regular grocery shopping becoming so difficult, it seems many people were looking online and locally for buying produce. After a few mentions on Facebook our lovely local community realised there was local quality honey on their doorstep. As the Ucraft have an Ekwid shop attached, customers could order and pay online and then collect from my doorstep during their daily walk or grocery shop. I was able to provide a completely contactless service and many of these customers helped to spread the word about Bushwood Bees.
Some of the talks we had planned have moved online, including one that was meant to be in Leytonstone Library. This seemed to work well and raised awareness of the business. We've also put up videos of myself and my husband beekeeping and sharing little tips and tricks for the beekeeping community. As my husband is also a beekeeper we are in the very fortunate position to be able to film each other beekeeping without breaking lockdown rules. This has also allowed us to continue offering support through our local beekeeping association and we have had further sales through this voluntary role.
In terms of my advice for anyone thinking of starting a business, make sure you have the support of your family! I could not have taken the first steps without the support of my husband. Think through your idea carefully and realistically. Then go for it.
I've also learnt that things do not always run smoothly! I expected things to go wrong (and they did sometimes) but told myself it’s all part of the journey and an opportunity to improve.
And hasn't 2020 been an example of that?! It has been an unprecedented year and a completely different turn of events in terms of my business plan. Planning is one thing, reality is something else altogether! But we have a lot of hope for 2021.
19 May 2020
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."
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 May 2020
Missing our collections and the lovely members of the team who can help you navigate your way through them? Following on from the book recommendations from our BIPC entrepreneurs for World Book Night last week, we also asked our BIPC team for any suggestions of books, podcasts or online content which you may want to explore during this period. Here are their suggestions of what to get stuck into:
Meron, Business and IP Reference Specialist
In terms of books, She Means Business by Carrie Green is great – it’s insightful, gets you into a 'success' mindset and has amazing 'actions' at the end of every chapter.
For podcasts, I really like Start-up Stories by Andrew Warner. You get to hear the stories of many amazing entrepreneurs, through all the ups and downs. It’s very useful for visualising how you can overcome struggles yourself.
The Influencer Podcast is also very good. It is shorter, which I like, and Julie Solomon covers some great topics that would help any entrepreneur at any stage.
Lola, Subject Librarian in the Business & IP Centre
Testing business ideas: a field guide for rapid experimentation by David J. Bland/Alex Osterwalder. This book explains how systematically testing business ideas dramatically reduces the risk and increases the likelihood of success for any new venture or business project. The visuals/designs make the book fun to read and easy to understand.
Plus, you can find more information on business ideas at https://startups.co.uk/business-ideas/.
Crafts have surged during this period and as a result Crafts Magazine has selected a range of craft-related podcasts to inspire and inform you.
And then if you discover an undiscovered talent that could be the basis of a business, the winner of the Best Start-Up Inspiration Book Award at the 2019 Business Book Awards, The Creative’s Guide to Starting a Business: How to Turn Your Talent into a Career by Harriet Kelsall takes you through the very first steps of defining creative and financial success to ultimately establishing a rewarding start-up.
Neil, Manager of Business & IP Centre
A couple of oldies but goodies that I recommend are:
- Business as Unusual by Anita Roddick
- What would Google do? by Jeff Jarvis
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
- Soul Trader by Rasheed Ongalaru
- The Name of the Beast by Neil Taylor
Loretta, Start-ups in London Libraries Champion, Greenwich
In terms of business podcasts that I recommend for people to listen to I would suggest:
- Hustle – I have to admit to a vested interest here, as I host this myself with my co-host Farah, but we aim to focus on exploring the business journeys, trials and wins of underrepresented entrepreneurs.
- Championing Women’s Voices hosted by June Sarpong
- Nick Bradley’s Scale Up Your Business
- Lead to win with Michael Hyatt & Megan Hyatt Miller
I also think Andyshvc (a startup investment coach) is great to follow on Instagram.
Nigel, Research and Business Dev Manager
Two that are worth mentioning, particularly at this moment in time are:
- Value proposition design by Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Gregory Bernarda, Alan Smith - a very useful approach to assessing changing needs and priorities at a time of massive disruption and developing products and services that meet these needs. Also an effective process for assessing and revising existing business developments. Feels very topical!
- Lean customer development: building products your customers will buy by Cindy Alvarez – this showcases really practical approaches to engaging with customers to find out how their needs and experiences are changing.
Gloria, National Network Co-ordinator Apprentice
There's a book I recently read She's Back by Lisa Unwin and Deb Khan. It's aimed at women who had taken a break in their career (mostly because of motherhood, but also for those who took a break later in life for any other reason). It’s very uplifting and has plenty of resources and practical tips.
Mark, Start-ups in London Libraries Champion, Lewisham
In terms of books – everyone should read Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I would also recommend following the Financial Times and Bloomberg on Instagram.
Alex, BIPC Sheffield
There are some good podcasts coming from Courier at the moment, especially in reaction to the current situation.
Remi, Business Programmes Manager
I have so many recommendations:
- Profit First by Mike Michalowicz – I think this is a must read for any business. It will have you thinking about finance and operating your business with an exit plan from day dot.
- Any book by by Seth Godin – he makes all businesses think a little further outside of the box.
- The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick – a book on how to talk to customers and figure if your business is a good idea when everyone else is lying to you. For me, this is an absolute must-read before investing into your business.
In terms of podcasts, I like Founders Clinic by Andy Ayim and Nana Parry – a podcast where underrepresented entrepreneurs openly and honestly discuss their companies.
Vanesa, Innovating for Growth Project Manager
I recently watched a Netflix TV series called Self Made about Madam C. J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire in America. She was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist. She was also a black lady which back in the 1900s in the US adds even more merit to what she achieved. It's still so topical, it even covers the struggles for women to get funding! I found it very inspirational, so if you were looking for something to watch these days, I strongly recommend it.
Clare, Strategic Partnerships Manager
Some of our BIPC Ambassadors have been involved in some great content. For example, Paul Lindley's book, Little Wins is very apt for current times. Plus, our Entrepreneur in Residence, Julie Deane was interviewed for the BBC podcast The Disruptors. Her discussion with Kamal Ahmed and Rohan Silva really was a great piece - she was on top brutally honest form!
20 April 2020
Although the doors to libraries are closed, for the time being, our Business & IP Centres around the country and Start-ups in London Libraries borough venues have been adapting and changing their offering to make sure our community of entrepreneurs still have resources to access at this challenging time.
Many entrepreneurs count on access to the various databases each BIPC offers, the good news is that some databases are still available remotely with your library account and others can be accessed via the staff in your local Centre. Here is a list of what’s available:
Remote access with library account
|COBRA||Birmingham, Brighton & Hove, Devon, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Northamptonshire, Norfolk, Nottingham, Sheffield and Worcestershire. All Start-ups in London Libraries boroughs (Bexley, Croydon, Greenwich, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest).|
|British Standards Online||Glasgow|
|ProQuest ABI inform||Glasgow|
|Law & Business||Glasgow|
|Kompass Global||Liverpool, Manchester|
Access via library staff
|IBISWorld||Birmingham, Brighton & Hove, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Devon, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Northamptonshire, Norfolk and Sheffield|
|Mintel||Hull, Leeds and Liverpool|
|Fame||Brighton & Hove, Hull, Northamptonshire and Norfolk|
What else is available?
BIPC Glasgow will soon be offering one-to-one sessions and some webinars with their delivery partners and Experts in Residence. The team are still available through their dedicated business email enquiry service.
BIPC Hull will be offering delivery partner sessions online. Their Makerspace has also been using the 3D printer to make face masks and shields for local keyworkers.
BIPC Leeds’ IP delivery partners are offering one-to-one phone consultations and Enterprise Club are being delivered online, which include topics such as writing a business plan, social media for business, marketing and finance.
BIPC Manchester is continuing to respond to emails from entrepreneurs. They are also putting their 3D printers to good use to produce face protection for GPs and people working in social care in need of PPE as part of the Covid-19 Face Shield Volunteer Initiative for the NHS.
BIPC Norfolk can connect entrepreneurs to their delivery partners who are delivering sessions on Accountancy, (Larking Gowen) Legal Advice (Leathes Prior) and business continuity (NAGH) remotely and can take your business enquiries through their dedicated business email enquiry service.
They can also arrange one to one telephone calls and Zoom chats to discuss IP issues, or any answer business-related questions and offer business support and guidance, including signposting to partner organisations. (New Anglia Growth Hub, Menta, Leathes Prior, Larking Gowen and NWES).
The team continue to offer many free online business and IP tutorials, workshops and webinars via our BIPC Eventbrite page, they can also conduct patent and trademark searches using an online database and provide access, information and advice on grants available at the BIPC and via Grants for Norfolk.
General business advice can also be accessed on the Norfolk County Council website, as well as information on the latest support offered to support business since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Looking ahead, we hope to extend our webinar workshops with our own tried and tested Spotlight sessions to include, What can the BIPC do for you, Protecting your idea- An introduction to intellectual property and host regular Zoom IP one-to-ones using the BIPC Eventbrite page as the booking platform, so keep your eyes peeled!
BIPC Devon is offering delivery partner workshops via Zoom, which include topics such as CV writing and interviews and top tips for business start-ups. Their FabLab is currently making PPE using the Centre’s 3D printer.
BIPC Birmingham’s Immigration Lawyers and BLAC Legal Team are delivering telephone legal advice and the BIPC team are still taking enquiries which come through the Library of Birmingham.
BIPC Worcestershire will be running online drop-in sessions with their delivery partner Blue Orchid. Soon their workshops will be available as webinars.
The Start-ups in London Libraries community remains active during this period for all aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs in the capital. All of the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops are now available as webinars and can be booked via our Eventbrite page. This includes new two-part Marketing Masterclass sessions.
Our borough Champions are running virtual one-to-one sessions. You can contact them on any of the below email addresses to arrange a session:
Bexley- Ioanna Lymperaki
Croydon- Sophie White
Greenwich- Loretta Awuah
Haringey- Nicola Moore
Lambeth- Rachel Samuels
Lewisham- Mark Berbeck
Newham- Rashed Belal
Southwark- Dean Williams
Tower Hamlets- Abraham O'Dude
Waltham Forest- Sarah Eschner
If you have a borough library card, you will be able to access COBRA remotely to conduct research. If you are a first-time user of the system, we recommend going through it with one of our borough Champions.
We have also compiled all the support that each of these boroughs is offering specific to the impact of Coronavirus on local businesses on a dedicated page, you can find the full details here.
27 March 2020
Since 2006 our doors have been open to everyone. Throughout this time our mission has remained constant: to help businesses to innovate and grow, and to diversify and democratise entrepreneurship across the country through our free and low-cost support from our base at the British Library, and, more recently, across ten London boroughs and our national network of BIPCs.
Like you, only a couple of weeks ago we were also looking ahead to scaling-up and developing our services, with a central government investment in the regional expansion of business support via libraries, enabling us to reach both the high street and rural areas. Now, like you, we are adapting to the new and changing patterns of our lives. In these unprecedented times, we, at the British Library and our partner libraries, find ourselves spread out in our own homes and unable to offer our normal face-to-face support.
But opportunities remain. Technology keeps our network of libraries working together with our expertise and resources pooled. It also keeps us connected with you and, during this time, we are providing many of our normal workshops as webinars, and free online one-to-ones will soon replace walk-ins and meetings. We are also working on developing content that is relevant to these unique and uncertain times. Please do make sure that you are following us for the latest updates, including additions to our schedules and our offering. As you will have seen in the news over the past weeks, the business landscape is changing at a rapid pace and we, along with our service delivery partners, are working to be as reactive as possible to the impact these developments will have on small businesses.
An extremely important group in our community are the fellow advisors and presenters who work with us, running the workshops and events. I’d like to use this moment to personally thank all of them, especially as we look at transforming our services together, to ensure we can continue to offer our support during this period.
More so than ever, we know how important it is for us to stay connected with our users and to provide support through the training and mentoring that we can still offer you. Our doors remain open – in the virtual sense for now - and we’ll listen to you across social media and through our helplines to inform what it is you need us to be in the coming weeks and months.
We remain committed to the success of new start-up businesses using our services, as well as the well-being of the courageous entrepreneurs who lead them. Despite the multiple hurdles ahead, we will be here to help you keep your ambitions alive.
Head of Business Support Services
10 December 2019
Loretta Awuah is our Start-ups in London Libraries SME Champion for Greenwich. She is based in the borough providing support to aspiring entrepreneurs as part of the Start-ups in London Libraries (SiLL) programme.
I start the week off by working through my inbox and responding to all the emails from people who are requesting one-to-one sessions and enquiry emails from people wanting to join the SiLL programme. It’s always great to see the wide range of potential businesses who I can register to the project. On this particular Monday it’s a food business and a social enterprise. We also have a weekly meeting with our borough SiLL team to discuss upcoming events and the support they may need. In the SiLL project, we support two types of entrepreneurs – people who have an idea which they haven’t yet developed and those who have been registered for a year or less, so we also look at ways of supporting and reaching these two different groups.
A big part of my job is showing the resources available in the library and supporting businesses in making the most of them. So in the afternoon, I do a COBRA tutorial with a newly registered business who is interested in finding out more information about ethical fashion and industry trade shows. It is amazing how much you can find on these databases so she leaves with a pack of information that will help give her direction and inform her next moves.
One of the best things about being able to offer the one-to-one sessions is that in one morning I can be looking at very different businesses and helping them map very different things, using varying techniques and models. This morning I have two sessions: one with an aspiring entrepreneur where we create a business model canvas and discuss her company structure; and another with someone wanting to start a social enterprise during which we developed a value proposition statement. No two sessions are ever the same and I love hearing how many ideas are springing out of Greenwich – it’s definitely a buzzing borough and that shows in the range of businesses I talk to.
The afternoon brings a presentation I delivered as part of Black History Month on the history of the black entrepreneurs across the African diaspora (past and present) and the impact of their products and services, combined with a workshop on ‘can you turn your passion into a business idea?’ I think it’s so important to acknowledge the benefits of a diverse business community, and how transformational this can be for the entrepreneurs, customers and their local communities
Relationship building with local organisations is also a big part of my job and I finish the day by confirming dates to collaborate with GLLaB (Greenwich Local Labour and Business) which is a council run organisation working with employers to promote job vacancies for local people. The aim of this meeting will be to promote the SiLL programme amongst job seekers interested in starting a business in different areas within Greenwich.
More meetings today with a presentation to the Plumstead Traders Forum about the SiLL programme and the support they could receive and a meeting with the GCDA (Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency) about the support they provide to aspiring food entrepreneurs.
The one-to-one I had scheduled in for today was with a potential businesswoman looking at applying for funding for a project she would like to deliver next year, and sourcing a bid writer so again, we are able to make some definite progress in that area.
As I am the midpoint between the Business & IP Centre at the British Library and the borough I also have regular meetings with the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s business engagement team. Today we have one to discuss collaboration opportunities in 2020 and information about business licenses on behalf of SiLL clients
Greenwich has a really active Start-ups in London Libraries community, which has been born out of people attending the workshops, receiving one to ones etc, and so we run a monthly session with our SiLL clients and other start-ups. It’s a safe space where they can all share updates on achievements, progress made and discuss challenges they are facing which they would like support. This month we also had Gary Parker, Director from CNT Associates deliver a presentation on funding for small businesses and social enterprises.
A big focus for me this month has been preparing for the Greenwich Christmas Start-up Marketplace we are delivering on 4 and 5 December to enable SiLL clients and other local start-ups to promote their business, trade and test out ideas. A lot of the time, these small businesses can use this sort of platform really effectively, to not only sell their products and services but do some market research and evaluate out the appetite out there.
There are smaller jobs I fit in where I can like arranging catering for the ‘Get ready for business workshop’ on December 11 2019 at West Greenwich Library – not the most exciting job but crucially important. We don’t want our workshop attendees going hungry!
Then there‘s time for one more presentation this week, this time to the Black Female Entrepreneur Greenwich organisation on effective time management tips and an overview of the SiLL programme. I love talking about the programme and getting the name out there as much as possible. People are always so surprised that they can get this support completely free.
All 10 of the SME Champions from each of the boroughs have monthly training sessions at the British Library to hear from some of the key organisations like HMRC and big banks which ensure that our knowledge of the business support landscape is up to date and relevant. Things are changing so quickly, and there will be lots to learn particularly after Brexit has happened, so these sessions are always really eye-opening. As well as providing the support, we need to make sure we’re signposting other sources as much as possible as well and acting as a convener.
After a full day of training, I pick up my baby son Joshua from the childminder, which is always a perfect end to the work. I’m looking forward to spending a restful weekend with him before getting going again on Monday.
The Start-ups in London Libraries project is generously supported by the European Regional Development Fund, J.P. Morgan and Arts Council England.
06 December 2019
It’s fair to say that 2019 has been a jam-packed one for the BIPC. We wanted to have a look back at some of the highlights this year has provided for us and so without further ado, we present to you the 12 Days of BIPC and first off, our true love (by which we mean our BIPC community) gave to us….
A brand new series of blogs
In January, we started our Week in the Life Of... blogs, taking a look into the weekly tasks of entrepreneurs, staff and others involved in offering business advisory services. Since then, we've heard…
🏊 how sometimes running your own business means you just have to go to your daughter's swimming gala in a cocktail dress with The Foraging Fox
In the second month, we got…
A brand new BIPC
In February, we celebrated the launch of our Cambridgeshire and Peterborough BIPC, our 11th BIPC in the UK. The new centre is a hub for entrepreneurs, bringing them together to network, attend events and access a wealth of resources like databases, market research and other business info. On the day, Julie Deane OBE, founder of Cambridge Satchel Co and Entrepreneur in Residence at BIPC London, gave a speech and highlighted the importance the Centre would have on local entrepreneurs: “It’s easy to be put off in the early days of setting up your business. You can’t know everything from the start, but you do need a vision and the will to achieve it. I believe this resource will help entrepreneurs on that journey!’
In the third month, our treat was….
Our sold out Start-up Stars
On the topic of 'How I Disrupted My Market', with a panel of trailblazing entrepreneurs including CompliMed, In A Wish & 33Shake, alumni from the Innovating for Growth: Scale up programme, chaired by motivational speaker and coach Rasheed Ogunlaru. Our audience learnt out how the panel of businesses challenged the status quo and shook up their sector.
On the fourth highlight day, our beautiful National Network gave to us….
A brand new BIPC (again!)
Another month, another launch at the Mitchell Library for BIPC Glasgow. The first BIPC in Scotland, the 12th as part of our National Network, and a partnership between the British Library, Glasgow Life, the National Library of Scotland and Santander. Dr John Scally, National Librarian at the National Library of Scotland, said of the launch: “Creativity and innovation among entrepreneurs and start-ups rely on the most up-to-date information and advice available. We have vast business and intellectual property resources in our collections and want businesses throughout Scotland to know that help and expertise is there. We are pleased to partner with the British Library and the Mitchell Library to open this service in Glasgow. By our combined efforts we will help local businesses thrive.”
Our fifth day brings us to…
Our Start-ups in London Libraries launch
For our latest programme, Start-ups in London Libraries which brings start-up support to 10 London high streets, we had an amazing launch event in City Hall at the beginning of May, where the Deputy Mayor of Business, Rajesh Agrawal, announced that he was going to be the Champion of Champions for the project and threw his support behind the plan. He said “This initiative will deliver vital support to our burgeoning small business community while providing a huge boost for the capital’s libraries.”
Fast forward to now and a total of more than 850 businesses have attended Start-ups in London Libraries workshops and seen our borough support teams for help getting their business off the ground. And it’s onwards and upwards from here!
Which leads us nicely onto the sixth day of the BIPC…
Our new Start-ups in London Libraries look and feel
In June, after our Start-ups in London Libraries launch, we released our brand new campaign for the project, featuring some potentially familiar faces – our London success stories (or BIPs). From cats with cake to coffee with a conscious, these brilliant businesses cover the wide range of companies we’re hoping will also come out of the project, and it provided a great opportunity for us to showcase just some of our BIPC community who were already sitting in specific boroughs, including Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, Cyclehoop, Change Please, Sabina Motasem and HR Sports Academy. And as you’ll see, Start-ups in London Libraries wasn’t the only thing getting a makeover this year…
On the seventh day, we’re remembering…
How we cemented our reputation with stats in our economic evaluation report (and celebrated it in Westminster!)
July saw us head to the House of Lords to launch our Democratising Entrepreneurship report, which looked at libraries as engines of economic growth, highlighting that the BIPC had helped create 12,288 new businesses, 7,843 jobs and £78m GVA. Out of those we helped start a new business, 22% were from the most deprived areas, 55% were women and 29% were aged 35 and under. We are committed to continue offering accessible business support across our National Network and in London, to help you plan, start and grow your business.
The eighth day, of the BIPC brings us..
We continued to spruce up the BIPC with our new marketing materials, featuring talented entrepreneurs who received business support at the BIPC and also from our network of national hubs. We’re so delighted to have been able to show off the tangible results of the BIPC business support this year in our new campaign and capture the range of people who have been able to start up or scale up in part through our services. Included in our community and photographed for our marketing materials were: Annie from Campbell Medical Illustrations, Gil from ChattyFeet, Amanda from I Can Make Shoes, Abigail and Chloe from Buttercrumble, Joe from Krio Kanteen, Natalie from Acacia and Marcela from Sacpot. We can’t wait to keep growing our business community up and down the country and look forward to adding more faces to these in 2020.
On the ninth day was when we started to realise that 12 is a lot of highlights to pack into one blog, but luckily, we had plenty of exciting events to see us through the last couple of months of 2019… so for our ninth day…
We got inspired
In September, we were thrilled to host another stellar Inspiring Entrepreneurs event with a wider focus on people who are at the forefront of the UK’s creative industries. With our incomparable moderator, Night Czar, Amy Lamé and a panel consisting of Jamal Edwards, Irene Agbontaen and Rick Lowe, no one could leave the auditorium without feeling inspired and energised.
On the tenth day, we find ourselves at…
Our biggest event of the year
Maybe our biggest day of the year was Start-up Day which took place in October and you can now rewatch on our YouTube channel. There are too many highlights to mention but include panel discussions on starting up on a shoestring and profit with a purpose, a brilliant presentation and candid chat with the charity, Mind, and Julie Deane OBE about looking after your mental health while getting started, and an epic keynote from Steph McGovern, where she discussed embracing your authenticity and finding business potential in recessions and times of economic hardship. It was a truly inspiring day and we can't wait to hear about the progress of the 400 entrepreneurs who stepped through the doors! We'll be back with Start-up Day 2020 before you know it.
On our penultimate day, we received…
The chance to discuss the BIPC in the Anything but Silent podcast
In November, we were featured in the British Library podcast ‘Anything but Silent’, with our Innovating for Growth alumna and Start-ups in London Libraries’ ambassador, Mickela Hall-Ramsay from HR Sports Academy, and were able to discuss and celebrate one of our favourite topics, community in the world of business. It's worth a listen all year round!
Which brings us to, our 12th day…
A touch of luxury
Our final 2019 Inspiring Entrepreneurs, Leaders in Luxe, took place earlier this month, where we saw our panel – Frieda Gormley from House of Hackney, Clare Hornby from Me and Em, Jennifer Chamandi Boghossian from Jennifer Chamandi, Rupert Holloway from Conker Spirit and Darren Sital Singh from The Jackal, moderated by Walpole’s Helen Brocklebank - discuss the future of British luxury, how they built their brand and overcame challenges along the way. You can watch the catch-up discussion on our YouTube channel, link in bio.
And that is it for 2019! What an exciting year and we have particularly loved seeing our support spread to more places and people than ever before.
Stay tuned for even more in 2020…. See you then.
25 November 2019
Warda Farah is a speech and language therapist. Her company, Language Waves, has a particular interest in providing a fully-accessible and culturally diverse speech therapy service. She has recently taken part in the Start-ups in London Libraries programme in Greenwich.
Warda had done the research, confirmed her business idea (speech therapy that was accessible to everyone who needed it and, most importantly, took into account culture and family background) was solid and sought-after and registered her business. The next step was to tie the various ideas she had for Language Waves together to form a future-proof plan and ensure she could achieve her ambitious vision. And so she participated in the Start-ups in London Libraries programme to help her get her business idea off the ground: ‘It helped me to develop my scattered ideas into a coherent business plan. I was able to figure out how I could package my approach, get a better understanding of my target audience and most importantly how I could monetize my idea.'
The Start-ups in London Libraries programme is comprised of workshops which guide participants through the complexities of starting up a business, registering your company, protecting your intellectual property and conducting research. Off the back of these, Warda and her business partner, Joan-Ann were able to trademark their training manual. SiLL participants can also get one-to-ones with their local borough Champions who can offer specific advice. Warda said her one-to-ones with Greenwich Champion, Loretta, were among the most eye-opening experiences on her business journey: ‘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.’
As part of Start-ups in London Libraries, Greenwich have developed a strong business community, with a network that meet once a month to brainstorm and share knowledge. Warda says: ‘I think it’s a really exciting time, 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.'
'A lot of people do not know where to start but the Start-ups in London Libraries programme is very clear, you just need to put the work in. You have to be strategic, specific and focused and not give up. The people that I have met at the Greenwich Network so far all seem very motivated and it’s great to be around this energy. I’m excited to see how everybody’s business does.’
And so are we!
Q&A with Warda:
Can you tell us a bit about how your business started? What inspired you?
I won a Lord Mayor Scholarship and studied Speech and Language therapy at City University. It was during this time that I noticed the lack of diversity in the profession. 95% of speech and language therapists are from white middle-class backgrounds which raises the issue of therapy not being tailored to take culture and background into account. This is a profession that has to represent the diverse population it serves in order to be effective and, from what I could see, this wasn’t happening. I was extremely surprised that there was no discussion of how to make speech and language therapy services accessible and culturally diverse, so I began my research.
It is clear and evident that there is a cultural mismatch between therapists and BAME clients and instead of labelling parents and children as hard to engage we should be reaching out them and being innovative with how we deliver our interventions.
We have three key aims that we are working towards:
- A world where a child’s ethnicity, socioeconomic status and parental background is not a barrier to receiving quality speech and language therapy assessment and intervention.
- We want the wider public to have a better understanding of what a communication difficulty is and the long-term consequences this can have on the child, family and their community.
- We would like the speech and language therapy workforce to represent the diverse population it serves.
You are a young entrepreneur - what have been the benefits of this and what are the challenges?
As a young person, this is probably one of the best times to start a business - there are so many pots of funding and support that is available to young entrepreneurs. You have to be willing to look around, go to events and find out what support is available to you.
In addition to this if you are lucky enough to still live at home and not have any dependents you can focus solely on your business with fewer distractions.
However, the downside to being a young entrepreneur is that I think Millennials like myself are so used to instant gratification that we may be impatient with how long it can actually take to get a business off the ground and making money. This is why realistic expectations are so important and reviewing of your business plans and goals should be a regular occurrence.
In my own personal experience being a young black woman in business has at times been incredibly tough, I feel like I have to really sell and prove myself to show that 1) despite my age I have the experience , 2) despite my gender I can be just as tough as the men if not tougher, 3) despite the fact I may face bias based on my ethnicity I do not let it stop me.
You have to learn how to use people's assumptions and negative stereotypes of you to be your USP.
What advice would you give anyone looking to start up a business?
Start now. I know a lot of people who feel that all of the conditions need to be right before they begin their business but I believe an entrepreneur is a person who sees an opportunity and goes for it. Time waits for no man and there is no such thing as perfection. When we began Language Waves we made lots of errors which helped us fine-tune our processes, better understand our audience and even developed our thinking. We are still making errors but we see them as learning opportunities.
I would also say don’t start a business because your main aim in life is to be a millionaire. There is a long and arduous period when you are working hard e.g. going to meetings, negotiating contracts, networking, creating content and you are not financially compensated, in fact, you can be worse off than when you had a 9-5.
During this period remember that you are setting the foundation and groundwork for your business. Many people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they would’ve achieved in 3 years, this is the long game so be patient and continue to work through the pain.
What would you say to anyone thinking about starting up a business?
Join the SiLL programme - it's what made me feel like I could really start and run a business
What are the key things you have learnt while starting up your business?
A couple of my most valuable lessons have been:
- Your customer and ideal client is key, you need to know the needs, likes, dislikes and habits of this group to ensure you target your product at them.
- Know your value and do not be ashamed to talk about money. Your specialized knowledge is what people will pay for.
- Make decisions quickly and be slow to change them. Joan-Ann and I have the saying “lets sleep on it and discuss in the morning”.
- Quantum leaps exists, do not be scared of them. Sometimes opportunities will arise which you feel you are not ready for, just do it you will surprise yourself.
To find out more about Language Waves visit https://www.languagewaves.com/
For more information on Start-ups in London Libraries, visit bl.uk/SiLL
The Start-ups in London Libraries project is generously supported by the European Regional Development Fund, J.P. Morgan and Arts Council England.
01 October 2019
Start-up Day takes place on 11 October and the libraries involved in our brand new Start-ups in London Libraries programme did not want to miss out on being a part of the BIPC's biggest day of the year. For the first time ever, events will not only be taking place across the country in our BIPCs but also in the SiLL London boroughs - Bexley, Croydon, Greenwich, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest. The London boroughs have drawn on their local resources and localised knowledge to bring specific start-up advice to each of their business communities.
Start up Day of 2019 has now taken place but you can find some of the recorded highlights from the events that proceeded during that years Start up Day from this blog by the Business & IP Centre.
There are activities going on from morning to evening across our partner boroughs. For more details, have a look below and click on any of the links to register our place in your local borough:
Some of our boroughs are taking part in our co-ordinated coffee morning which is a great chance for networking and to meet your local Champion. If you are close to Walthamstow Library, Brixton Library, the Woolwich Centre or Bexley’s Central Library, register your place at these links and pop along for a coffee and a chat.
If you’re looking for advice on digital marketing, stay on at Woolwich Library for a workshop on the topic, which will aim to help you identify the right channels for your business and give you advice on building your digital community through them. This is followed by a workshop on personal branding between 13.30 and 14.30.
From 10.30-13.00, Croydon will be having a mammoth Start-up Roadshow, with local exhibitors, such as Croydon Enterprise Loan Fund and Croydon Business Hub, and organisations like Santander who will be on-hand to offer guidance and advice. It’s also a great opportunity to network so make sure to book your spot if you are near South London and head to Croydon Central Library for that.
Between 11.00-12.00 and 14.00-15.00, Tower Hamlets will be running introductory sessions to the library business resources at Idea Store Whitechapel. These workshops will take you through key information sources accessible in your library that can help enhance your business performance. Attendees can also use their own smartphones to access the Council website and be guided by staff to some of the services that have moved online. To request more information on Tower Hamlets’ Start-up Day offering, please email the local Champion.
If you aren’t able to make it to the British Library for our jam packed afternoon of talks, some of the borough libraries are live streaming the panels and speeches direct to their libraries. You can find these at:
- Croydon Central Library
- Leytonstone Library
- Lewisham Library (drop in – contact SiLL@lewisham.gov.uk for more information)
- Bexley Central Library
If you need help researching your market and protecting your idea, some of the boroughs are focusing on COBRA – the Complete Business Reference Advisor – Southwark is running a whole day training session on the system which you can book for here, while Newham is running a session on the system as well which is bookable here.
Lambeth’s afternoon session will be between 12.00 and 13.45 and will be led by Drew London, a Lambeth-based branding and digital communications agency. The masterclass will be on branding and digital communications so head to Brixton Library if this is an area you are looking to focus on and are looking for tried and tested advice.
Lewisham will be hosting Santander who will give a talk on several topics such as cybersecurity (14.00 – 14.45), funding and finance (15.00 – 15.45) and starting a business on a shoestring (16.00 – 16.45) at Lewisham Library. With time for questions, it is sure to be a comprehensive afternoon with expert advice on starting up.
We are not 9-5 people in the boroughs so we also have some events taking place in the evening. If you are based near Haringey, there will be a talk on how to grow your Business and Client Base using Digital Media with local partners from Visual Marvelry, 4U2 and Frame Perfect
SEO is a term that can be thrown around yet still remain a bit of a mystery, yet it's integral to getting your business' name out there. Newham aim to help debunk it by running an evening talk by SEO expert, Mike Loomey, on making the most of Google for your business.
So whether you decide to hop around different boroughs on the day or choose one and soak up everything that borough has to offer, Start-up Day is sure to have something that will set you on the road to making your idea a reality.
You can find a round up each of the borough’s booking links (where applicable) below:
- Lambeth - Coffee Morning, Digital Marketing Workshop and Drinks Networking Reception
- Newham - Introduction to COBRA and Google SEO session
- Tower Hamlets (drop in sessions only – contact email@example.com for more information)
- Waltham Forest - Coffee morning and Livestreaming
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