THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

64 posts categorized "Success stories"

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.

Kate and Rachel 2

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.

The Fold Line new website - pattern page

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!

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. Merilee will be one of the speakers at Day of Disruption on Monday 11 February.

Merilee Karr Pic

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. 

23 January 2019

A week in the life of... Dr Jan Kattein, founding director of Jan Kattein Architects

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Dr Jan Kattein is founding director of Jan Kattein Architects, a design studio that advocates socially engaged working methods. The practice embraces design as an opportunity for dialogue and exchange. Their work strives to make a civic contribution, using design as a means to support economic, cultural, educational and social prosperity. Jan took part in the British Library's Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme in 2018 and is now working with Global Generation to design a community garden to support the Library's outreach programme.

Monday... I was hoping for a slow start in January, but there are already a raft of emails in the inbox, annual staff reviews need to be scheduled, a tender is due later this week, a new member of staff is joining the team and a number of new projects are starting.

The week starts with a meeting with Westminster Council's regeneration team. Westminster have firmly committed to consultation and dialogue with their communities around regeneration projects and have set up a series of local regeneration bases in several areas of the borough. Regeneration has attained a somewhat tainted reputation in recent years because it is often associated with displacement of communities and gentrification of neighbourhoods. Whilst I understand the root of these concerns, I can also see the very tangible benefits that an inclusive approach to regeneration can bring for local people. When embracing the Mayor's principles of 'Good Growth', regeneration is principally about creating opportunities for all sections of society. And this is mainly what our work is about at Jan Kattein Architects. Working together with local authorities, the private sector and the third sector, we can unlock educational, economic or cultural potential in projects and find a way of using the design process as a means to bringing greater community coherence. I often think that as a profession we need to become much better at accepting accountability for our work. In the knowledge that an inclusive city is a more prosperous city, the smart players in the private sector are doing that already and local authorities are increasingly taking the view that an integrated and transparent way of working brings real tangible benefits. Architects have traditionally had the role of synthesizing a range of different parameters that allow the built environment to function and are well placed to act as mediators between the various interests that inevitably collide when working in urban regeneration.

Morden High Street Regeneration
Morden High Street regeneration

Back at the office, I need to put the finishing touches to a tender submission. Tower Hamlets Council have invited us to submit a bid for a small high street regeneration project in Roman Road. High streets are such an important part of civic life and London would not be London without its 600 high streets, the jobs they provide, the contribution they make to public life and the cultural diversity they bring. I have now been involved in delivering some 30 or so high street regeneration projects in London. In high street regeneration our engaged way of working finds particular bearing. The aim of our work is never just about physical change, it's about shifting people's perception of their environment, about sewing a seed for a mindset change and instil confidence in a struggling but vital sector of our economy. There are challenging years ahead for the high street and if we really want to protect this important civic asset, we have to come up with some inventive new uses that service communities and the experience economy. We also need to carefully consider our spending habits and the tax regime that currently creates an uneven playing field which is heavily skewed to benefit multi-nationals.

Tuesday Today starts with a talk at the Cass School of Art and Design. I still lecture and teach at intervals. I am pleased to give a share of my time to a new generation of designers and thinkers making their way through university, but am also aware of the contribution that this interaction makes to rehearsing and disseminating our message. I have found that the communication of our work relies on a thoughtful and nuanced message which is best brought in person, with patience and the opportunity for critical discussion.

Church Street Regeneration
Church Street regeneration public consultation

In the afternoon an internal resourcing meeting. We introduced these weekly meetings to better manage workloads and to predict capacity. The challenge with our work is that things are rarely predictable. What we do is subject to public scrutiny, brief changes, political whim and an evolving social or economic context. Whilst these are challenges that are tricky to manage when running a business, it makes our work profoundly human too and that's why I am happy to tolerate uncertainty and why everyone at Jan Kattein Architects needs to become a master at improvisation.

Wednesday Staff reviews today. Our office is open plan and designed to encourage social interaction. The arrangement of our workspace is a direct representation of the horizontal management structure that we are striving to achieve. A supportive environment where people talk to each other and lend a hand or provide advice informally is critical to everyone giving their best. The downside of our office space is that there is very little privacy; so that a private conversation has to take place at the local pizzeria. This year, that's exactly where we are doing staff reviews, over lunch. It's been beneficial so far, getting out and away from the desk has brought about some friendly but frank conversations. We clearly have to review how we support our team. I suppose the crux with horizontal management is that the level of responsibility taken on by staff needs to be matched by just as much support, empathy and engagement. I always thought we were doing quite well in this field, but I suppose one can always do better.

Jan Kattein Architects office
Jan Kattein Architects office in Islington

Thursday Good news this morning. Camden Council have emailed the planning permission letter for our designs of the Story Garden, a new temporary community garden for Somers Town residents behind the British Library. The project was conceived in a partnership between educational charity Global Generation, the British Library, Stanhope and Central St. Martin's College (CSM) to create an ecological outdoor education space on a disused site just north of the Library. Enabled by the Library and Stanhope and through Camden Giving and the Mayor's Greenspace Fund, the garden will host workshops and events, provide growing space for local people and a maker space for CSM students until the end of 2020. A community-built straw bale roundhouse will provide a field classroom, a public kitchen, a sheltered outdoor dining space and small office are the communal hub of the garden. CSM are bringing a digital workshop onto site and a commercial greenhouse will provide all-season growing space for food and to propagate shrub and tree seedlings ultimately to be planted in estates, parks and squares throughout Somers Town. The space will also be used by the British Library to work on community learning, business and engagement projects.

Story Garden
Story Garden at the British Library

Friday Spanish Architecture Magazine A+T have published a six page spread about our Skip Garden project in King's Cross. It's a real joy to read how others perceive one's work.

In the afternoon meeting at Lendlease's office in Elephant & Castle to present the designs for a temporary place making installation that will form part of a large-scale regeneration project. Interesting discussions about what makes a good street and a good public space, how to foster cultural activity in a new neighbourhood and how to respond flexibly to people's changing needs in the urban environment.

Blue House Yard
Blue House Yard meanwhile village in Wood Green, London

I really enjoy working on meanwhile projects because they are a great platform for design innovation and because they provide an opportunity to engage with communities and start a dialogue about the sort of place where we all want to live without quite committing to a permanent and finite solution. After all, some of the world's famous landmarks like Gustave Eiffel's tower in Paris and the London Eye started their life as temporary projects - and I wonder whether they'd ever have received planning permission in the first place if they had been conceived as permanent structures from the outset. Temporary projects have made a really valuable contribution to the way we think about architecture and urbanism during the last decade.

Back in the office, an internal review of our exhibition design for the forthcoming Spare Parts exhibition at the Science Gallery at King's College. We have made the decision to manufacture the exhibition components ourselves. Just like most other architects, we work with contractors, specialist fabricators and makers to realise our designs. But ever so often, we build ourselves, sometimes as a team at Jan Kattein Architects, sometimes together with communities, apprentices or craftsmen. Building together engages the team, teaches new skills and provides room for experimentation and innovation - and as architects it makes us better at instructing others to build. If you are free, come to the Spare Parts exhibition opening on Thursday 28 February 2019!

I enjoy the heterogeneity of my work, the fact that what I do makes a difference to people's lives and the day to day interactions with my team, but now I am happy that it's Friday.

01 November 2018

Working in business as a couple: Bad idea or bliss?

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We met Franck when he took part in the Innovating for Growth: Scale-up programme in 2012, with his partner Brijesh. Since then, their London-based photo and video studio, Kalory, has gone from strength to strength since launching in 2011 and in 2017, they launched a second venture, Heating & Plumbing, lifestyle accessories with a tongue in cheek attitude. We caught up with Franck to get his take on working together as a couple and how it affects their home and business lives...

Working and living together definitely has its advantages, but it also brings a lot of new challenges on both aspects of life: personal and professional. Our personal relationship was already very established, as we had met over 10 years before whilst working in New York. We both had corporate jobs for years but were always tempted by the freedom that entrepreneurship gives. Brij was the first one to take the plunge and he went freelance in 2005. Not to have a boss and the politics of a corporate life makes you start the month with an invaluable amount of happiness. We never really questioned the idea of starting a business, nor working together, it came really naturally. We didn’t even have a discussion about it. It just built up progressively before we took the jump. On both sides our parents have worked together for over 40 years, so we never really questioned ourselves on how feasible this was. Sometimes you just end up replicating, in part at least, your family model.

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Brijesh and Franck © Kalory Photo & Video

The fact that we never clearly discussed it or put any types of guidelines in place, doesn't make it always easy. Business life obviously takes over our personal life and manages to penetrate every aspects of it. You don't even notice it sometimes; you could be having the perfect G&T moment in the middle of Devon on a beautiful sunny bank holiday weekend and the conversation slips to the business. The right balance is to accept the fact that your personal and professional lives have merged, but to make sure it doesn’t become only about the business. It becomes a way of living and doing things. One of the big pluses, is that you also never have that Sunday night feeling anymore, thinking of going to the office on Monday is no
longer spoiling your Sunday evening. It is kind of a continuity.

One of the challenges we meet, is having holidays at the same time. Our businesses are small and when we leave it is the whole management that’s off and that has an obvious impact on the business. The plus side is that we have the same rhythm. If we both were working in a different field, it might be a struggle as our peak period would be most likely at different periods
in the year.

One of the keys to success of working together is having different skills. For us, the separation of task and decision making has been very natural. One of us is the technical and creative side of the business, whilst the other one handles the business and make sure projects stay in line with the brands' guidelines and the clients’ briefs.

We also have very different characters which helps, but this is also our main source of conflicts. Our level of optimism is very different for example. That can be a real boost for the most pessimistic one. But, seen from another angle, pessimism and the doubts and stress it can bring, can also very annoying for someone who is naturally relaxed and positive.

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© Kalory Photo & Video

Money is also something that you need to be comfortable with and being partners in life and business is probably not advised for young couples. The fact is that you have to be fully comfortable with the idea that: what is mine is yours and what is yours is mine. A working relationship like a personal one has to evolve too. People change, and the business does too.

Working together has been easier or more difficult depending on the stage of development of the business. When we set up the business, the overheads were very low as we were working from home. We had really good clients right away through our personal connections. We had no commute and a level of work was very manageable. We always had time for a nice home-cooked lunch, would go and swim at 3pm at our local gym, and make money in a very relaxed way. Growing the business meant committing to a monthly rent (and commute), as well as employees’ salaries, being on time at the office (at least for one of us!). This means having enough business every month to cover the cost to break-even, and of course to make a living. This definitely increases the level of stress. We get often told: 'I don’t know how you do it, I would never be able to work with my partner', the answer is probably that if it feels natural, it is meant to be. If you are starting to ask yourselves questions and you are finding a list of reasons why it wouldn’t work, this is probably not a good idea for your relationship.

You also have to be very entrepreneurial at heart. The business is going to become an entire part of your life, so you have to enjoy it. We always have different projects. We started our second business only very recently, but already have an idea for the next one. This has time to change, as the main goal for now is to grow the existing ones, but it is fun to be always thinking of the next venture.

Franck Jehanne, director & co-founder of Kalory Photo & Video, Corporate Portrait and Heating & Plumbing

If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of Franck and believe your business has what it takes, is based in London and has a turnover of £100,000 or more, why not apply for Innovating for Growth: Scale-up and take your business to the next level?

10 October 2018

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Black Britain and the Creative Industries book recommendations

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As part of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs series, we hosted a panel of leading lights in the creative industries with stories of what can be achieved with the right attitude and determination to celebrate the success and cultural impact of Black British entrepreneurs in the creative sector. The panel included MOBO CEO and founder Kanya King CBE, Femi Oguns MBE, actor and founder of Identity School of Acting and Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené, co-authors of Slay in your Lane.

As part of the Q&A the panel were asked which books had inspired them. You asked us to compile them; and your wish is our command: 

Elizabeth:
#Girlboss, by Sophia Amoruso

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg
“Without Lean In, we wouldn’t be here… that book was such an inspiration”

Yomi:
Black Feminist Thought, by Patricia Hill Collins
“A book which helped me grow a lot and I’d recommend anyone, from any background read. If it wasn’t for me having read that book, I wouldn’t have understood my position in this society as a black woman”

Rasheed:
The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman
“A magical book about life, trust, flow and mastery in being yourself”

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber

Business as Unusual - the Journey of Anita Roddick and the Body Shop, Anita Roddick

Femi:
Book of Ecclesiastes

Kanya King:
What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School, by Mark McCormack

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE, by Phil Knight

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert Kiyosaki
“I had all these ideas of what I wanted to do to generate an income… my mother told me whenever I wanted to do something, she’d say ‘no’ as she was very risk adverse. But you do need to take calculated risks… how you think about money, good debt and bad debt.

 

Of course, we can't miss out Slay in your Lane, written by Elizabeth and Yomi (currently available to purchase in our bookshop) and, as revealed at our event, one to look out for in the future, Kanya King's first book, we can't wait!

Slay in your Lane

To watch the speakers from the evening, visit our YouTube channel and to see other upcoming events, visit our website.

28 September 2018

Top tips from Start-up Day 2018

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Activities in 17 libraries around the UK. 101 business events delivered. More than 1,000 attendees across all locations. Webcast around the world. Start-up Day, in collaboration with Santander, once again proved to be a huge success. 

With a full day’s worth of events, there’s a lot of information and words of wisdom to take in from each speaker. Need a recap of what was said? Missed a crucial top tip? Want to relive it again? Or if you missed it, we’ve compiled all the videos of the speakers in this post, along with a key take away tip from each...



Top tip from Mintel senior consumer lifestyles analyst, Jack Duckett: Consumer confidence is on a growth trajectory, meaning there are opportunities for brands to grow.



Top tip from Google Digital Garage's Chami Coomasaru: Set yourself goals, think how you want your brand to be perceived and choose the platforms which are appropriate for your business.

Top tip from author and motivational speaker, Anis Qizilbash: Steep in your purpose... your success does not mean another person's loss. The more you make, the bigger impact you create.



Top tip from public speaking coach, Elaine Powell: [Your pitch] is never going to be perfect. Always ask for feedback and take your performance to the next level, and the next level, and the next level. Never give up, it's a journey, not an end destination.

Top tip from author, motivational speaker and business coach, Rasheed Ogunlaru: [Networking] online is the window to your world, meeting people in person is the door.



Top tip from former CEO of Tangle Teezer, Matt Lumb: Don’t try and do the 80 hours a week thing. You will burn out. Try and get that balance as you scale.



Top tips from:

Precious Jason, founder of Etieno Skincare: Being in business you have superhero days and you have days which are not so great… Be kind to yourself. 

Rebecca Slater, founder of Shine Creative Solutions: Believe in the idea you’ve got and to try and plan out the three most important things you need to get right.

Amy Fleuriot co-founder of Hiro + Wolf and Artisans and Adventurers: Don’t expect it to happen overnight. If you’re having to work alongside it, that’s ok… Just keep at it.

 

Start-up Day 2018 was in collaboration with Santander. To see our events throughout the year, click here.

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19 September 2018

Start-up Day: Meet the Speakers

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With Start-up Day fast approaching, here's an introduction to a few of the speakers who will be giving their expert advice on the day.

How to understand the UK market right now
Jack Duckett
@mintelnews

Jduckett@mintel Headshot (B&W)

I am the senior consumer lifestyles analyst at the market intelligence agency Mintel, and I am very much looking forward to sharing my presentation with you.

My presentation has two goals; the first is to help you to get a better sense of the breadth of Mintel research that you have access to at the British Library and the network of libraries around the country. The second is really to give you a sense of the important role that we believe market research plays for businesses today.

For start-up business owners, it can be taken as a given that you know your product and customers extremely well. But, when it comes to your Dragons’ Den moment, whether that be with your bank manager, an investor or a retail buyer, market research can provide the information you need to support your brand and help it to stand on its own. The second core benefit to market research is in helping you to know where to go next with your business, enabling you to see what is changing in your category and helping you to be prepared for the future.

How To Build an Authentic Business Network
Rasheed Ogunlaru
@RasheedOgunlaru

Rasheed Image 1

“Networking, love it or hate it, building a genuine network, is vital in starting and growing business.” says Rasheed. “This session will help session will help you network strategically, effectively, authentically and nerve free.”

Rasheed’s top three quotes and tips on networking and building an authentic business:

  1. Always have something shrewd to say and valuable to bring to the table
  2. Your online, website and social media presence are the window to your world - meeting people in person is the door
  3. What people feel and say about you when you leave the room is your job while you’re in the room.


How to be an entrepreneur
Matt Lumb
@mattlumb1

ML headshot

During Matt’s seven years at Tangle Teezer he transformed the brand from being a “Dragon’s Den reject” to one of the fastest growing companies in the UK and a household name. Matt talks openly about the challenges he and his team faced whilst trying to manage exponential growth overseas growth, UK manufacturing capacity, the importance of IP as well as copycat and counterfeit issues and the grey market. The Tangle Teezer story is a fascinating one as he took it from a start-up to having a valuation of £200M inside five years.


Start-up Stars: How I turned my business idea into a reality

Amy Fleuriot
@hiroandwolf
@artisansandadventurers

Amy Fleuriot

Starting your own business can be an equally exciting and daunting time. I founded Hiro + Wolf five years ago with my wonderful business partner, Bee Friedmann and we have learnt so much on our journey. What started as an accessories brand for people and their pets has grown into two distinct businesses as we launched Artisans & Adventurers two years ago with the help of the British Library. My expertise include design, branding, marketing, ethical sourcing and everything that goes into the day to day running of two shops, an online store and wholesale business. I am looking forward to hearing what challenges new businesses are facing and hope I can offer some advice on the start-up stage.

For more information on Start-up Day, to see which libraries are involved around the country and to sign up to the webcast, visit our website.

07 August 2018

If the Shoe Fits… Finding your Business Niche

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Finding your niche in any market can be tough; who is your customer? What do they want? What are your competition doing? Amanda Overs, graduate of the Business & IP Centre’s Innovating for Growth: Scale-up programme and founder of I Can Make Shoes, set up a shoemaking school after being unable to find a course to make shoes, without the need for heavy machinery.

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I Can Make Shoes workshop

“I was sick of being told ‘you can’t do it like that’” (by traditional shoemakers). With the demand for slow fashion and a resurgence of sewing and crafting, Amanda decided to put a positive spin on the negative backlash and eight years later has gone from running classes in her living room by herself to employing five part-time members of staff and running workshops almost every day of the year in both London and New York.

Research was crucial in finding out exactly who I Can Make Shoes’ customers were. Amanda says, “There has been a lot of trial and error over the years, but what I have found is the fastest, most efficient way of doing research is to actually ask your customer what they think. I regularly do surveys when I have a new idea to see what my audience think of it and recently started a Facebook community so that I can see for myself what it is that my students and customers really want and need.”

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I Can Make Shoes now run workshops in both London and New York

Amanda is always looking at ways to improve I Can Make Shoes’ offering and the business is always changing and improving. Something Amanda says is “key to staying ahead of the competition”. Not only do they run workshops for members of the public, they also have online shoemaking instructions, sell components, and train designers from major high street brands such as ASOS, River Island and Adidas.

The Innovating for Growth programme has helped Amanda take I Can Make Shoes to the next level, “It’s helped me to step back and reassess the business as a whole and identify the key areas of potential growth. I started in a bit of a whirlwind and have been treading water ever since, so to have fresh (very experienced) eyes and non-biased opinions on my plans for the future has been absolutely priceless”.

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"Fail fast, learn faster and move on to the next thing.”

What tips does Amanda have for finding your niche? “Trust your gut. Don't over think every detail. Fail fast, learn faster and move on to the next thing.” Amanda lives by her rules, due to popular demand she will be offering a new sneaker course launching soon...

Apply now for over £10,000 worth of business advice!

If you are already running a business and are looking to take it to the next level like Amanda, our three-month Innovating for Growth programme can help turn your growth idea into a reality. Applications are now open, so find out more here and apply now!

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This programme is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the British Library.

24 July 2018

Meet Martha Silcott, breaking taboos, one period at a time

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Each year 1.4 billion tampons are flushed, ending up in the sewer system, causing flooding and pollution. Water companies spend 88 million pounds per year getting all the un-flushable items out of the sewers. What can be done to solve this problem? Martha Silcott is on a mission to find a sanitary solution for this sanitary problem with her corn starch, biodegradable fab little bags...

Tell us a little more about FabLittleBag?

FabLittleBags are biodegradable opaque, sealable sanitary disposal bags that prevent aquatic pollution and actually make disposal feel good!

What inspired the creation of the product? Did you have a ‘Eureka’ moment that convinced you that this was a good idea?

Sitting on the toilet thinking “there must be a better way of doing this” as I performed the LooRoll Wrap with reams of toilet roll for the umpteenth time… Recalling the times when round at friends houses and there was no bin in the downstairs loo so I resorted to doing the Handbag Smuggle. I got cross that there was not a better solution out there, I researched it expecting to find one, I didn’t so I decided to invent one myself. I did loads of research in the British Library, researching the market, the companies involved, the blockages caused by flushing etc. My Eureka moment was when I finally figured out the design of FabLittleBag; its unique one-handed opening and that it had to seal – I ran around the house gathering bits of sandwich bags, sellotape, staplers etc. and made a Blue Peter version.

FabLittleBag_Martha_Silcott
Martha Silcott, founder of FabLittleBag

What steps did you take to protect the IP in your design?

I learned a lot about IP form the British Library sessions and their intro to an organisation called Ideas 21 – so I had a free session with an IP lawyer to establish if it was a starter or not – and it went from there, applying for my patent in 2006.

Did you use the resources and training available through the Business & IP Centre to research and launch the business? 

Yes, general market research; access to huge data resources at no cost, if you were to buy the info yourself each one costs thousands of pounds! IP information, a basic course on social media later on, all very useful along the journey.

Tell us more about how are you working with the British Library to bring FabLittleBag to more users?

We are currently trialling FabLittleBag in two toilet blocks, these are ones which have a very high level of blockages causing cost to the Library and inconvenience to users. The Library has a lot of through traffic and we know that approx. 60% of UK women flush their tampons and with other habits and cultures passing through blockages are a real challenge for the Library loos! So our gorgeous new dispensers are installed in these blocks and we have already had direct email contact from a few users telling us how fab they think FabLittleBag is! We are offering all British Library users who email us a free sample pack of FabLittleBags to try, so don’t be shy!

FabLittleBag_product2
The best disposal solution. Period

What is the vision for the future of the company? Where will FabLittleBag be five and 10 years from now?

We have BIG plans! We already have customers from lots of countries all over the world but we want to ensure that any Binner that dislikes doing the Loo Roll Wrap and wants to feel more in control and calm at point of disposal have FabLittleBags in their life and that we convert as many Flushers out there as possible into Binners – frankly whether they use FabLittleBags or not, we just want to stop the flushing of non-flushables and so prevent blockages and aquatic pollution at source.

One of our Missions is to #screwthetaboo and break down the ridiculous taboo that still exists around periods in 2017! Involving men and boys is important in this journey as they are involved even if it is not them having periods! Replacing feelings of awkwardness and anxiety around disposal of sanitary products is a core mission of ours, helping women to feel more relaxed and calm as they know that even if there is only two bits of loo roll there, or there is no bin, because they have FabLittleBag, they will be able to disposal of the product easily and without stress. We also want to support our chosen key charity (WellBeing of Women) and to expand our charitable impact as we grow, also helping to support smaller local charities and some abroad where the issues of menstruation has huge negative impacts of girls and women’s lives.

So five years' time to be a normal ‘must have’ in the handbags and bathrooms up and down the UK, Europe, USA, etc. and other countries where disposables are still the most common form of managing ones period (therefore disposal solutions are especially needed). 10 years time to be so successful that our charitable foundation Fab Friends, is making a huge positive impact on menstrual health and practical management for millions of women across the globe.

FabLittleBags will continue to be trialed at the British Library to help prevent the negative impacts of flushing sanitary products.

05 July 2017

How Intellectual Property helped Julie Deane start a £10 million business from her kitchen table

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So many small businesses lack IP awareness and understanding, but IP is something of an unsung hero and can prove critical in making or breaking a business.

The Business & IP Centre team are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and SMEs understand what IP is and why it’s important, what IP they might have created and how they might increase their business success and profitability by protecting and exploiting that IP in the future. Over the years the team have supported thousands of small businesses unlock the value of their IP, and much of the support we provide in the Centre uses case studies and real-life stories to demonstrate how having a handle on your IP gives you a huge commercial advantage.

One such example is Julie Deane OBE, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company, who has taken her business from the kitchen table and a £600 start-up budget to a global success story with a turnover of £10 million. Along the way Julie has overcome numerous business challenges including managing designers, manufacturers and overseas distributors, establishing web and physical retail sites around the globe and dealing with thousands of imitator brands. Here, in a free 30 minute podcast with the Intellectual Property Office, Julie lays the truth bare on how she’s developed strategies to tackle copycat websites, build the brand, keep putting the quality of the product at the heart of the business and “hang on to the passion that made you start the business in the first place.”

 

Podcast IPO

 Here are our 3 ‘top tips’ for what you need to know when it comes to your Intellectual Property:

  1. Think about trade marks - Is your business name protectable in the countries that you wish to trade? Is it already being used or does the word have another meaning in a different country. Future investors will want to know that you have the rights to trade in the countries that they wish to trade in, and you need to consider this right from the start to give your business the best chance of success.
  2. If you’re creating a ‘thing’ - Do your research before filing for a patent; is there a market for your product? It is expensive and takes a long time to protect your idea so make sure you do your market research and can be confident that somebody will buy it at the end of the day. If you have paid for your product to be patented and want somebody to manufacture it for you, you also need to ensure you have agreements in place limiting their rights to your initial idea or design.
  3. Founder’s agreement - It is easy to set out a document with your business partner right at the start when setting up your business agreeing things like % of ownership and what should happen in the case of a dispute, or if one of you wish to sell then business and the other one doesn’t. Once a dispute has started it is much harder and messier so you need to make sure all parties are clear on this from day one.

You can find further help, support and information on IP in any of the eleven Business & IP Centres up and down the country, including the British Library in King’s Cross. Speak to any one of our specialist staff face-to-face, over the phone or by email. You can also log on to our free of charge online workshops to grow your knowledge about IP, and increase your chances of business success.

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Julie Deane in the Business & IP Centre

Julie Deane is Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Library and a huge champion for ambitious business owners. She recently gave advice and practical tips on Intellectual Property at the Library’s Scale-up Summit alongside Will Butler-Adams, CEO of Brompton Bicycles. Cambridge Satchel and Brompton recently launched a range of colour-matching bags and bikes where the satchel fitted perfectly to the handlebars. This ‘made-in-heaven’ brand match caught the attention of the press and delivered extremely high sales. Will and Julie's opening keynote presentation on ‘Getting your business in the media’ was a great success too.

 

Brompton
The Cambridge Satchel Company / Brompton Bikes collaboration