Inspired by... blog

13 posts categorized "Entrepreneur"

06 November 2014

Cultures of the dark side: Meet our Gothic stall-holders

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On Sunday 9 November 2014, as part of the Library’s Cultures of the Dark Side: A day of Gothic music and fashion, we’ll be running a pop-up market in the British Library Entrance Hall. Come and meet our stall-holders:

Conjurer's Kitchen logo

Annabel de Vetten, Conjurer’s Kitchen
Annabel de Vetten is the creative brains behind Conjurer's Kitchen. Formerly trained as a sculptor, and having made a full-time living as a successful fine art painter, Annabel is taking the cake world by storm, presenting cake and other food art that's well outside the fare you'd find in your local bakery. Drawing inspiration from the things she loves - horror movies, alternative art, and whatever strikes her fancy, Annabel's creations have been featured TV and in the national press.

Benjamin Phillips DevilsBenjamin Phillips
Benjamin Phillips is a London-based artist and illustrator. His work can be both charming and amusing whilst at other times more sinister and melancholy. Offering a glimpse into strange and abstract narratives his creative works are heavily laced with humour. His art has been exhibited in galleries and print publications across the world, but has also been applied to book covers, album sleeves and other merchandise. 


Face Lace

Face Lace is a British brand specialising in ready to wear Makeup designs. It launched in 2012 and was founded by Phyllis Cohen. She is a make-up artist who is famous for her intricate designs and bold fashion. The designs won’t fade or smudge and can be re-used. All of the designs are made in the studio, by hand, in small high quality runs. Face Lace now has retailers in 16 countries. Phyllis has also used the British Library’s collections and her products are being stocked in our Shop. 


Helen Norman
Kitsch from the Krypt focuses on Helen's main interests; kitschy colours and gaudy jewels with images and icons of horror, macabre and cult favourites. When she creates her jewellery and accessories her tongue is firmly in her cheek.

Jack Penny image

Jack Penny
Jack Penny is an illustrative artist whose work takes inspiration from the unseen characteristics of people. Jack is drawn to human imperfection - the obscure and secret - the parts we try to hide. He takes these individualities and highlights them in bold, loud colours and abstractions, creating uneasy, often gothic work.



Jazmine Miles-Long

Jazmine Miles-Long is an ethical taxidermist working only with animals that have died from natural causes or as road casualties. Jazmine produces modern, naturalistic taxidermy on commission for artists, museums, conservation studios, collectors and photographers among others. She is also on the committee of The Guild of Taxidermists and is the Editor of their annual journal.


Phoebe Richardson
Phoebe Richardson is a London-based graphic designer. Her range of Bone China has received press in a number of publications including The Book of Skulls (Lawrence King) and magazines including GQ, Stylist, Time Out, Living Etc and Sunday Times Style. Other work includes music packaging for the Pixies and David Lynch with artistic direction from Vaughan Oliver. Phoebe is currently redesigning the website for luxury fashion retailer Jaeger, whilst continuing to sell anatomical china to people who love bones. She has also used the British Library collections for inspiration.


Sarah Healey
Sarah Healey's unique skulptural skulls reflect a fascination for the macabre with twists of eccentricity. Using real bird skulls she creates exclusive one off pieces using an eclectic mix of materials and themes. The symbolic contrast between beauty and decay. These captivating sculptures can be worn as brooches, hatpins, hairpieces and pendants.

You can find out more about the day on the British Library website (look out for our Gothic fashion event at 1.45pm.

02 September 2014

5 ways Etsy has changed the small business landscape

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This week I went to the RSA to find out more about Benedict Dellot’s research document about how Etsy and online craft marketplaces are changing the nature of business.

In case you don’t know, Etsy is an online marketplace for handmade goods and vintage items. Its strength is that it gives designers a cheap, quick and respectable store front for their goods, and shares them with a global audience. To give you an idea, in 2013, Etsy sellers sold nearly 1.35 billion dollars of goods and it has 36 million members in total. We’ve been in talks with the Etsy team recently about how we can work together.

So what came out of the report?  Here are the top five findings that grabbed my attention. 

1. Women are leading the way
I knew it would be high, but a whopping 90% of Etsy sellers are female. While the average self-employed person is male, middle-aged and relatively asset-rich, the typical person selling on Etsy is female, young and without significant amounts of capital to their name.

2. Low risk and low start-up costs
Starting an Etsy shop requires little financial outlay. 47% of sellers said they were able to rely on their own savings to get the business off the ground and 40% required no funding whatsoever.

3. Part-time business: the new 5-9ers
The Etsy model is very flexible; you can run your own Etsy shop and work in full-time employment (hence the new 5-9ers), or be a stay-at-home mum. Half of Etsy shop owners spend less than 10 hours a week on their Shop and more than a fifth have a full-time day job in addition to their Etsy venture. 

4. Boosting your household income
For the majority of sellers who work part-time on Etsy, their shops make a modest but meaningful contribution to their earnings. More than half have shops that add upwards of 5% to family income, which equates to £1,150 a year for the typical household.

5. It’s as much about the creative process and camaraderie as the cash
Etsy shop owners derive equal (if not greater) satisfaction from the very act of selling. A number of participants spoke of a feeling of ‘validation’ whenever they sold an item and how their shops gave them a sense of purpose that was absent in their day job.

Obviously to a large extent the shop sellers are competing with each other. However, what surprised me was that 47% said that they recommend the products of other sellers to their buyers, while 37% said they will source materials and supplies from other shops on the site. 37% say that emotional support from other sellers is important to them.

You can find out more about selling with Etsy through their Seller Handbook and Etsy School. You can also apply for opportunities to showcase your work, like their art exhibition for London Art Month. Etsy is offering British Library users an introductory offer of 20 free listings for all new Etsy shops. Enter the code: BRITISHLIBRARYFREEat


13 February 2014

Craft Central's FASHIONED exhibition for London Fashion Week

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It's always a pleasure visiting Craft Central. The staff are friendly and there's a great buzz of creativity - designers and makers are definitely flourishing at this Clerkenwell spot.

Craft Central's latest exhibition FASHIONED - features fashion, jewellery and accessories made in the UK. Here are my highlights including inspiring British Library collections. 

If you're  thinking about starting a creative business or if you're already established, the Library has loads of resources to both inspire your next designs and help your business grow. Visit our Business & IP Centre for more information and follow me on Twitter @BL_Creative for updates.

Grace Hamilton

Grace's inspirations are derived from looking at the boundaries of beauty and disgust. Creating three dimensional objects, conceptual and wearable jewellery.  

Grace Hamilton

Grace Hamilton - Kefal necklace 


Southern water snake, hand-coloured copperplate engraving from George Shaw and Frederick Nodder's The Naturalist's Miscellany, 1796 


Great boa, hand-coloured copperplate engraving from George Shaw and Frederick Nodder's The Naturalist's Miscellany, 1796

Hetty Rose

Hetty set up the company in 2007 and was selected to exhibit at London Fashion Week in her first season. You can learn how to make your own pair of kicks at her shoemaking workshops


These were the shoes Hetty had on at the launch. So pretty. 


Hetty Rose Kimono Collection 4 - Left - Bella, right - Rosa


British Library Olga Hirsch collection of decorated papers, Japanese blockprint,  J.3409b via ImagesOnline


British Library Olga Hirsch collection of decorated papers,  Japanese blockprint,  J.3409c via  ImagesOnline

Bridget Harvey

Bridget designs and makes adornments for body and space. Specialising in mixed media and exploring material possibilities, she makes wearable sculptures using mostly hand made multiples. Her work investigates ideas about time and play in design, making and mending.



Bridget Harvey - The Geometrics Volume 1


From the British Library's Flickr Commons, Atlas historique et etnographique du Royaume de Serbie ..., 1885

Yelena Loguiiko

Yelena’s collection draws inspiration from history, art, the cultural heritage of European nations and contemporary influences.

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Yelena Loguiiko SS13 collection


Gazette du Bon Ton, George Barbier, 1921 via ImagesOnline 

For those of you interested in fashion, I'm hosting Puttin on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age as part of our Spring Festival celebration of fashion, film and design. Click here for more info. 

26 September 2013

Designing a recipe book - Interview with Mellissa Morgan of Ms Cupcake

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Mellissa Morgan founded London's first vegan bakery Ms Cupcake in 2011.  She reveals her scrumptious recipes in her book Ms Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town.  In this interview she shares her experience designing the book and how her grandmother inspired her business and personal style. 

You can meet Mellissa and learn about how her book helped raise her business profile at our free speed mentoring event Think it, write it and get it published! 


What kind of feedback are you getting about "Ms Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town"?

The responses have been really incredible.  Everyone seems to be finding the book straight-forward and really easy to use.  Also, the feedback on the look and design of the book has been great.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing peoples’ pictures that they are taking of the creations they are making from the book. They look just like our treats!  I’m so glad that our recipes are translating well into everyone else’s kitchens. 

How involved were you in the design of the book?

I was very involved in the look of the book.  We had a number of different publishers interested in publishing our first book, but Square Peg (Random House) really ‘got me’ and was willing to help me see my vision for the book through.

I insisted on a full colour picture with each recipe (a deal-breaker in my opinion when we’re talking about a cook book) and they allowed me to work very closely with the designer and photographers for the book.

The majority of props and accessories in the pictures are my own personal possessions and the people filling the pictures of the book are all my wonderful staff members.  The book is very much ‘us’ at the bakery.

You've got a delightful 1960s-70s style in the shop, the book, on the website and your own fashion. It all reminds me of Bewitched! What inspires you? 

It’s actually quite funny, my flat looks pretty much like the shop!  Same colour scheme, same retro touches and decoration!  The shop, the book, and the feel of the business is very much tied into who I am and the things I like.  I figure, if you are going to create a business, you might as well create one that inspires and excites you aesthetically as well as intellectually.

My grandmother is very much the inspiration behind my ‘look’ and the Ms. Cupcake character.  She was a bit of a kooky lady who had a penchant for horn rimmed glasses, crazy hats and some pretty eccentric hobbies (like collecting over 800 statues of penguins). She had a hearty laugh, a zest for life and was always there to give anyone - even a stranger - a big cuddle if they needed it.  I couldn’t have asked for a better role model!

Our Business & IP experts have put together industry guides to help you research all types of sectors including books and publishing, organic food, drinks and much more. You can download the guides for FREE here. 

Mellissa talks about her baking process, business  and winning the 2011 British Baker's Rising Star Award. Love those vintage specs!  



28 August 2013

Interview with Blonde + Ginger - Womenswear fashion brand

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Every time I meet fashion designers I always ask where they get their inspiration. It isn't often that a library is listed but after I tell them about all the amazing collections at the British Library - vintage knitting patterns, silk embroidered book covers, Japanese woodblock prints, British Vogue magazines from 1916 to today, plus free business advice - they're always surprised and interested in visiting. Here Elizabeth Carrick, fashion designer and founder of womenswear brand Blonde + Ginger, tells us about her inspirations and business challenges.


Where do you find inspiration for your designs?   

Colours that you see around you in nature, paintings, photography, street signs - something can just jump out at you as being a great colour combination, shape or form. Sometimes a beautiful piece of fabric or a colour can be the inspiration for your whole collection.

Digital content can be good too as it will spark your imagination visually but touching and feeling fabrics, seeing how they hang, fit and drape helps to understand what you can create.

Listening to music often gets me thinking about a mood or a feeling I want to create with my designs. 

We’ve got a great music collection at the Library like skiffle recordings from the 1950s that inspired bands like Led Zeppelin, The Hollies and The Beatles. Have you used the Library’s collection for inspiration? 

I have used many libraries for sources of material but I was not aware of the wealth of inspiration that there is at the British Library!

Now you know! So, your limited edition products are Made in Britain – what does that mean to you? How important is it to work with local businesses?

In my previous job I had the privilege to work with manufacturers all over the world.  Many of them are very clever, talented teams of people, creating lovely garments. Different countries offer different skills. India make the most beautiful hand embroideries, Turkey is great for tailoring and denim however I felt frustrated at the lack of companies and brands in the UK not using our own talented manufacturers.

It is normally due to the higher prices and lack of being able to produce big volumes, that make companies go further afield to produce. However by making in Britain I am able to oversee more easily my production and the fit and finish of the garments is second to none.  I feel proud at the high quality our country can produce.  I am not a fan of mass produced fashion as it feels less special to wear.


What has been your biggest challenge as a small business?

Needing to do everything yourself and trying to be good enough at it all! I love the designing and the creative side of the business and I feel natural in doing this but I need to develop my skills in other areas, such as marketing. You are never going to be great at every role you need to do but you can’t afford to not try your very best. Marketing for me is my biggest challenge so I listen to others for ideas and advice and make sure I do bits everyday.

Lastly, you took part in PopUp Piccadilly, what kind of feedback did you get?

It is great getting feedback from customers and seeing their reaction to your clothes, especially as I sell my label on-line. I have also had the chance to meet with buyers from boutiques and the press so it is a great way of getting your label out there.

Speaking with other designers in the same position as yourself can be really motivating and encouraging too. You are able to share experiences and tips and you realise you are not alone in some of your struggles.

The British Library Business & IP Centre offers tons of support for creative businesses:
Fashion forecasting workshop
Marketing masterclass
Webinar - Social media for businesses 


Images courtesy of Blonde + Ginger

26 August 2013

Interview with Christopher Pett - Founder of Makers

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Christopher Pett founded Makers in 2010 to support design teams and entrepreneurs with product development. He’s taking part in our speed mentoring session aimed at London-based business owners who want to grow their business. Here he tells us about a typical day at Makers.

Makers - product development

Describe a day working with an entrepreneur, for example furniture designer Ryan Frank.

When we work directly with entrepreneurs, we spend time understanding and helping them articulate their vision. We try to tie together the many strands of a project, like the materials and manufacturing process, the sales channels and the marketing strategy, to make sure it all makes sense from a business point of view.

Then we isolate the crux - the biggest risk/return element of the project. We put that to the top of the list of tasks because if it doesn't work, the whole project fails but if it does work, everything after that is a good investment if time. So we have meetings and workshops with lots of sketching and post-it notes to get the ideas down.

We share Google spreadsheets with feasibility studies and price analysis. We engage with the materials and processes, sometimes in a studio environment and sometimes on-site with subcontract manufacturers. For independent designers and small design teams, it’s refreshing to be able to discuss the project with like-minded people who know from experience how hard it is to take a delicate idea and make a real thing out of it.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for small design teams today?

The biggest challenges for small design teams is to find an offer that is really meaningful for customers who can afford it and to finance the development process through several iterations until the product matches the needs of the customer perfectly.

So many design teams spend their budget on an expensive prototype or go straight to production. We like to make lots and lots of cheap prototypes and test them in all sorts of ways. The feedback is what you're really investing in, not the object.

Your office is in Clerkenwell. How does being surrounded by so many design brands help you as a business?

Working in Clerkenwell makes sense because so many of our clients either work in the area or visit regularly. Meetings are easy to arrange. I've been working around Clerkenwell Green for lots of years so it's a home from home to me, and it never really changes. It's nice to bump into friends and colleagues on the street. You don't find that in most parts of London. We're 15 minutes from the British Library and halfway between Shoreditch and the West End, which is perfect for the mix of architects, product designers, technologists and media companies we work with.

You can ask Christopher more questions at our FREE Growing pains speed mentoring session or Open evening: How to make products and services your customers really need. Others topics that will be covered include: strategy, branding, product development, intellectual property (IP), trade marks and market penetration.  

20 August 2013

Alice in Wonderland-inspired ceramics and prints by Eleanor Stuart

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I met designer Eleanor Stuart last week at PopUp Piccadilly where she was selling her Alice in Wonderland-inspired collection of plates, prints and cards. The Library holds the original Lewis Carroll manuscript of Alice in Wonderland and we also have it available online through our award-winning Turning the Pages software which Eleanor used for her research. Here she tells up more about her work.

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Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind your designs? 

When I first came upon Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the illustrations by John Tenniel, I was struck by how intricate, surreal and detailed each drawing was. What I was particularly taken with was the expressions each character had that tell a story in themselves; from the rather angry-looking Queen of Hearts to the nervous and very late White Rabbit to the mischievous Tweedle Twins.

The inspiration for re-working and adding my own touches to the original work was a feeling that these original illustrations were being lost in a sea of cartoon versions of Alice far removed from these wonderful originals. The originals are also quite small and in black and white, so I felt there was a great opportunity available to revive the illustrations, bring them sharply back to life and add colour, quotes and my own little spin to the work.

We love when people use our collections to make something new. Can you tell us about how you used the Library for research? 

When researching Tenniel’s original illustrations, I used the British Library’s online Turning the Pages application to see Carroll’s original illustrated manuscript. What I had not previously realised is that Carroll had even illustrated his original work, and it was interesting to see that Tenniel’s illustrations do bear a close resemblance to those featured in the original manuscript.

I think the British Library and its collection is an inspiration in itself: knowing all these great works of literature penned by authors both British and from afar are housed within this one huge building full of rabbit warrens and glass columns full of old books where you can find and stumble upon almost anything in the world of literature is pretty amazing.

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I like that image - the British Library full of rabbit warrens! What fun! So what has been your biggest challenge as a small business?

Patience! With my designs and illustrations completed, and the ideas I always have swimming around in my head, I always want to realise them instantly which is of course not entirely doable. Learning to slow down and appreciate the processes involved with realising an idea has been something I have come to enjoy. For example when I was in the process of having my Alice Collection of fine bone china plates produced, it was so rewarding to be able to visit the potteries in Stoke-on-Trent to see how this traditional British industry is still applying traditional British techniques and sensibilities to the work they produce, and I feel this attention to detail and quality of work really shows in my pieces.

What does “Made in Britain” mean to you? 

“Made in Britain” is so important to me, I put it on my logo! Not only am I proud to be made in Britain having grown up in lovely Richmond, but I love that through the work I create I can support British industry and help to keep the skills we have in this country alive and current. I have met such enthusiastic, incredibly helpful and skilled crafts people in my search for suppliers to help create my products, which is such a rewarding experience.

I also feel “Made in Britain” is important not only to British people, but internationally as well. I have found when selling internationally and in Britain that the stamp of authenticity and that relationship between my product and globally recognised institutions such as ‘The Potteries’ in Stoke-on-Trent is really important to people. Not only British people wanting to buy British, but international customers wanting to buy into the quality and skills they associate with the British craft and creative industries.

I have also found other designers and illustrators are equally as passionate about that “Made in Britain” stamp of approval as I am. I have come to know and admire some really great people on my journey into the world of design and illustration including Jo Robinson from HAM who creates fun animal themed screen prints made by her own fair hand in London, Cecily Vessey who designs wonderful London themed illustrations across a range of ceramics, and Sara Smith (my neighbour at PopUp Piccadilly!) whose selection of colourful, gilded and illustrated teacups are really rather beautiful – and made in Stoke-on-Trent.

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BL Alice9

The shop has been super busy, I hear. What kind of feedback are you getting?

I have had some really amazing feedback; I would say it has been one of the best things I have done as a small business in terms of exposure, testing the market and meeting other like-minded designer/makers. (Rupert Laing from Shortbread House has made mine and my fellow designers stay at PopUp Piccadilly particularly enjoyable with an ever refreshed supply of delicious shortbread samples to hand).

As a predominantly online business, coming out from behind my computer screen and meeting my customers, showing them my products and being able to have them touch and feel the quality of each item has been a really rewarding experience. I have also had a great response from potential retailers, so that is an exciting direction I am looking forward to taking my business in - with Alice and her surreal, mad and late friends in tow!

Images courtesy of Eleanor Stuart.

Check out this video from the PopUp Piccadilly launch:  


18 August 2013

Interview with Michael Jacobsen author of The Business of Creativity

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Entrepreneur and businessman Michael Jacobsen is becoming a regular at our Business & IP Centre, advising creative practitioners on how to keep rooted in business essentials and inspiring them to innovate and grow. He is the author of the popular book The Business of Creativity - An expert guide to starting and growing a business in the creative sector. Want to earn a living doing what you love? Check out Michael's book. Or come to the Library and meet him! He’s literally mobbed after events – people are so keen to ask him questions and learn from his experiences. He kindly gave us this interview:

What do you think are the biggest challenges today for small businesses in the creative industries?

Businesses in the Creative Industries need to realise that they are, in fact, in business. If you wish to make your life’s work your passion and your passion your income stream, you need to make some adjustments to your mindset and your structure.

A lot of Creative Sector businesses think they are selling their soul but the reality is - why not continue your gift to the world and earn your living from it at the same time? It’s just a mindset shift!

What advice would you give recent graduates from fashion, graphic design or film?

Don’t leave with an employee mentality. If you want to get a job sure, that’s fine, but don’t think that is your only option.

In Britain there is so much assistance available to you to start a business (which can involve being a contractor or freelancer also). Have  a good think and work out what you want to do with your life, but count this as a real option!

Students are taught to get jobs and are rarely encouraged to work for themselves! This is a mistake!

What is your take on the creative industries sector in the UK? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

The UK Creative Sector is the best in the world. Look at William Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Indigo Jones and in this century James Dyson, Jamie Oliver and Simon Cowell.

The business community and the City need to realise that the Creative Sector is investable, and the reticence to get fully behind it (as they do the tech sector ) is a weakness and is hampering the growth of a sector that produces major financial returns and is one of the oldest sectors in the world!

Which entrepreneurs do you follow?

I love True Entrepreneurs who take risks and are all consuming passionate about their work. I love Elon Musk, Founder of Paypal, Tesla Motors and Space X. He is a major risk taker and fervently passionate about his companies’ vision.

I also really rate Simon Cowell. He has not only made a successful brand out of himself, but he has changed the face of television globally. People may not all like his shows, but the fact is he is a risk taker and has made a success of it in terms of finances but also in terms of legacy! 

You co-founded Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage. Are you a dancer too?

I have a trainer and do Pilates and Yoga also. I think if I do them daily until 2025 I may be ready to do the Dirty Dancing ‘lift’!

Michael is running a masterclass on his book The Business of Creativity on 26 September at our Business & IP Centre. For more information and to book your place click here.