Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business


This blog is written by members of the Business & IP Centre team and some of our expert partners and discusses business, innovation and enterprise. Read more

20 November 2015

Top business tips from our panel with Deborah Meaden

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This week the Business & IP Centre brought together a panel of some of Britain’s best-known entrepreneurs who shared their expert business knowledge with the audience and viewers around the world.  The panel comprised Deborah Meaden, Dragons' Den; Oliver Tress, founder of Oliver Bonas; Lord Karan Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beer and was moderated by Nadine Dereza, TV Broadcaster and Journalist.

This event was part of a week-long series of events celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week 2015 at the British Library. Global Entrepreneurship Week is the world’s largest campaign to promote entrepreneurship. Each year, it plays a critical role in encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs to consider starting up their own business.


The panel spoke about how they grabbed opportunities and overcame obstacles in order to become the success stories they are today and gave some invaluable business tips to keep people along their entrepreneurial journey.

Deborah Meaden, Dragons’ Den

Deborah is perhaps best known for her role on the BBC2 series ‘Dragons’ Den’ but her story started with her first business - selling flowers in front of her house when she was seven years old. Her entrepreneurial skills developed from that young age and now she is a serial entrepreneur and a household name. 

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Here are Deborah’s tips for business owners:

  • It’s very important to learn business skills but there are also other specific attributes, like the ability to take a risk, that makes you an entrepreneur
  • Know the importance of protecting your intellectual property, protection of what you are and who you are is very important
  • Entrepreneurs don’t see barriers – they see around them - and think of different ways to do things
  • Before you start your business, or in early days, think about why you are doing it. If it’s just to make money, you’re a business person. If it’s because of a passion, you’re an entrepreneur.
  • Create the business that allows you to get the life you want
  • PR has to be honest and represent the real stories of your business
  • When you run a business, know it well and love it.

Oliver Tress, founder of Oliver Bonas

Inspired by his love of design and worldwide travels Oliver opened his first Oliver Bonas store on Fulham Road selling beautiful homeware and jewellery.  Now with 45 stores in London, Bristol, Brighton, Cambridge, Oxford, Reading, Tunbridge Wells & Scotland, (as well as an online store) the brand is bigger than ever. 


Here are his tips for would-be entrepreneurs:

  • You can’t teach people tenacity you just have to be absolutely determined to achieve what you want to do
  • Be relentless in the pursuit of quality
  • Work out your skill set, be realistic about what you can do and find people who can do the things you can’t
  • Talk – the benefits will be so much more than keeping it to yourself, you can really hone your idea by talking to people
  • Work out your business philosophy, if you can get this at the beginning of your business it will really drive it forward and gives a framework for every decision you make in the business
  • Brace yourself for a bumpy ride and focus yourself on those limitless opportunities and the freedom that comes with it.

Lord Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beer

Karan Bilimoria founded Cobra Beer in 1989 and sold it from the boot of his green Citroen, named Albert, to local Indian restaurants. Despite having nearly lost his business three times, today Cobra Beer is a globally recognised brand. 


So, what does Lord Bilimoria recommend an entrepreneurs needs to succeed?

  • As entrepreneurs there is one word that sets you apart and that's guts – you have to have the guts to do it in the first place but more importantly you have to have the guts to stick with it when others give up
  • You don’t have to come up with something that didn’t exist before – just come up with a way to do it differently
  • Put the consumers first and be passionate about what you do
  • Follow the 8 P’s: Product, price, place, promotion, people, phinance (!), passion and profit
  • A strong brand gives you the most sustainable business growth
  • Have a vision. Lord Bilimoria’s is ‘to aspire and achieve against all odds, with integrity’.



Question time



For more help with getting your business idea off the ground visit the Business & IP Centre website to find out how we can help.


13 November 2015

5 top skills to make you a good salesperson

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Learning the detective-like skills of a salesperson is a requirement for any successful entrepreneur. As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week I will be at the British Library Business & IP Centre giving a workshop on the necessities of knowing how to sell with confidence. Here are my five top tips to get you started:


1.        Active listening

Give full attention to what other people are saying, take time to understand the points being made and ask appropriate questions. When opening up a conversation with a prospective client ask the right questions in order to understand their needs and issues.

2.       Effective communication skills

Written and oral communication skills are key criteria to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Having the gift of the gab is a phrase often associated with being a good sales person.  However a successful sales person understands the person they are communicating with and ensures their style of communication matches their client’s style so that rapport and trust is built.

3.       Critical thinking

A salesperson must use critical thinking to decide which product or service would be the best option to present and sell to the client, taking into account all the information that has been discovered from questioning and listening to their needs.

4.       Persuasion and negotiation

Persuasion and negotiation are key elements of the sales process.  However, negotiation should only come into play after the prospective customer has been persuaded to buy the product or service that you have to offer.  If there is no agreement then all you will be doing is discounting, not negotiating, as the client will not see the value in what you have to offer.

5.       Patience and tenacity

It is a crime in sales not to follow up leads quickly and efficiently when they come in, so being tenacious with prospective client leads is vital.  On the flip side, it takes persistence to follow a lead through from initial enquiry to order stage, especially when a client is taking a long time to make a decision – this is when you need to have the patience of a saint!

Joanna Sadie of Leapfrog will be at the Business & IP Centre on the 19 November as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, join her find out what the key to successful selling is and learn the techniques of an effective sales process.

11 November 2015

Top tips for social entrepreneurs from OHYO’s MD Guy Jeremiah

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Since Ohyo began trading in 2010, Guy Jeremiah has been through all the snakes and ladders of running a commercial enterprise with a green mission. Having sold 700,000 UK-made Ohyo Collapsabottles across all continents, with clients including Marks & Spencer, Guy has experienced the highs and the lows of running a business.

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week on 17 November Guy will be sharing his knowledge of running a social enterprise at the Business & IP Centre; in the meantime here are some of his tips for getting started. 

Guy Jeremiah

Get to grips with intellectual property

Pay particular attention to developing an intellectual property strategy. Is a patent relevant for you? Perhaps design registration, trademark and branding is more pertinent to your plan? The British Library Business & IP Centre has been a tower of strength to me in these areas.

Stay on top of your finances

On a day-to-day basis I seem to have one eye on Twitter, and the other eye firmly on the cash-flow. Financial management is at the heart of any business; whether you use SAGE or Excel, it’s essential that you know when the cash could run out and how to react accordingly.

Get the most out of cloud-based apps

I set up my first business, an Environmental Consultancy, in 1999 when you needed a server, a big printer for mass mail-outs and fax machines. The internet and cloud-based applications have transformed the arena for small businesses to get set up quickly and cheaply.

Start crowd-funding

Drawing on my own experiences of launching the Ohyo Bag with Felix Conran, consider how crowd-funding can get your new product off to a flying start.


Become a marketing whizz

Marketing your products and services is a tough process and you should take all the advice you can get. Balancing PR, advertising and social media on a meagre budget is a skill all entrepreneurs need to learn quickly.


Find out more about how to become an entrepreneur with a social and ethical conscious at Social Entrepreneurship: Theory, practice and what really happens at the British Library during Global Entrepreneurship Week.