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Innovation and enterprise blog

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

Introduction

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

18 November 2014

Book Review - Salvation in a start-up? The origins and nature of the self-employment boom

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The digital publication of this book by Benedict Dellot, published by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) on May 2014, attracted my attention when it was featured last month on the “Small Business and Entrepreneurship” section of the Management & Business Studies Portal. It is a research study report, available for everyone as open-access material and there is no need to be registered as user of the portal to access it. 

Salvation in a start-up

The report looks at the reasons behind the rise of self-employment and microbusinesses in the UK, and is a very interesting report to read as it highlights the profiles of the main users of the Business & IP Centre.  It is an output of the project named “The Power of Small”, which seeks to better understand the growing community of self-employed and microbusinesses, and was launched by RSA in collaboration with Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade goods and vintage items.

Six tribes of self-employment

The report focuses on the individuals involved in the self-employed community, trying to answer questions such as why so many people are turning to self-employment and what this means for them personally. It segments the self-employed community into six “tribes”, from Visionaries all the way through to Dabblers (see Figure 1), presenting a typical case for each “tribe”. The author considers this typology crucial for policymakers who can then create effective interventions and policy solutions that will improve the livelihood of the self-employed community.

 The report highlights the following main research findings and recommendations:

  • Most people choose to be self-employed for greater freedom, meaning and control, defying the myth that those who started up in the recessionary period of the last five years did so to escape unemployment.
  • The biggest increases in self-employment have been in professional occupations (one of the highest skilled groups), defying the myth that most of the newly self-employed are low-skilled odd-jobbers.
  • Very few that started up in the last 5 years have taken employees, so there is need to stimulate growth and recruitment in the self-employed;
  • Despite the majority agreeing that the economy is getting better and the country is heading in the right direction, very few agree that the government adequately supports the self-employed and that the welfare system is fair to people in their position; there is need for urgent review of government policy on self-employment, from welfare and taxes, all the way through to education and housing.

 In the next phase of the Power of Small project, attention will be focused on the wider economic and social implications of the growth of the microbusiness community. This report – the first of three -  gives a good understanding of what it means for the people directly involved, but questions remain about the impact of a growing microbusiness community on major issues that affect us all, such as productivity, innovation, jobs growth, inequality and living standards.

 

 

 

17 November 2014

Loom Bands - the toy sensation of 2014

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Rainbowloom-logoWhen we look back at the toys of 2014, it will be remembered for Loom Bands. Cheong Choon Ng created a plastic loom for his children to weave colourful rubber bands into bracelets and charms, and Rainbow Loom is the registered trade name of his invention.

From his beginnings in Malaysia to his current his life in the USA, his story is interesting and inspiring.  The idea came about when helping his daughters with their rubber band craft making, but he admits that his biggest challenge was to convince his wife to risk their life savings to invest in his invention. “I am the one in the family with all the crazy ideas, and she is my reality check”.  A couple of years later and Rainbow Loom is a multi-million pound international business.  You can read Cheong’s story in his own words in the Guardian newspaper, Experience - I invented the Loom Bands.

Choon Ng and his wife Fen

Loom band inventor Cheong Choon Ng with his wife Fen

The Rainbow Loom website is a splendid example of how it has become a global sensation, showcasing tutorial videos, press stories , a ‘Loominaries’ community  and Loom network.  In A craze for 'loom bands' Richard Gottlieb, from consultants Global Toy Experts, says “It wasn’t driven by advertising or big companies… there’s a difference between creating a product that sells, and a phenomenon.  There’s a bit of magic about it”. The products made by Loom bands range from bracelets, to dresses, shoes, handbags, brooches and pimped products such as watches Rainbow Loom Creations Pinterest board and on Rainbow Loom’s twitter feed @RainbowLoom.

Loom band example

When something is so successful, others will inevitably try to copy your idea. This is what has happened with Cheong Choon Ng’s invention, with copy-cat products and similar sounding names.

I am sure that Choon Ng’s children played a great part in getting his product to gain traction and impact, and he calls this the ‘Rainbow Loom ecosystem’.  I particularly like that this has encouraged young children and adults to become creative and entrepreneurial with loom bands. I was given a bracelet by a young relative on holiday in Italy as a sign of friendship, and I was asked by another to buy one in my national colours for the Notting Hill Carnival to raise funds for her school trip. 

Rainbow Loom’s executive, Philo Pappas, attributes its success to the product’s inherent customization and social aspects, “with kids and tweens now it is all about creating something unique and personalized, which is exactly what the Rainbow Loom does. Plus Kids love to come up with new designs and share them with each other, so there’s a social element too”. 

So the question is - have you got a toy idea or product that can capture everyone’s imagination? I know that we often advise visitors to the Business & IP Centre with their toy ideas. Through one of our Business and IP Clinics I met chess board designer Purling London who has create a handcrafted under-lit chess board for fine art collectors and professional chess players.  The idea came from trying to play chess on a beach in the dark. However in this case Simon Purkis is aiming for the premium end of the market. Our Toys Industry Guide gives a pointer to which toy trends are up and which are on the way out, as well as the key companies, and links to help get started such as the British Toy Makers Guild.

Chess board

Bang-logoOur partner Bang Creations runs regular workshops to help get your idea to market. They work through your unique selling point, who are your customers, how to get into production, how many you need to make, and how reach your customers.

Some of their toy success stories such Laser Strike Jet Combat are featured on their website.

Laserstrike1

Play is an important part of life, and if you are looking for inspiration have a look at the British Library’s Playtimes portal. It brings together 100 years of children’s songs, rhymes and games, from conkers to singing games, rude jokes to fantasy play.

In closing, I wanted to share a quote from Choon Ng, “I knew that not many inventors have their dream come true like this one.  But living it now, I treasure every moment of it. I would say this is the best time of my life”.

Seema Rampersad on behalf of Business & IP Centre London

11 November 2014

What’s new on… Datamonitor Consumer

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One of the resources we provide here at the British Library Business & IP Centre is free access to a number of business and intellectual property databases; helping entrepreneurs and businesses to research trends, markets and companies, and to utilise and protect their IP. If you’ve ever wondered what the market trends are in a particular industry, how to write a business plan, or where to search for trademark registrations, then you can use our databases to find out. The databases are regularly updated and in a monthly blog series, we take a look at what’s new.

This month, we look at the Datamonitor Consumer database, which provides analysis of the global consumer goods market. Spanning areas including food and drink, cosmetics and toiletries, pet care and household products, the database covers key category, consumer, innovation and marketing trends and includes product launch and market data analytics tools.

Datamonitor is particularly useful for identifying key trends and innovations in a specific industry or market sector; helping users to analyse opportunities and gaps in the market. Another key feature is the ‘Successes and failures’ series; helpful for those wishing to examine the strategies behind successful products. Datamonitor also provides market data and statistics.

Readers can download up to 20 pages of text per day from Datamonitor.

Below is a selection of the latest reports:

Product Innovation Updates:

Reports drawing out some of the themes, trends and recent innovations in a particular industry, as well as identifying the underlying trends driving product innovation in this area.

•    Sauces, Dressings, Condiments, and Spreads Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Skincare Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Spirits Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Snack Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Ready Meals Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Male Grooming Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Hot Drinks Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Non-Carbonated Soft Drinks Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Household Care Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Oral Hygiene Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Make-Up Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Dairy Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Fragrance Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Haircare Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Functional Food and Drinks Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Confectionery Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Beer Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Carbonated Soft Drinks Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Bakery and Cereals Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Baby Personal Care Product Innovation Update – September 2014

Category insights

Reports outlining the most important consumer and product trends impacting a particular industry globally.

The reports include global consumer insight analysis, case studies and product examples. Key considerations and potential opportunities are identified based on consumer preferences and recent product innovations in this category.

  • Consumer and Innovation Trends in Suncare 2014

TrendSights

Reports identifying and examining key cross-industry innovation and trends, from new product development to organisational structures.

  • Retrophilia

Innovation Tracking

Detailed analysis of new products, innovation or trends.

  • Will Coca-Cola Life revive the carbonates industry?
  • Packaging Innovation of the Month: cupcake cream is child's play

Successes and Failures

Case studies analysing the success or failure of a particular product or service, with insights into specific sectors as well as the relevant consumer trends and attitudes that drive innovation success

  • Success: Nivea "Sun Block Ad"
  • Success: Kellogg's Special K Flatbread
  • Success: Ragú's Rebrand
  • Failure: Kashi

 Health and Nutrition

Reports identifying and analysing key innovations and trends across the health and nutrition sector. 

  • Trends to Watch in Cough, Cold, and Flu
  • Functional Nutrition: Energy

 
Sally Jennings on behalf of Business & IP Centre