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

05 July 2017

Reach your business peak at our Scale-up Summit

As a business owner you’ll know what it means to have to do everything and anything to get your business off the ground and flying. You’ve experienced the highs, the lows and no small number of frustrations along the way.

But at some point you’ll reach a limit to growth. And any one of these things (or more) could be holding you back; time, finance, being ‘too involved’ in the day to day, staffing challenges, cash-flow, finding new customers and markets, limited marketing and having to navigate ever changing conditions and trends.

But there’s a way through and beyond all of this; and it’s scaling-up.

The British Library’s Business and IP Centre has been supporting businesses to successfully scale up with its wealth of information, advice and support as well as the successful Innovating for Growth Scale-up Programme.

We’re thrilled to now be presenting this unique opportunity to get some of the best business brains in one place, for just one day, so you can hear first-hand how they kept their business flying and climbing higher. It’s our first ever Scale-up Summit, and it’s happening next, Tuesday 11th July, 9.30-6.30pm.

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We’ll be introducing you to the founders of some great household names and brands such as Paul Lindley (founder of Ella's Kitchen), Julie Deane OBE (founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company) and Rob Law MBE (Founder and CEO of Trunki) just to name a few.

Hear how our top-notch speakers kept their businesses going and growing through their various challenges and what tips they have to share to successfully scaling-up. There’ll be plenty of time to ask your questions and pick the brains of no less than 20 business experts appearing throughout the day.

Here’s a taster of what to expect on the day with a few of our speakers’ top tips to whet your appetite

Raising your business profile and building a brand

As you will already know, getting your business in the press or media can be the key to raising your profile and achieve rapid growth, but lots of businesses struggle to identify their unique hook and generate a buzz around their brand. Our panel will give you the inside track on how to maximise your media coverage, pitch effectively to journalists and create strategic partnerships to increase the visibility of your business to access new audiences and scale up.

Our keynote speaker on this topic will be Julie Deane OBE, founder of the Cambridge Satchel Company and a Business & IP Centre ambassador. Having started from her kitchen table with a budget of just £600, The Cambridge Satchel Company now has a turnover of over £10million and has collaborated with the likes of Google and Vivienne Westwood.

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Julie Deane, Founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company and British Library Entrepreneur in Residence


Julie will share her own journey to business success and her tips for raising your business profile and building a brand. During this interactive Q&A session you’ll also have the opportunity to put your questions to our panel and get their tips and tricks for making people aware of your business and making sure they don’t forget it.

On brand and scaling-up, Jenny Costa (Rubies in the Rubble), another panellist for our branding roundtable says, ‘“Know your why.” The journey and the day to day can be overwhelming, so it’s important to keep looking up and focused on the end goal. Knowing and believing in what and why you do what you do will get you through any challenges you may hit along the way.’

Also speaking on this topic will be Will Butler-Adams (Managing Director, Brompton Bikes), Siddarth Vijayakumar (Co-founder, Grub Club), and Anne Cassidy (Editor, Guardian Small Business Network).

Going global for growth

Small businesses that seize on export opportunities are much more likely to survive and grow. However, with so many factors to consider, trading overseas can feel overwhelming and many business owners struggle to identify and exploit the market opportunities that would give them the best chance of achieving fast growth. If you’ve ever considered ‘going global for growth’ or are struggling to make your mark on the international stage, this discussion will give you a true insight into what it takes to trade successfully overseas.

Someone who has definitely capitalised on the potential of international trade is keynote speaker, Sean Ramsden, founder and Chief Executive of Ramsden International . Having identified opportunities for global growth, Sean was able to turn his food exporter business (Ramsden International) into a market leader, distributing over 23,000 British branded-food and drink products to 133 countries across five continents.  

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Sean Ramsden, Founder of Ramsden International


Another of our panellists Paul Lindley of Ella’s Kitchen says scale-up businesses should ‘Keep your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds.  Meaning stay humble, grounded and real, but don’t be afraid to imagine, explore and be free thinking.’

The panel will also feature, Matt Lamb (Tangle Teezer) and Bill Russell (Head of Bilateral Relations, Intellectual Property Office) who will share their experiences and expertise in both growing a business internationally and also ensuring that you stay in control and your Intellectual Property is protected as you ‘go global’.

Raising finance for growth

A cash injection can fast-track your growth ambitions exponentially, giving access to the resources, expertise and people-power that you need to realise your scale-up ambitions. But raising the necessary cash isn’t always easy and access to finance can often be one of the first hurdles that a scaling entrepreneur must overcome. In this section our experts will give their input on a variety of business financing options including VC, angel investors and crowd-funding to help you decide the best way to fund your business growth.

To discuss this topic and describe the best options available small business owners will be Darren Westlake, co-founder and CEO of Crowdcube the world’s first investment crowdfunding platform. In 2015, Darren was named by Debrett’s as one of Britain’s 500 most influential people and is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years’ experience in the internet and telecoms industries.

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Darren Westlake, Founder of Crowdcube


Leadership for scaling businesses

Most businesses start off with just one or two founders, but as a business grows, the team behind it needs to get bigger too. But how can you be sure you’re hiring the right people to help your business reach its potential, and when is the right time to delegate responsibility? Hear from our expert panel on how your can build a terrific team with your business values at its core.

Leadership for scaling businesses will feature a key note presentation on the theme of building a terrific team, delegating responsibility, embedding and upholding company values and ethos as your business grows and providing strong leadership.

Our speaker on this subject will be Rob Law MBE, founder and CEO of Trunki , the brand behind the much loved children’s ride-on suitcase.

His company has been trading for 11 years, now employing 80 people and was named SME of the Year at the National Business Awards in 2012.

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Rob Law, Founder of Trunki


Focusing on these four key topics for scaling businesses, this event will provide a platform for entrepreneurs to ask the questions that really matter to you as a growing business. You’ll get practical, immediately implementable ideas and solutions from those in the know and have the opportunity to network with like-minded business-owners who share similar goals and ambitions.

Matt Lamb, CEO and co-founder of Tangle Teezer, says “I am happy to support the British Library’s Scale-up Summit because we recognise that scaling up is every bit as hard, if not harder, than starting a business. We are delighted to share our experience in the hope that it may help others.”

Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to take your business to the next level. Tickets are selling fast so take this chance to get inside knowledge and advice on successfully scaling up and reaching your business’s peak potential.

Book your ticket to avoid disappointment.

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30 June 2017

How the British Library can help you turbocharge your business

By Isabel Oswell, Head of Business Audiences at The British Library

The Business & IP Centre officially opened in March 2006 and over the past eleven years, we have welcomed over 650,000 business owners through our doors. The Centre is a front-door to business support, combining access to the UK’s largest collection of business data, intellectual property and market research resources (worth in excess of £5 million) with free and low-cost training, one-to-one advice  and referrals, all located in a welcoming, inspiring and accessible space at the heart of the British Library.

When we first launched, we found that the majority of our users were either very early stage businesses or pre-starts.  Aspiring entrepreneurs would come into the Centre to make use of the extensive range of resources to help them research their markets, identify their potential customer base and determine whether their start-up idea ‘had legs’ before deciding whether to take the plunge and enter the world of entrepreneurship. Our team of trained business information specialists and expert delivery partners further supported this community of start-ups and pre-starts, helping them to get their ideas off the ground by offering training on a range of business topics including writing a business plan, funding and marketing.

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Our changing user base

As the Centre has matured, however, so has our user base and we now cater to a growing community of scaling businesses in addition to supporting new enterprises.  Many of the businesses that were supported by the Centre as they took their first tentative steps continue to return to use our resources as more mature companies who are encountering a whole new set of challenges as they seize opportunities to maximize their growth and reach their potential These include business owners like Paul Lindley – who used the Centre to start and grow the Ella’s Kitchen baby food range – and Shaun Pulfrey, founder of the revolutionary Tangle Teezer hair brushes and styling range. Our service has evolved to support the needs of scale-up businesses and to ensure that start-ups with high growth potential get timely access to the resources, training and expertise that they need to scale their business in a sustainable way. This has included introducing our flagship scale-up support offer Innovating for Growth, an ERDF funded programme giving scaling businesses access to three months of bespoke consultancy support to help them develop and implement a growth strategy. Innovating for Growth has been running for four years and in that time has supported over 320 businesses to increase their turnover and create new jobs for the UK economy.

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How can the British Library help you scale up your business?

We understand that scaling businesses need immediate access to practical advice and guidance across key areas including branding, exporting, raising finance and leadership, and questions related to these issues crop up time and time again at our events and during the consultancy sessions on Innovating for Growth.  But we also know that fast growth businesses are time-poor and don’t always necessarily have the capacity to commit to a longer term programme or to visit the Centre on a regular basis.

For these reasons, our users have called upon the Library to convene a one-day Scale-up Summit, help growing small businesses achieve their potential by giving them the opportunity to put their questions to role model founders and unpick the practical steps they took to make their good business into a great business. This flagship event brings together prominent entrepreneurs, Business & IP Centre case studies and industry experts including The ScaleUp Institute to share the skills and insight that small businesses need to scale up, drive innovation and create jobs.

The event has been specifically programmed to address the four key issues that we know affect business growth, and we’ve brought together carefully chosen keynote speakers along with experienced, expert panellists to explore these issues in-depth and answer your burning questions.  Content includes sessions on getting your business in the media, building a terrific team and identifying export opportunities and will give you the takeaways, practical hints, tips and advice that will help you hack your business growth.

We passionately believe that Libraries are the ideal place not just to start your business, but to scale it too. As your business grows it’s more important than ever to know your customers, be aware of market trends and understand the needs of potential new audiences both in the UK and overseas.  The Business & IP Centre gives small businesses a commercial edge by offering free access to the type of market intelligence that is usually reserved for large corporations. These resources, combined with our workshops and training sessions, allow entrepreneurs to interpret and apply data to real-life business decisions, making the British Library the perfect place to kick-start your business growth.

Scale-up Summit takes place on Tuesday, July 11, 2017 (09.30-18.30) and is a unique opportunity to turbo-charge your business.  Tickets cost just £40.00 including lunch and a networking reception.

Click here to download your full Scale-up Summit schedule

We are delighted to be working with our partners at London Growth Hub and Lucidica to offer ambitious entrepreneurs this unique opportunity to come face-to-face with business leaders, network with peers, share intelligence, spark ideas, find out what drives business growth and increase their odds of scale-up success.


23 June 2017

How to get a granted patent

Getting a granted patent is something that every inventor dreams about. Aside from protecting your invention from copycats and the honour of being a fully-fledged inventor, having a granted patent is a great intellectual property that can give your business economic benefits as well as better valuation later.

It is for these reasons that I worked hard to get a granted patent for my first product, Nimble Babies Milk Buster, which is a baby bottle cleaner that detaches milk fat and proteins from plastic to free bottles from cloudiness and smelly odour.

After two long years, I am proud to say that our UK patent has been granted which gives us exclusive rights to the technology until 2035 and this has improved our chances of getting our patent applications approved in other countries too. What I hope to do in this blog is to share my learnings from the two-year journey and help you decide whether a patent application is for you.

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Do I really believe that my product is novel and inventive?

Just like most things that entrepreneurs do, getting a granted patent is quite a high-risk activity that can end up really putting pressure on your pockets. Before you set out and spend thousands of pounds in filing a patent application, your answer to the question above should be a resounding yes.

It can cost you around £5,000 to get a patent granted, so you have to be pretty convinced that your product is novel and inventive, which are the two main criteria used by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to judge whether your product is worthy of getting a granted patent.

Being novel means that no one has ever done exactly what you have done. Can you think of other brands and products within and outside your field that have done the same thing that you’ve done? Has anyone used the same ingredients in the same proportions before?

Being inventive refers to doing something not obvious to anyone who is skilled in your field. This is a little harder to prove but a good starting point is to ask yourself “Did I have to do something different to resolve a specific issue with the product?” If the answer is yes, say you had to change the way things are added, or you had to find better ingredients that are more suitable and didn’t find those solutions in any literature or other sources, then most likely you did have an inventive solution.

If you really feel strongly that your product is indeed novel and inventive after answering the questions above, then chances are you might be right. But to make sure that your assessment is right, you should do a formal patent search using tools like WIPO and Espacenet. These patent search tools are great but be ready to wade through tons of patents and applications. Searching broadly requires some skill, you may want to hire a professional who can do a patent search for you and just hand you a report with what they think are the relevant patents and applications to review. Before spending on anything, my advice is for you to get familiarised with it by attending free workshops on intellectual property run by the British Library and its National Network.

Should I hire a patent lawyer?

Once you’ve completed your patent search and have decided that you really have a patentable product, the next thing to do is to instruct a patent lawyer to formally file the patent on your behalf.

If you’ve done the patent search yourself and thought that it was a piece of cake, then you may think that you’d do the patent application yourself and save £5,000. My advice is not to fall into this trap. Writing a patent specification is highly technical and the whole application process takes two years, which involves a lot of written communication with the IPO. Doing it yourself means that you may miss out important details that would end up screwing your chances of securing a patent.

Although the total cost for your application will be £5,000, it can be split into two separate payments. You will need at least £3,000 to pay for the first step, which is the drafting and filing of the patent specification. The other £2,000 is to pay for interim services by the patent lawyer to review the examination reports from the IPO and draft a response. The interim services may cost more or less than £2,000 depending on how many rounds of examination and responses you’ll have with the IPO.

Choosing the right patent lawyer

Since it is a two-year process, my advice is to find the right patent lawyer. Think of it as having a boyfriend or girlfriend for at least two years, so you really would want to get on well with your patent lawyer. Try to meet at least three patent lawyers from different law firms so you can have a better understanding of the whole application process and to also find the right lawyer for you who understands your industry and product well and asks the right questions. There are free IP clinics all over the country where law firms send out their lawyers for free 30-min consultations.

I must admit, I made a mistake and chose a law firm, which I thought was the right one for me. They were good in the initial meetings but, because I negotiated prices down to save on cash, I was assigned a trainee lawyer to draft my patent specification. The job was not bad but I felt that the trainee failed to capture well what was truly inventive. Because I didn’t know any better, we went ahead anyway with what was drafted and filed it.

But fortunately, a few months after we filed, I met a freelance patent lawyer through an introduction. He is very experienced and was genuinely interested in helping me succeed and I felt that he understood exactly what I did. And to top it all, he charged less than the law firms because he didn’t have huge overheads to pay, apart from his own daily rate. After some thought, I decided to cut my losses and transfer the case over to him and this is probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in the business.

This freelance guy came in at the right time when we received the first examination report and he took care of rewriting the specification as much as it was allowed and wrote a better and more accurate specification to give me the best chance of success. And yes, after two long years of waiting and responding to the queries of the IPO, they were convinced that my product was indeed novel and inventive and have finally handed me a Certificate of Grant of Patent. I can now proudly say that I am a bona fide inventor with a granted patent under my belt. We still have to complete our filings in other countries but having a UK patent granted gives us a better shot at achieving it.

If you’d like to learn more about patents or capitalising on your intellectual property, check out the Business & IP centre’s ‘How do I search Patents?’ and  ‘Protecting your IP abroad’ workshops. You’ll also find more workshops and events to help you grow a successful business here.

14 June 2017

Five email marketing tips to increase sales

With so many advances in digital marketing, email is sometimes considered a rather old-fashioned marketing tool. However, with around 53% of people now opting to view their emails on mobile, email is still one of the best ways to reach your existing and prospective clients.

If you want to speak out about your brand, build new relationships and convert those all-important leads into paying customers, email is still king.  7 in 10 people are said to have taken advantage of special offers from an email campaign in the last year, and 44% of people made at least one purchase from an email campaign.

Many entrepreneurs have built successful businesses using email lists as the core of their marketing. Want to know how to maximise your email marketing efforts?


  1. List Building

It may seem obvious, but many people overlook this first step as they believe they already have a large list of contacts. This isn’t enough. You must be sure you have a solid bed of leads in your list, not just a list of random emails. There is no point having a gigantic email list if it’s full of people who have no interest in what you have to offer.

Get your email list right from the very start; attract those who are genuinely interested. Filling your list with your target market means you will have more chance of converting those leads into customers. For this reason, be very wary of accepting lists from third parties. It’s better to have a list of 10 people that are interested in your product, than 1,000 people who are just going to ignore your emails or unsubscribe.

Opt-in forms are a great way of collecting solid leads. If someone is already on your website, chances are they already have a need for your product or service. You can use opt-in forms to collect leads in various ways. You can offer blog updates, free downloads, it all depends on your business. This allows you to keep in contact, develop a relationship and nurture the lead ready for a sale.


  1. Crafting the email

The subject line is often overlooked but it really shouldn’t be. If you think about it, the subject line decides whether that content gets put in front of a client or whether they decide to hit delete.

Make sure your subject line is simple, short and to the point.  A subject line should be compelling, outlining the value of the email but in just a few words.  

When it comes to the content, again we have to say keep it simple. People don’t pay much attention to their emails. You have only a short amount of time to get to the point and make an impression before they click next. There are lots of great ways to make a good first impression by email.

Keep your emails brief. Your content should focus on one key topic and no more. By focussing on one amazing offer or one 'must read' blog and keeping the call to action clear, you will increase the number of click-throughs you receive. 

  1. Time and Frequency

Many people ask about the optimum time and frequency to send out email campaigns. Despite extensive research and numerous theories, there is still no right answer to this.  It varies dramatically depending on your target group.

The frequency is ultimately decided the importance of your information to the end user. You want to keep in the client's mind, but you don’t want to overdo it. There are too many businesses that are overdoing it and annoying their email recipients.

Be wary of sending too many newsletters; what is important news for your business, may not be as interesting to an end user. Much like blogging, original and useful content is what keeps people interested.

Think about the benefits you have to offer your leads and try to make sure each email is benefit driven.  If you have an active blog, this is a great place to start for your email content. It doesn’t take much more work to share weekly updates about a useful blog you have written. There are many other benefits to blogging for business.

As for the best time to send emails, again, this will very much depend on who you are targeting. If you are a B2B company, it might make sense to email on a weekday morning when most employees check their inbox. However, if you are targeting a younger crowd, you may want to email in the evening or at weekends.

When you have a good idea of who your target market is, you need to research their behaviour before you do anything else. Tailored research will guide you to find the optimal time for your specific customer base.

  1. Test and evaluate

As a marketer, there is nothing worse than receiving an email with typos and errors. Generally, your clients will think the same. When email is the sole point of contact with a client, you want to make your impressions count.

If you are sending a campaign to hundreds of clients, you want to be triple sure it’s perfect. Proofread it and send yourself a test email as the very minimum. When you read it back, try to think from your client’s perspective to ensure the correct tone is coming across.

You can even set yourself up with a number of different email accounts to check across different platforms. You want to be sure that the email you send won’t display errors in another browser or platform. With the rise of emails on mobile, it’s also a good idea to test this as well.

Over time, it’s important to analyse your list so you can find out exactly what works for your clients. Your list is unique to your business and this means a lot of trial and error is involved.

By reviewing the number of people who opened an email, the number that clicked links and the number of unsubscribes you begin to get a picture of what works and what doesn’t. Then you are in a better position to craft campaigns that your audience will find useful and engaging.


That being said; don’t get too hung up when people unsubscribe from your list.  Part of the process of email marketing is highlighting those key clients who are interested in what you have to say and what your company has to offer. People may unsubscribe because they realise they have no need for what you are selling. Remember, you are not targeting these people.

Not having these contacts in your list will actually enable you to get a more solid idea of your target customers. Essentially, by unsubscribing, they have done you a favour. You are now left with a more focused list of leads who are actually interested in your product of service.  

  1. Hacks

Want to take some of the stress and time out of creating successful email marketing campaigns? The final food for thought is some awesome hacks that will increase your productivity when it comes to email marketing.


Creating an email autoresponder takes a lot of the hard work out of the process. An autoresponder is an email that goes out automatically when triggered by a certain event. An event could be a number of things. For example, when someone signs up to your mailing list or when someone downloads an e-book.

As soon as you receive that person’s email address you can email them automatically. Your auto-response can even be a series of emails, beginning with an introduction, then a link to an important blog and perhaps directing them to a special offer on your site.

A series of emails like this offering something useful each time fosters trust between you and that client. As these early emails help to form a relationship, getting them right is crucial. You can spend more time crafting the perfect series as you will save time and money in sending them. There are plenty of ways in which you can automate your marketing.


Spam fixers

There is one thing worse than receiving a spam email, and that’s sending one. There are some simple ways to ensure your email won’t be flagged as spam. For subject lines, this free spam checker is great for testing if your email will trigger a spam filter.

Being honest in your emails is an absolute must. Don’t lie about anything in the subject line or try to trick people to open them by suggesting something that’s misleading. This is the same with sales emails. Make sure to highlight that this email is, in fact, an advertisement.

Allowing people to unsubscribe with ease is super-important. You need to make it easy as pie for people to unsubscribe from your list. Offer a link in the email which is easy to see and ensure that they are removed immediately.

We hope these 5 email marketing tips will get you on your way to creating your own compelling campaigns.

For more marketing advice, why not come along to one of Grow’s workshops at The British Library Business & IP Centre?

13 June 2017

The proper way to build a brilliant brand

On Thursday 15 June 2017, the British Library’s Business & IP Centre will be hosting Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Brilliant Brands. The panel will consist of Inspiring food and drink entrepreneurs speaking on their respective journeys to business success and the creation of their exciting brands. One of the brilliant brands on the night will be PROPERCORN, represented by co-founder, Ryan Kohn. We caught up with Ryan to find out a little more about the PROPERCORN story and to discover how it developed from an entrepreneurial dream to a big business, selling three million bags a month.

What makes PROPERCORN so different from any other popcorn brand on the market?

We’ve grown at a serious pace over the last five years but we’ve never compromised on our popcorn. We’re total flavour fanatics, so the recipes still start in our kitchen and the process involves careful sourcing, blending and tweaking until we’ve got the perfect product. Every bag is made using natural seasonings and our passionate team still manages to bring to life incredible recipes like Peanut Butter & Almond and Sour Cream & Black Pepper. We’re also very proud to be the only independently-run, British brand of the four leading popcorns on the market. This definitely helps us to retain flexibility in our entrepreneurial approach.  


Tell us about the early days of starting your business and why you think your idea succeeded?

My business partner, Cassandra, came up with the idea when she was 25. Like all great ideas and entrepreneurs, she spotted a gap and was brave enough to make the leap. It’s easy to forget how little there was on offer in terms of healthy snacks at the time; it was either a chocolate bar or a rice cake and not much else in between. Cassandra was determined to bring something to market which found that tasty/healthy sweet spot. Quite simply, it made sense - and when we brought together our dogged determination, her creativity and my business experience we found we had a pretty formidable team. 

Did you expect such fast growth when you started and how have dealt with the challenges that such change brings?

To be honest, our initial business plan was much punchier than we actually achieved. However, this was probably due to our inexperienced forecasting than anything else. I am extremely ambitious and with past businesses, I have learnt that there is a lot to be said for momentum. I believed in what we had and knew that once we got the ball rolling, that momentum would follow. Our first stockist was Google HQ where we became the best-selling snack; this was an amazing case study and a quick succession of major retailers followed. Challenges are endless and pitfalls inevitable, so resilience and reacting positively to any mistakes is key when starting your own business. I really do believe in the power of being positive and the challenges you overcome, only make you stronger. It helps too when you have an amazing team supporting you and we certainly have that at PROPERCORN.


Did you have any concerns about entering an already saturated market? And, if so, how did you manage to stand out?

We were one of the first to market, but a couple of competitors had launched before us. Initially, we thought it was detrimental to our ambitions that others were doing the same thing, but, when you’re trying to build a new category it was, in hindsight, brilliant that we had others pushing the same message. We wouldn’t have been able to do it alone as a start-up with limited budgets. Together we have built the fastest growing snack within crisps, snacks and nuts sector for the last five years on the trot.

From the get go, our flavours have always made us stand out and we’re very proud to have won the Great Taste Awards for our efforts. We also have an enormously talented in-house creative team who create everything you see on our packs, cases and campaigns. I’d like to think it’s the attention to detail and passion that goes into all elements of PROPERCORN that really sets us apart.

Finally, do you have any wise words of advice for budding food entrepreneurs hoping to follow in your footsteps?

If you’ve spotted that gap and you really believe the demand is there, have a go at pulling together a skeleton business plan. It sounds really obvious but even a crude skeleton will give you focus, whatever the industry. Think about what a successful year looks like, how you might go about achieving that success and then just go for it and don’t hold back.

For your chance to hear more from Ryan and to quiz the brains behind Beavertown Brewery, Cauli Rice and The Spice Tailor, book your Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Brilliant Brands ticket here.


31 May 2017

A snappy rebrand for business growth

Barrie Gordon is the founder of Blend and is a man who loves what he does. His company specialises in high-quality commercial photography and he has worked with the likes of Dune, Ted Baker and House of Fraser. Based in North London, Blend has built a reputation for highly professional photography that is both cost-effective and uncompromising on quality.  

Having entered the photography industry soon after leaving school, Barrie was already well-equipped with years of expertise and knowledge when he decided to embark on his own entrepreneurial journey. The initial success of Blend only whetted his appetite for more and the opportunity to join the Innovating for Growth programme at the British Library was one he jumped at. We caught up with Barrie to see how things have developed since completing the programme and to find out a little bit more about how he’s grown a successful company.    


What made you believe that you could turn your passion into a business?

You used the words, belief and passion in your question. In my view, these two attributes are paramount to starting your own business. 

I’ve always been passionate about photography, but becoming an entrepreneur and having my own company is what dreams are made of. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working for a variety of photographic companies and this gave me with the perfect opportunity to learn and also to see things I could change and improve. The managerial experience that I garnered over this period also meant I had the necessary skill set to do something I always wanted to do. To make that jump from employee to running your own business takes confidence and belief in your own ability.  It's easy to start a business but to make a success of it is a much tougher ask, so believing in yourself is a really important quality for any entrepreneur.

Innovating for Growth helped Blend to scale-up and grow. What initially made this programme attractive to you and your company?

As a small business, I was very interested in any guidance that would help me build a successful company. I felt the programme offered advice in lots of areas which would help to develop my skills as a business owner. Furthermore, as a start-up, with limited funds, to be offered free advice from experts in their respective fields, naturally appealed to me too. I had been trading for a couple of years when I applied for the Innovating for Growth programme and was delighted to find out my application had been successful. The assistance I had in key areas such as brand development, marketing and strategy are things that helped Blend to grow and I’m very pleased I made the decision I did.


You’ve recently rebranded. Why did you feel this was necessary and have you started to see the benefits of this decision?

We were previously known as Packshot and Stills but the rebranding of our company has made a huge difference. To some degree, the old name and branding held us back. The term packshot relates to a particular type of photography. In essence, it's a basic product shot ordinarily shot on a white background. We didn't want to be pigeon-holed and known for just doing this type of photography and I felt that "Packshot and Stills" was doing just that. Our services extend way beyond that of packshots; we are capable of offering professional photography from fashion and video content to complex creative shoots. The old branding just didn't relay that message.

Additionally, profit margins in packshot photography have been driven down. Competition is fierce and as such, prices have fallen to a level which makes that area of photography tough to sustain.  Consumers don't really put the same value on packshot photography as they do for creative still-lifes or fashion photography. It just made sense to distance ourselves from that term in relation to our branding. Having said that, we still do packshots here at Blend but wanted to get the message out there that we are experts in a range of other areas of photography, hence the name Blend.

The company is relatively young and brand awareness hadn't truly been established. If we were going to rebrand, now was the time to do so. Moreover, the website also needed to be redeveloped, so it seemed a perfect time to do it.

Since the rebrand in mid-January, I've had very positive feedback regarding the visual aesthetics. We've also started to see the commercial benefits and certainly had more interest in our fashion work. I'm hoping this trend will continue and we will see similar progress with our creative product photography.


Innovating for Growth focuses on key areas to help businesses scale-up and grow. When considering the support and advice you received, what would you say has helped Blend the most?

There were plenty of aspects of the programme that helped me to grow Blend. Due to the size of my business, the advice that I received was split between things that were actionable straight away and guidance I could implement at a later stage. 

Initially, I had a meeting to look at an overview of my business. It was evident that for me to grow the business, I had to look at my time management. I also needed to delegate some of my day-to-day duties to free up time and to enable me to concentrate on building and expanding the business. It may seem obvious, but without someone telling me that it's okay to do so, I probably wouldn't have adapted.

Along with advice on rebranding, I also had some very hands-on advice from ASB Law. They looked over aspects of Blend from a legal perspective and helped us enormously to amend our legal documents.

What’s next for Blend?

We're looking to further expand, not only in physical size, premises and personnel but also broadening our offerings.

We'll always be looking to adapt in order to deliver the level of service that our clients expect.  For us to remain competitive, we constantly need to be refining and reviewing our internal processes to maximise the quality and efficiency of our output.

Externally, we'll be increasing investment in our marketing. We have a brand that we can be proud of and, as such, we want to get our message out there.

Are you an ambitious business owner looking to scale up, like Barrie? Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more and apply now.

18 May 2017

Seven tips for standing out at a trade show

In the week of The London Business Show, our corporate partner Vistaprint have put together this list of tips for you to put into practice whenever you attend or exhibit at trade shows to make sure your attendance generates a healthy return on investment.

If you don’t have the advantage of an exhibition stand to draw the crowds, attending a trade show can still be a cost-effective way to build your brand and uncover new business opportunities. Just remember the following advice:


  1. Order plenty of business cards

Getting your business cards in the hands of as many people as possible should be a major objective of your trade show visit. Your business cards should catch the eye, use bold colours, and reinforce your brand identity and key value proposition.

There’s an almost unlimited choice of combinations of size, shape, colour, material and finish to choose from when it comes to designing business cards and each choice can be used to send subtle clues about your brand to potential customers. For example, if your business sells eco-friendly products then an organic business card with rustic appearance will help reinforce your environmental credentials.

You can also make your business card useful by incorporating valuable information into the design. For example, an email marketing company could use the back of their business card to show the best times for sending email newsletters. Just make sure your contact information remains clear and legible. Vistaprint has lots of tips for designing business cards that not only stand out, but increase the chances that your prospective customers will hang on to them.

  1. Promote the event

You might feel like the exhibition organisers have the promotion of the event well-covered, but why leave anything to chance? Not only will a well-attended trade show increase your chances of finding customers, but if you manage to prompt a few of your potential customers to attend via your blog and social media posts, they’ll be a lot more likely to hunt you down at the exhibition. Most trade shows will use a hashtag for promotion in the run up to, and during, the event. Use it to let attendees know you’ll be there and invite them to meet up.

  1. Dress to impress

It might sound obvious, but your attire should inspire confidence and trust in your target audience. This doesn’t necessarily mean dressing up in your finest business suit. If your customers are more interested in your technical skills, then a branded polo shirt might be a better look (and another opportunity to reinforce brand identity). Purveyors of health and beauty products might do better with clean, crisp whites, which are associated with hygiene and medical expertise.

When you’re exhibiting

Exhibiting at a trade show can be a costly undertaking.  Pitched alongside lots of other businesses vying for the attention of attendees, it takes creativity and planning to make sure you stand out from the crowd and walk away with as many new sales leads as possible. Follow these tips to maximise your impact and generate a healthy batch of new business opportunities.

  1. Catch the eye

At a large trade show, there will be hundreds of exhibitors trying to attract potential customers to their stands, so it’s essential that your little patch of real estate is easy to spot and looks enticing. Use bold colours on posters and banners and make sure the text is large enough to be read from across the exhibition hall (this will also keep your marketing messages short and succinct). If there’s an opportunity to show your promotional videos, advertisements or product demonstrations on a video screen, take it – moving images are great for capturing people’s attention.

Whatever tactic you use to catch the eye make sure it’s appropriate to your products and services. Everything at your stand should reinforce your branding and your key value proposition for customers.

  1. Use lead magnets

Lead magnets are high-value giveaways, like branded sweatshirts, printed books, or free trials of your product or service that can be offered in exchange for sitting through a sales pitch. The real challenge at a trade show is converting passers-by who are vaguely interested in your wares into paying customers, or sales-ready leads. Lead magnets buy you the time you need to accomplish this feat. Just remember to collect the contact details of your new leads.

  1. Take your best salespeople

There’s very little point bringing people to your stand if you don’t have the ability to persuade them to make a purchase or leave their details. Take only your most successful sellers and keep them motivated to stay approachable and friendly all day long. Make sure you have enough people to keep the stand manned all day and provide regular breaks so that energy levels don’t flag towards the end.

Whether you’re exhibiting or attending don’t forget the golden rule of dealing with new business opportunities:

  1. Follow up new leads quickly!

Getting the most out of your trade show appearance doesn’t just mean generating as many leads as possible but also converting as many of those leads as possible into actual sales. The best outcome would be to close sales or make appointments at the show itself, but it’s more likely that you’ll walk away with lots of contact details of potential customers who you couldn’t convert. The sooner you follow up with these prospects, preferably by phone, the more likely they are to remember you and give you another chance to convince them.

Vistaprint are a Corporate Partner of the British Library’s Business & IP Centre

15 May 2017

Lavolio: The sweet taste of success

For some small businesses, the start-up stage can see an exciting period of exponential growth. This initial high is a pleasant surprise for most entrepreneurs but can create unforeseen challenges. Being able to deal with these changes can determine whether your business is a 'flash in the pan' or here for the long haul. A business that definitely fits the latter description is the boutique confectionery company, Lavolio. Founded by Lavinia Davolio, Lavolio has quickly become a serious player in the game of luxury treats and Lavinia credits her experience on the Innovating for Growth programme as one of the main reasons for its success. We caught up with her to find out a bit more.

Lavinia Davolio Profile with Lavolio. Photo credit_ Geoff Pugh

You gave up a high-flying career in banking to start your company, Lavolio. What would you say inspired this brave decision?

Three years ago I was busy climbing the corporate ladder on the trading floor of a large investment bank when the banking crisis helped me to decide that it was time for a change. I started Lavolio Boutique Confectionery with the desire to create something new out of my passion for food.

Some people say that I have been brave to launch my own luxury sweet business but I simply turned my redundancy into something positive. I believe it came at the right time in my life and if I look back at that time, it felt like an easy decision because I was following my heart and my passion.

It was while cooking at home that I came up with the idea for my company. I was experimenting with sweet recipes when I thought of using a thin sugar shell as a natural preservative. Inside these small shells, I could place pieces of fruit, whole nuts, jellies, coffee beans and different types of chocolate. I was then able to create lots of flavours, using spices and fruit zests and textures, from crunchy to crumbly, and that’s when I thought I was onto something really special.

Did you always believe that Lavolio would appeal to so many people?

At the time of my product development, I had no idea whether there would be a market for it. I tried out my creations on my close friends and family; everyone got samples and I received enough positive feedback to try selling my sweets to the public, setting up stalls at a handful of London food markets. This was a crucial step for Lavolio when testing things early on. Food markets were the first time that I got a real indication of whether people were willing to buy what I was making. A much more analytical market research process then followed. Lavolio has a very clear and simple vision to always provide WOW to our clients, with a delightful flavour and surprising taste, beautifully presented. This is what has allowed Lavolio to become the number 1 Italian luxury confectionery brand in the UK. We are now planning to increase our distribution to new countries and to continue adding new beautiful products to our range.

You recently completed the Innovating for Growth programme. How would you say Lavolio has benefited from this experience?

When I first entered the programme I did not know what to expect. My three-year-old confectionery business had enjoyed a very fast growth period; I was selling to Fortnum & Mason, Ocado, on Amazon Launchpad and in more than 200 premium independent stockists across England, Scotland and Wales. With hindsight, I can now see that joining the programme could not have come at a better time. With our business foundations built, and our products receiving some incredible early feedback, the next question was ‘how do we scale up?' As a founder, I faced many challenging decisions on our operations, marketing, branding and product innovation, and I felt that every aspect was covered in the programme, thus helping me to make more informed decisions in order to move the company in the right direction. Each workshop and activity has been hugely beneficial and has helped our company fast-forward to the next level. We have learned how to keep doing what we do really well and to maintain our values and strengthen our business model to ensure we are ready for such steep growth. In turn, we have seen a tangible effect on our strategy and on the way that we now prioritise different activities. I was really impressed by the quality of the advice, ideas and encouragement we received. All of this has made the programme into a very positive experience for Lavolio and one that we will carry on into our business journey.

Copy of Lavolio Fondant Lovelies Lifestyle _ high res

Lavolio’s sweets are handmade and it is clear a lot of love and attention goes into creating them. How important is this care to quality and detail for the brand?

The dream of Lavolio is to make better quality confectionery with proper ingredients and to create a beautiful taste experience for those who explore our creations. This is at the centre of everything we do. We aim to wow with our unusual flavours and luxury presentation. As soon as you open the tin you can see that each single piece is unique and handmade. Each collection comprises a variety of six different types of sweets. There are 40 – 50 unique sweets in each tin, nestling in the glassine paper inside the box. Lavolios make the perfect gift because they have been designed to provide a feast for the senses. This includes the carefully designed packaging, which delights the eye, the delicious aroma that you can smell when the box is first opened; the touch of the individual candy coatings, and the crunch of the coatings which release the explosion of flavours in the mouth. We hear from our clients every day how delighted they have been with both gifting and receiving our products and this is the single most important thing that we do - provide an outstanding customer experience.

As a successful entrepreneur, do you have any wise words of advice for those who would like to follow in your footsteps?

If you’re passionate about everything sweet, are full of energy and love talking to people, then starting a confectionery business could be perfect for you. My advice would be to put your customers at the heart of everything that you do and ensure your product tastes fantastic! Try to make sure that the wow factor is well communicated on your packaging, don't be afraid to reach out to people and always carry a box of your product with you.

Are you an ambitious business owner looking to scale up, like Lavinia? Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more and apply now.


10 April 2017

Thinking little to achieve big

British Library Business & IP Centre ambassador, Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, explains what motivated him to write his new book ‘Little Wins’ and why entrepreneurs should continue to channel their ‘inner child’.  Come and hear him at tonight’s event where he demonstrates how employing a toddler mindset helped him to set up and run a global business.  He will be joined by entrepreneurial playmates, Rob Wilson, Toast Ale and Jimmy Cregan, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee.

Paul Lindley-5191

What inspired you to write Little Wins?

The idea for Little Wins has evolved over the last twenty years of my working life. Prior to launching Ella’s Kitchen, I worked at children’s TV network Nickelodeon, where I was constantly amazed by the remarkable brainpower of young children. The personal experience of raising my two children, Ella and Paddy, furthered these insights, and through Ella’s Kitchen, I am lucky enough to still have a constant stream of inspiring little ones in my life.  

Toddlers are the world’s most creative, free-thinking and self-confident individuals. When learning to walk and talk, toddlers persist gamely and fearlessly, trying and failing hundreds of times until they get it right, without ever losing the inquisitiveness and optimism that made them start trying in the first place.

However, as we grow up social insecurities take hold, and many of us lose touch with these precious skills – especially nowadays, when complex political climates, environmental issues and further social stresses mean life is more pressurised than ever before.

Yet this needn’t be the case! We can all find the key to stepping back and unlocking our personal potential, not by learning new skills, but by rediscovering old ones – the mindset we all once had as toddlers.


What is Little Wins about?

Little Wins is about discovering how to recapture a new and less cluttered perspective on life by embracing a toddler mindset and rediscovering some of the good habits you used to have in your early years.

For example, in his popular TED talk ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’, educationalist Sir Ken Robinson quotes the fact that 98 percent of three- to five-year-olds tested for their creativity showed the ability to ‘think in divergent ways’. By the age of twenty-five, this figure drops to just 2 percent. We can all learn to grow down and unlock these skills.

‘Growing down’ involves casting off some of the self-imposed restrictions that govern our everyday lives, and reawakening our most creative, ambitious and determined selves. This is what I’ve done with Ella’s Kitchen, and it really has been the key to our success, enabling us to develop from an idea at my kitchen table to the UK’s best-selling baby-food brand.

With my new book Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler, I’ve tried to create a kind of personal development guide from what I’ve learnt throughout my career and personal life – together with research from a range of psychologists, researchers and business leaders – to help others embark on this same journey.

What is the top takeaway from the book?

Perhaps the most important lesson in Little Wins – and one that encapsulates my other eight steps to growing down – is the need to embrace the power of play.

Toddlers explore the world through imagination and play – quite literally everything has the potential to be an adventure. As we grow up, play stops being a priority. However, psychologist Stuart Brown, founder of the California-based National Institute for Play, has conducted research which has revealed that adults are just as susceptible to play deprivation as children – leaving them ‘rigid, humourless, inflexible and closed to trying out new options’.

Even in a business context, play is crucial. Embracing the power of play can help us to think outside the box, adapt to changing situations, and innovate new solutions to problems. At Ella’s Kitchen, we have always adopted a playful, childlike approach in everything we do – from our product creation, through to our marketing strategy and our employee welfare schemes – and it has been central to our success.

Who do you think captures the toddler mindset?

 Many quintessential toddler qualities – single-minded confidence, boundless creativity, unwavering determination – are those that define the most successful business leaders and entrepreneurs. I’ve been lucky enough to come across many talented, inspiring individuals who embody this mindset, but one that has always stood out for me is Sir Richard Branson.


Virgin are a perfect example of toddler thinking in a corporate world; and Richard Branson has even written the foreword to Little Wins, to explain how his adoption of a toddler mindset has been the key to his success. He is a great example of relentless, optimistic, determination to push the boundaries, and a refusal to be constrained by the norms of growing up – in his own words, ‘growing up can be a trap, but it doesn’t have to be!’


04 April 2017

How do you choose the right domain extension for your business?

Choosing the right domain name for your new business is a challenge in itself: in addition to your brand identity, you also need to take into account SEO considerations, which is essential if you want to be found online. Then, once you’ve chosen the name, which extension should you go for? This is a separate deliberation as domain extensions will affect the performance of your website in the long run. So how do you choose what’s right for you?


Here are some top tips from our partner UK2 about domain extensions and how to choose one for your business:

1 The .com: an all-time favourite

PROS: Nearly 50% of all websites end in .com - it is the most trusted top-level domain, or TLD, on the market, and new internet users will gravitate towards typing that extension before even considering having a second look at the website’s name they are trying to access. What is also worth considering is your geographic audience. If you have or are planning to have many international visitors, they will also feel at ease with the .com extension, viewing it as a professional and trusted business address.

CONS: Due to the extensive popularity of the .com extension, the chances are that the domain name you want to register is already taken. In order to buy a .com domain name, you will have to become creative. A unique and quirky brand name is far more likely to be available for registration in comparison to descriptive website domain names. For example, the brand name “” is more likely to be available than “”.

2 vs .uk

PROS: The and the newer .uk domain extensions are part of the geographic identity group, such as .fr for France, .de for Germany, etc. This gives your website an edge when it comes to Google searches. Google claim they prioritise location domain extensions for a given country’s searches. For example, a website ending in .com will appear less often in Google UK than the equivalent ending in or .uk. To promote the .uk era, UK2 is offering all .uk domain names for £1 for the first year, starting from April 1st, 2017. Don’t miss out!

CONS: We have all become used to seeing and identify it as this country’s area code. The introduction of .uk was aimed at providing a shorter and neater version, comparable to the other country suffixes such as .com. With time, however, a neat .uk domain name will be just as desirable as the .com, don’t you think?

  1. Are you a .london-er?

PROS: Being synonymous with our great capital London is without a doubt a marketing tool not to be dismissed. But at the same time, registering a .london domain name will not magically send your website to the top Google search results. A .london suffix is effectively a branding tool; it will create a very strong identity for your business.

CONS: It is worth keeping in mind that your business plans might end up growing beyond Greater London. If you do venture further, perhaps even internationally, then having a .london domain extension could be limiting and misleading. This again depends on your branding strategy.


  1. New GTLDs to consider: for example, .earth, .online, .pet

PROS: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is releasing more and more new TLDs to meet the world’s demand of going online. Domain suffixes such as .online clearly state that such a website does business purely online. It can also help differentiate between physical businesses and virtual ones, as some users actively seek out the latter. The .earth domain suffix is great for anything and everything environmental and holistic, which makes quite an impact. And who wouldn’t love a .pet? Vets, animal trainers and behaviourists, and all things pet-related would be clearly identifiable. As there are quite a few TLDs to choose from, chances are that the already taken .com version is still available on your domain suffix of choice.

CONS: The main downside to being adventurous is that new domain extensions haven’t yet earned their trust amongst internet surfers. Many of us are still a bit wary of online dangers and if something doesn’t look familiar then we tend to steer clear of it. But as with all things new, it just takes one person to take the risk and start the flow, and suddenly the popularity and trust will develop.

So what is the conclusion of all of the considerations above?

  • If you can, you should always register more than one extension for your chosen domain. In an ideal world, get the .com and (or .uk), and a TLD that is relevant to your area of business, such as .pet. Registering more than one option will give you flexibility for the future.
  • If your business model is clearly defined within a given boundary, such as a local London club, you could either go for the .london or .club extension, depending on which part of the branding you wish to emphasise. Sometimes it pays off to be bold and daring.
  • Costs - when creating your business plan make sure to retain some budget for domain name registrations. Some exotic TLDs are more expensive than others and initially, you might want to register a few, which requires a decent budget. You will have to consider the risk of not registering a domain name and then later having to buy it off someone else, which will be more expensive. Just keep it in mind.
  • Even if the .com is still topping the TLD chart, with so many new websites going live every day, there will eventually be a tipping point. And when that moment comes, the popularity of new TLDs will skyrocket - so strike while the iron’s hot; it’s always better to register one domain extra than one too few.

Are you ready to register your domain name with UK2 today? Click here for our special .uk offer in partnership with the Business & IP Centre.