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

23 December 2017

A little bit of Christmas cheese: an interview with the owner of Chalton Street cheesemongers and café, Cheezelo

For many people, Christmas simply isn’t Christmas without the traditional festive cheeseboard. So what better time to catch up with Eleonore Deneuve, owner of the British Library’s local neighbourhood cheesemonger, delicatessen and café situated on Chalton Street?

Over the last year, Eleonore has worked with the Library’s Business & IP Centre to start and grow the business, and joined us to tell us how she’s benefitted from the Centre’s services, as well as to share some of her hints and tips for the perfect Christmas cheeseboard.

Tell us a little more about the Cheezelo business.

Cheezelo is a cheese retailer offering products to end consumers and catering services to small and medium businesses. The business officially started trading in December 2016 when it was renting renting a commercial kitchen in East London and focusing on online sales, both via our own website) and online delivery platforms. We also had a regular presence at weekends markets such as Roan Road, Brick Lance and Columbia Road. We really wanted the business to have its own physical presence and I acquired a shop lease in April 2017 which allowed me to offer my products and services face-to-face to end consumers in the Kings Cross area (on Chalton Street). The shop itself has now been open since mid June 2017. We offer a wide range of 70+ artisan cheeses from all over Europe, British, French, Spanish, Italian, Swiss, ad are constantly increasing our range to satisfy the multiculturality of London. Cheezelo also specialises in regional and bespoke ready-to-eat cheese platters, composed of a variety of cheeses, seasonal fruits, chutney and crackers. Those are available to consume at the shop, take away or for online delivery.


Eleonore Deneuve, owner of Cheezelo cheesemongers and deli

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

Well really, like all good business ideas it started with a personal passion, that being my own love of cheeses and wine and hosting dinner parties with friends, just generally preparing cheese platters and sharing a good time and quality food with the people I love. I had also observed that tapas, aperitivo and shared food platters were more and more popular in the UK, and I wanted Ceezelo to respond to those trends by specialising in ready to eat cheese platters.

Did you use the resources and training available through the Business & IP Centre to research and launch the business? If so, how have you benefitted from this?

Indeed, I actually prepared the business plan and did all my market research with the help of the amazing resources at the Business & IP Centre. I alsa participated in various workshops and classes too which really helped me understand my market, develop my idea, structure my research and write my business plan, and ultimately to launch of my company. The amount of resources available in the Library for businesses to use is incredible, and I benefited a lot speaking to experts and entrepreneurs at the Centre and gaining their insight. Once I had actually opened the shop, I was also really lucky to be selected to have a business mentor for 6-month period which has been really key to the recent development and growth of the company. I am so grateful at the amount of resources and support available at the Centre. Aside from gaining practical information, coming to workshop also allowed me to network with various other small business owners and really increased my confidence to start the shop.

You recently took part in a Christmas market at the British Library – tell us more about that?

I was glad to be part of this year Christmas Market at the British Library, It is where it all started in some ways, being there and presenting a range of my cheeses and delicatessens products was ideal, also given that my shop is located only 2 min walk away, It was also a way to promote my shop and products to the members of the british library and their visitors.

What makes your business unique from other cheese retailers in London?


I think I am different from the competition in the sense that I offer a really wide range of European cheeses, so there’s always something to meet your tastes. Whereas a lot of other cheese retailers are focused specifically on specializing in either British French cheeses, I source Spanish, Italian, Swiss and Dutch cheeses so the range is really diverse. The shop currently offers about 75 different cheeses from all over Europe and I am aiming to extend the range even further in the new year. I also offer a very popular range of homemade vegan cheeses to serve the dairy free community, and am passionate about sourcing locally made products such as fresh bread made on Caledonian Road, vegan crackers and houmous made locally in Hackney and so on. My little shop is on a quiet street in a central location but still with quite a residential atmosphere. It was really important to me to be remain close to the community and offer fresh, excellent quality and affordable food to people from all walks of life, and I think that community engagement is something that also sets the business apart from other competitors.

Being close to the community is obviously very important to you, but what factors affected your decision to base the business in the Somers Town / St Pancras area?

Since I moved to London, I always lived in Kings Cross and Camden area and I have seen this part of London developed and improve significantly over the past 6 years. When started my research for setting up Cheezelo, I realised that a cheese monger was a service that was currently missing in the area, and with the continuous development of the area bringing in diverse new groups of people who live and work nearby, I decided this market gap was the perfect opportunity to start my company. When it came to choosing a location, I visited many vacant retail units and ultimately settled on the Chalton Street location for two reasons.  Firstly, the location is directly between King’s Cross and Euston stations and so there is lots of passing traffic. But secondly, being located in Somers Town meant that the rent was more affordable than being on the High Street, so it was a more feasible location for a start-up business like mine.

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

Well the first priority of course is to concentrate on making Cheezelo on Chalton Street a great success. After that, I would eventually like to open another shop in East Lonodn and possibly also in another UK city one day too, so watch this space!

Finally, we all love a nice bit of cheese at Christmas, but what are your expert tips for creating the perfect festive cheeseboard?

Ohhhh my favourite question – I could talk about cheese all day! For the perfect cheeseboard you need a good variety of textures and flavor intensity. I would recommend the following: start with a soft cheese like brie de meaux, camembert or pont l'eveque. Then add a semi-soft cheese with some strong flavours like a cornish yarg, Saint Nectaire or a cider Normandy cheese (la bonne cauchoise is a cider cheese which I import directly from Upper Normandy that’s always very popular!) Of course a blue cheese is also essential: stilton is traditional at Christmas, but bleu d auvergne or Roquefort also work really well. You then need a good strong hard cheese to complete the board, something like manchego curado, farmhouse cheddar like Wookey Cave aged, comté mature or gruyere alpage 24 months. You could finalise the perfect platter some goat cheese like a rosary goat, or selles sur cher type soft goat, and if you want to really be extravagant maybe something with some flavours of truffle for extra Christmas indulgence. I think it is important to have a minimum of 3 cheeses for enough variety, and also garnish with some seasonal fruits like grapes, apples, pears, strawberries, chutney. Don’t forget some good quality fresh bread and mixed crackers too. My final big tip is to say don’t hesitate to mix the cheeses from different countries. There is so much variety to choose from and mixing up cheese from British, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch or Swiss producers really adds some diversity to your selection and ensures that you’ll be getting a great mix of flavor profiles and textures to enjoy with friends and family over the festive season.

Cheezelo is open at 46 Chalton right up until Christmas Eve to meet all your last minute festive cheese needs.

And don’t forget, if your New Year’s resolution is to finally take the plunge and set up your own business, the Innovating for Growth: Start-ups programme can give you all the essential information you need to get started on your business journey in 2018.

19 December 2017

Smartify: an image recognition app that's changing the art world

Add comment Comments (0)

Smartify user scanning Paul Emsley’s portrait of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge (2012)
Smartify user scanning Paul Emsley’s portrait of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge (2012)


Whether you're an art aficionado, or just an occasional culture buff, we have just the app for you. Smartify is a free gallery guide that launched earlier this year at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and is already in use in over 30 major galleries and museums around the world. It lets you scan a work of art with your smartphone and uncover the story behind it, revealing the title, artist and background to the piece you're looking at. You can save a digital copy of the painting and create your own library, just like you would on Spotify for your favourite songs. The app will also recommend similar works at a nearby venue. 

The company hope their product will turn the perception of smartphones in galleries as an object of disruption on its head, and enable users to engage with artwork in a more meaningful way instead.

We caught up with Anna Lowe, Director of Partnerships and co-founder of Smartify, to find out a bit more about their journey and hear how the Innovating for Growth programme helped Smartify scale up.


How did the idea for Smartify come about and did it take long to develop the app?

The Smartify co-founders have always loved visiting museums and seeing art. We also found that we developed a much deeper understanding and connection with an artwork when we learned about its context while looking at it. Imagine having an enthusiastic and knowledgeable friend telling you more about a work of art, and the extra enjoyment or connection that it brings. Finally, we were aware that there is disagreement around the etiquette of using digital devices in art galleries and wanted to reframe the use of mobile phones as engagement rather than distraction.

The development of the app is a constant process of user-centered design and improvement.


Smartify app demonstration
Smartify app demonstration


Smartify is now with some major galleries around the world. How easy (or hard) was it to have them buy into the concept?

Working with museums can be slow moving as it is a notoriously conservative sector with lots of internal stakeholders. However, as a social enterprise, part of Smartify's  mission is to support public arts organisations with audience reach and financial resilience. Our ambition therefore, is to build the platform in collaboration with museums and to evolve the arts sector for our digital economy and new cultural consumers.


What has been the businesses biggest achievement so far?

Apollo International Art Magazine selected Smartify as winner of the Digital Innovation Award 2017. After a really busy year it was a massive honour for the team and an indication of the impact we are starting to have in the sector.


Visitor scanning Rembrandt’s portrait of Herman Doomer (c.1595) with Open Access at The Met  NYC  2017
Visitor scanning Rembrandt’s portrait of Herman Doomer (c.1595) with Open Access at The Met, New York


What are your future plans for growth?

We are working to scale up our team to meet demand, to include more and more museums on the app, and to build new product features our users want!

When thinking of innovation in any sector, it is useful to consider the entire value chain and all the services, teams, people that might be impacted by the disruption. This approach has lead to what is called full-stack startups that look across all the different parts of the industry's/organisation's value chain and collaborate with partners and clients to identify solutions together.

Smartify user scanning Frans Hals’s The Laughing Cavalier (1624) at The Wallace Collection, London
Smartify user scanning Frans Hals’s The Laughing Cavalier (1624) at The Wallace Collection, London


How did Innovating for Growth help with Smartify?

The programme helped in lots of ways! It gave us the space to think about our company purpose and how to translate that into a sustainable business model. For example, when bringing ‘positive disruption’ into any sector is useful to consider the entire value chain and all the services, teams, people that might be impacted by the disruption. This approach has lead to what is called full-stack startups that look across all the different parts of the industry's/organisation's value chain and collaborate with partners and clients to identify solutions together. This model helps reframe some common obstacles as opportunities to differentiate yourself.

It was also brilliant to have access to the British Library’s extensive Business and IP library. It is an amazing resource for market research and ideas!

Finally, we made a few good friends on the Innovating for Growth* programme who are going through the same scale up challenges and who have been great people to bounce ideas off.


Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more here.

01 December 2017

The Five Step Facebook Marketing Strategy

Some companies seem to run their Facebook pages with so much ease. You know the ones; thousands of likes, fans tripping over themselves to be a part of the hot conversation…

… it makes you wonder what they are doing right, and what you are doing so terribly wrong!

Certain businesses are simply lazy when it comes to Facebook marketing. Perhaps they try a few posts, maybe no one replies and then they just give up.

Some business pages go totally the other way. Often sharing post after post with little thought as to what their audience is actually looking for. 


Perhaps it’s the familiarity of Facebook that makes it difficult to grasp. Many business owners use Facebook personally so it can be tempting to try the same approach on your business page that you use for your personal page.

Whatever the problem may be, we see countless examples of businesses with bad Facebook marketing strategies.

Despite Facebook feeling like second nature to some, there is still a large knowledge gap for small business owners when it comes to Facebook marketing. Often, they simply aren't aware of how much they could achieve with the platform - or how to use it effectively.

With 1.32 billion daily active users, Facebook is a channel you simply cannot afford to miss.

We’re going to talk you through some simple steps to get you up to speed with using Facebook for business. If you don’t already have a Facebook page, you will want to set one up first. 


1. It all starts with a plan

You may have already adopted a haphazard approach when it comes to managing your business page: we’re here to put an end to this. By defining what you want to achieve, you have a greater chance of achieving success.


For someone who is new to Facebook marketing, it’s easy to get caught up in collecting likes and focusing on this as the primary measurement of your success. As exciting as it may be to gain new followers, this alone will not do a great deal for your business.

When you think about goals, extend your thoughts beyond Facebook. After all, the purpose of having a platform is to generate more interest in your business and drive traffic back to your website.

Here are some common goals for Facebook business pages:

  • Generating Leads
  • Increasing blog or website traffic
  • Building brand awareness
  • Providing customer service


Once you know what you want to achieve, begin getting to know your audience better. It’s important to know your audience; what excites them, what makes them share posts, what encourages them to get involved?

If you already have a business page, your Facebook analytics will help you get a good idea of which types of posts perform best. If you are new to Facebook, take a look at your competitor’s pages. What areas are they having success in? Find out what posts resonate with your chosen audience and you are already one step ahead.


2. Share great content

Once you’ve set some solid goals and defined your audience, you can start planning what exactly you are going to share.

If your goal is to increase product sales, you may think that you’re Facebook page is going to be full of lovely product photos. Wrong. This kind of sales oriented page isn’t going to cut it on Facebook.

Yes, you want your audience to be wowed by your amazing products but you also need to give them a reason to follow you and trust you. Think about what else you have you got to offer them besides a great product?

Creating a broad mix of content is the best way to do this, mix your own content with other peoples, share a range of photos and videos as well as just blogs. This way you can then look at what works and what doesn’t and create a strategy that is targeted specifically at your audience.

 You want to be seen as an expert in your industry, someone who keeps their finger on the pulse.

And don’t forget: everything shared on your page should show your brand personality. (If you haven’t already set the tone for your brand, you should get that together immediately.)


3. Get talking

It’s a good idea to focus on increasing engagement as part your Facebook strategy.

Engagement constitutes the number of individuals sharing, liking and commenting on your posts. Their doing so vastly increases the visibility of your posts and the visibility of your business on Facebook, as the platform prioritises valuable and engaging content.

Putting your content out there is only half the work. It’s a social network, the whole point is to get people talking. People need to be prompted and you may need to draw attention to yourself in order to be heard.

Ask questions about trending topics, share photos that spark a conversation, share customer stories and make sure that when people do engage with you, they get a reply. The buzz will soon die down if people’s comments are ignored.

This may be a slow process at first, but working out what does and doesn’t work for your audience, is the only way you will create that buzz and keep people engaged.

This leads me on to my next point.


4. Track it, measure it, tweak it.

A lot of the initial work with Facebook is trial and error. Your audience is unique to your brand and as such, you need to work out what works for you.

Facebook makes it easy for us marketers to analyse what is working and what isn’t with its own dedicated analytics suite, Facebook Audience Insights.

Here, you can see exactly what is working on Facebook and what isn't. Are people getting fed up with all those news updates you thought were interesting? Do you receive a higher engagement with your blog shares than your product images?

Facebook Insights also gives you a breakdown of the specific times at which you get the most activity, this can help you figure out the optimal time to post for your audience.

When you work out what people are looking for, you can tweak what you share to increase engagement and increase the number of people taking actions.

This is an iterative process which can be made simpler by following the earlier steps. Defining what works early on can ensure you find your perfect content mix quickly

5.Give it a boost!


Following the previous steps will help you get everything right in terms of what to share and how to encourage engagement. This gives you a better chance of getting seen - but it's by no means foolproof.

The problem we all face is a lack of visibility. Facebook estimates that only 16% of your fans see any one of your posts organically.

So how can you further increase your chances of being spotted? Paid promotion is the key.

You don't need a huge budget to start promoting your posts. A modest outlay can ensure your important posts are being given greater visibility.  Facebook even allows you to target certain demographics, set your daily budget and length of a campaign.

Promoted posts are a quick, targeted and effective way to reach more of your target audience.

However, if you want promoted posts you work, you will need to keep on top of them. Tracking and tweaking are vital to success.

If you follow the steps above and dedicate the time to tweaking and testing, it will help you increase traffic to your website and help to achieve your other goals, whether that be the sale of a product or even just collecting emails addresses for your mailing list.

If, like many, you are new to Facebook marketing following this simple and effective plan will get you started on your first campaign. Good luck and remember to keep at it!

Alasdair is a top marketing consultant who also runs workshops at The British Library.  For more advice, why not come along to one of Grow’s workshops at The British Library Business & IP Centre?

27 November 2017

Keeping your business safe from the cyber criminals

Lucidica-Logo-RGB-Strapline-Alpha-Large copy
Cybercrime is on the rise, and small businesses are increasingly being targeted. Whilst it can be easy to imagine that only large corporations fall prey to cyber attacks, do not be fooled. A small business is just a likely as a large multi-national enterprise to be the victim of cybercrime, but because these incidents do not receive as much media coverage they can easily go unnoticed. In fact, recent data shows that more than 50% of small businesses have experienced a cyber attack. Whatever size your business is, a cyber attack is like a wildfire that can spread through your system rapidly if you aren’t vigilant enough. The consequences of cybercrime can also severely affect your businesses reputation, finance and productivity, as well as putting you and your customers at risk. 

We want to help small businesses to be informed about the risks of cybercrime, and what they can do minimise the threat to their business. That’s why we’ve teamed up with top IT support company Lucidica to deliver a new series of cybersecurity seminars giving you the lowdown on how to identify, protect and prevent an attack. 

The first seminar takes place on January 25th, 2018 and we’ve caught up with Josh Evans – one of Lucidica’s top tech engineers – to tell us more about the murky world of cybercrime and give you a sneak peek of what you can expect from the session.


1. Josh, thanks for partnering with us to guide small businesses through the world of cybercrime. Could you explain more about what actually happens during a cybercrime event?

Basically, there are essentially six keys steps to a cyber attack that business owners should know about. It’s vital that small business owners understand how hackers are spying into their systems to help them identify potential breaches. These six steps are:

  1. Information Gathering: this is where your potential hacker is spying on you and exploring what sort of data you are likely to hold.
  2. Network Mapping: at this stage, the hacker begins studying your connectivity online to paint a fuller picture of your network and reach; this might include looking into partner organisations or collaborators.
  3. Vulnerability Identification: hackers are super skilled at finding the unprotected spots in your network and exploiting these.
  4. Penetration: once a hacker has identified a definite weakness in your system, the initial attack commences.
  5. Privilege Escalation: once the hacker has penetrated your system, the virus or bug can begin replicating and spreads, compromising more and more of your precious data as it grows.
  6. Maintaining Access: as soon as the bug is in your system, it’s too late and resolving the issue is likely to be costly in terms of times, money and resources. The key thing to remember is that prevention is always better than cure, so it’s essential that small businesses understand how to protect themselves from the risks, especially at the earlier stages. 

2. So how can a small business actually identify where the weaknesses in their system are?

This does differ depending on the type of business as well as the IT set-up and the way that business processes data and information. In addition, attackers are constantly evolving and advancing to find more sophisticated and discrete ways to breach into IT systems, so even if you have taken steps to protect yourself it’s really important to stay up-to-date. That said, the key areas of any IT system which tend to be the most vulnerable to attack are:

  • Configuration issues
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Information disclosure

In the seminar we explore these areas in more detail, including how they might apply to individual businesses and systems, as well as discuss strategies to mitigate risks and stay safe.

5 top-tips for marketing your business on a shoe-string

3. What kind of threats are currently on the internet that small businesses should know about?

Again, this is evolving all the time as hackers become more sophisticated and skilled, but the main current threats include:

Ransomware – this is a type of malicious software that steals your data and holds it hostage, usually on the threat of publishing it or perpetually blocking access unless a payment is made. Ramsomware has been in existence since 2005 and continues to be a major threat, especially to companies that hold sensitive data.

 Wannacry – this well-known attack case study affected 230k computers in over 150 countries. Wannacry works by bypassing the firewall as a trojan, most likely as a phishing or spear phishing attack. It then exploits gaps in the system to spread inside the network like a worm, meaning any unpatched systems can be affected without user action and prompts, which makes it especially difficult to detect.

Social Engineering – Social Engineering modes of attack rely on human interaction and essentially ‘trick’ people into breaking normal security procedures. They use techniques that appeal to vanity, authority and greed and include various subcategories such as baiting, phishing, spear phishing, pretexting and spam.

At the seminar we share hints, tips and strategies to help you stay aware and spot the tell-tale signs of various types of cyberattack, and what to do next if you suspect you have been hacked. We will also look in more detail at how baiting and phishing scams work as well, as how future tech and IT developments (such as Bitcoin) might affect cyber risks to your business.

Being aware of how cybercrime works is the start of keeping yourself and your business protected online. The key to keeping your data and assets safe in the digital world is to stay one step ahead of the game so that you can treat any vulnerabilities in good time to prevent attacks taking place, or act quickly when they do.

You can book your place at our ‘How to stop online hacks’ seminar here for just £15. With the average cost of a cyber attack on a small firm now standing at over £400,000, it could be the best £15 you’ve ever spent!

Come and join us on January 25th, 2018 and let’s fight these online attackers together.

The Lucidica Team - helping you protect your business from cybercrime



21 November 2017

Why in-person marketing trumps content and digital

How to use events to market your business

Contemporary marketing talk is all about marketing automation, content and sales funnels. There’s a significant amount of value to be gained from streamlining your marketing and sales processes – but there’s one thing all these marketing tactics and strategies are aiming for: to get you in front of your potential customer/partner/lead.

Marketing is about relationships, and however fabulous your website and digital marketing are, you’re ultimately aiming to have a personal conversation with the right person to buy your product or service or build a partnership.

And that happens in person.

TBN colour

In-person marketing is the future (as well as the past). As people increasingly hide behind their multiple work communication channels – email, slack, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram – it seems like it’s hard enough to get someone on the phone, let alone meet in person.

And that’s why events are the heart and soul of building an effective sales and marketing strategy.

You’re either at someone else’s event – as a speaker, sponsor, exhibitor or just plain participant – and if you’ve selected the right event they’ve brought your market to you. Or you host your own events – which needs careful and targeted marketing – and position yourself in the middle of your market sector and the business potentially comes to you.

Sasha Frieze, a visiting lecturer in Event Management at Westminster University, is leading a 3-hour Masterclass: How to use events to market your business at 10am on Thursday 30th November at the British Library Business and IP Centre in Kings Cross, where she will leverage her 25+ years’ experience in the events industry to walk you through 8 strategies to help you harness the power of events to market your business.


14 November 2017

Polly McMaster - Dressed for Success

During this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, The Business & IP Centre will be hosting our flagship Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time event. Amongst our panel of innovative entrepreneurs will be the Polly McMaster, the co-founder of The Fold, a contemporary womenswear label created for the professional woman. Founded in 2012, Polly’s vision for a feminine brand that created stylish yet appropriate outfits for the working environment and smart evening wear has gone from strength-to-strength. Today this high-growth brand can be found in over 20 countries and counts the Duchess of Cambridge and Samantha Cameron as customers. With such impressive progress in just five years we caught up with Polly to hear how The Fold has been able to achieve such traction in the market in such a short space of time.

Polly McMaster - The Fold
Polly McMaster, Co-Founder of The Fold

The Fold is described as ‘a contemporary new label that embraces and inspires the modern, professional woman’. How did you identify this gap in the market?

This was me! I worked in consulting and private equity – where a suit is the dress code for men. I really struggled to find clothes that made me feel confident, stylish, smart and contemporary. I did a lot of research with other working women and found that this really touched a nerve with so many of them, so it was a very compelling thought to create a brand that was relevant to women like myself and addressed that problem.

Have you always had a passion for fashion? And if so, did you think this passion would eventually become your profession?

Absolutely, way back to school days where I did dress-making classes in the evening, and made my own clothes, to Art A Level and work experience in an amazing couture brand. However, I am definitely quite left-brain / right-brain and also love problem-solving, analysis, etc. – so I took an unconventional route to fashion via science, business strategy and investment. It’s helped me have a more rounded view of the business, but it’s amazing to be able to bring together so many areas that I’m passionate about.

The Fold Image 2
Polly wearing one of her designs


Fashion is a consistently popular area for new start-ups, but starting and growing a successful fashion business is tough. Whilst the UK is a centre of design creativity, fashion businesses often face a high failure rate. If you could give one piece of advice to a budding entrepreneur entering the fashion world what would it be?

I entered this world with a completely different perspective, and I think that has been helpful. I approached it from quite a commercial angle – which was to provide an amazing product to a niche group of women after identifying a gap in the market. That has influenced everything in the business from both the creative side through to the business side. By having that clear vision, it’s helped us to be more competitive. It is a very tough industry, and it also takes a lot of resource in terms of both cash and expertise to navigate it. As we’ve grown, I’ve certainly leant on the support of very experienced Chairman, investors and advisors who’ve helped us learn, adapt and survive!

What has been your proudest achievement in your business journey to date?

Recruiting a great team and great investors have been the most important thing in the business. I’m really proud that we’ve created a brand that has attracted so many talented people, and that I get to work with them every day. That feels like huge progress and makes the future very exciting.

I’m also really proud that we dress amazing women for work every day – it’s very inspiring to receive messages from them to say that they nailed a job interview, or gave a powerful presentation and felt that they’d had an extra confidence boost from wearing The Fold. That’s when I know we’ve done what we set out to do.

The Fold Image 1

What do you think the future holds for The Fold and Polly McMaster?

The Fold still feels like it’s at the beginning of its journey! We have a lot of exciting plans – we are opening a new store concept next Spring, and also continuing to build our online presence in both the UK and the US. Our customers are truly international so we are excited for The Fold to become a global destination for working women. For me personally, I’m learning every day, and loving balancing being a mum with running the business. I’m excited to grow with the business through the next chapter!

If you’d like to quiz some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs and business minds during Global Entrepreneurship Week, don’t forget that the Business & IP Centre will be hosting Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time on Thursday 16 November. See you there.

10 November 2017

Innovating for Growth: We Built This City

We Built This City is a London-based business that specialises in selling unique souvenirs that represent the famous city. Their mission is to revolutionise souvenirs by giving London's artists and designers a platform to showcase their talents and provide customers with creative and long-lasting souvenirs. Having grown at an incredible rate at the very beginning, We Built This City quickly made its mark on the souvenir market but founder Alice Mayor was still ambitious and wanted more. With the help of Innovating for Growth, she was able to achieve her scale-up wishes and went from a pop-up to having a permanent home on Carnaby Street in London's trendy West-End. We caught up with Alice to talk a little more about her journey from idea to super success and how the Innovating for Growth programme helped with this.       

How did the idea for a new kind of souvenir shop in London’s famous Carnaby Street come about?

In 2014, London was still basking in the glory of the Olympics and had just become the most visited city on the planet with the annual tourist footfall figure at over 16 million. With so many international visitors heading to the capital for creative and cultural experiences, my lightbulb moment was riding past one of the many souvenir stores in London on the bus and thinking ‘surely we can do better than that!’

My overriding priority in bringing to life the concept of ‘Revolutionising London Souvenirs’ was to find the right location for the store. I really wanted to avoid a scenario where we had the very best artists & designers to represent but didn’t have the footfall to prove the operation a success.

As such, I was determined We Built This City should be established in the West End. I walked the streets on the weekends to try and identify the best location but each time got more fearful about the barriers we were going to face with rents and rates. At the end of what seemed like a very long 4 months, I finally tracked down a landlord on Carnaby Street.

I created a detailed pitch outlining my vision for the product, interiors, and marketing campaign. Within a matter of days, they offered a 2 floor - 3000 sq ft store on Carnaby Street with just one caveat… we had 3 weeks to bring it all together and would need to launch for Christmas!

  Alice Hi Res

What challenges has the business faced along the way?

The main challenge for us at the start was being a temporary pop-up shop and having to move stores over 6 times in 18 months. We were always moving to a new store on Carnaby, so location wasn’t the issue, it was just the sheer labour involved in moving shops and setting up processes all over again. Luckily we have an amazing team who stuck with us no matter how many times we told them we were on the move!

More general challenges are that at any one time we can be working with 250+ London artists, designers and makers - with so many partners and suppliers on the books the sheer volume of admin involved can be a daunting daily mountain to climb! It’s worth it though, to see so many artists represented and supported in store.

Lastly, our core mission is always to support London’s creative community to drive sales and sustainable careers in the city. Running the business from a prime retail unit in the West End isn’t always an ideal marriage as it can be difficult to achieve margins which are complementary to both scenarios. We wouldn’t change the exposure Carnaby offers our artists for the world though!


What has been the business’s biggest achievement so far?

Our biggest achievement to date has undoubtedly been securing a permanent lease on Carnaby Street. We’re very proud to have made the transition from pop-up to a permanent retailer in one of the world’s most iconic shopping destinations in such a short window. A permanent unit for us has freed up so much resource and time to focus on growing the business. As a result, we’ve been able to grow the consultancy arm out to helping other London landmarks open including a major curation project for Battersea Power Station’s new Design Store.

Picking up awards for the shop along the way has been an unexpected and exhilarating experience too - when we were awarded ‘Best Shop in Soho’ by Time Out readers in our first year of trading, we spent the next week pinching ourselves!

What advice would you give to any small business owners thinking of going into retail and even opening a shop?

Having a unique point of difference is critical for a new retail brand or business - especially if you’re joining a competitive market (fashion, food etc.) You need to work out the one thing that’ll set you apart and work out how you can tell that to your customer at every part of the journey - and even before when selling the concept to a landlord, investor etc.

I would also highly recommend creating a pitch presentation to set out your vision and to share it with anyone who can help you make it happen. It’s easy to become scared of people stealing your idea, but I found it incredibly helpful to get early-stage feedback and access to new contacts - many of whom ended up becoming our artists, advisors, partners and even our shop team!

Lastly, really interrogate whether you need to open a physical bricks and mortar store at all and what you want to learn from even a temporary pop up shop. It’s important to establish your objectives early on and stick to them. My parting advice is to never romanticise the idea of a shop as it’s an unbelievable amount of work, money, and energy - and if you’re open 7 days a week the sheer volume of operations can easily leave you with little time to nurture the creative side of the business.

What are the challenges of growing a business and how has the Innovating for Growth programme helped?

When I applied for the Innovating for Growth course, I was really lacking the headspace to work ‘on’ the business - not just ‘in’ it. The programme has been indispensable in giving me the opportunity to stand back from the day to day and take time to start strategising from afar.

An invaluable learning from joining the programme has been the opportunity to look at all factors that contribute to the running of a successful business - not just those that are in your existing skill set or comfort zone! Deep diving into these elements with the guidance of the coaches, guides and guest lecturers on the programme has been invaluable to analysing the business’s strengths and weaknesses in equal measure.

The real take away from the programme for me though has been the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs at the same stage - going through the same issues, problems and being able to share advice. It can get lonely and especially tough when you’re scaling - mentors are great but it’s meeting and sharing with those sat next to you on the same rollercoaster that gives you that belief to keep building!

If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of Alice and believe your business has what it takes, why not apply now for Innovating for Growth and take your business to the next level?

06 November 2017

How JustPark found a space in the market

Global Entrepreneurship Week is fast approaching and we’re catching up with one of the panellists from our upcoming Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time event, which is set to be the flagship event of this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week at the British Library. Anthony Eskinazi is the founder of the car parking app JustPark, an amazing tool that allows drivers from all over the United Kingdom to choose from millions of available spaces quickly and simply using their smartphones. With 1.5 million drivers already enjoying the benefits of JustPark, we spoke to Anthony about how he did it.

1.The JustPark app promises drivers a hassle-free experience that also saves them money. It sounds amazing but how does it work?

It’s quite simple, to be honest with you. When creating the JustPark app, I really wanted to consider the thought-process of your average driver. From planning their journey to reaching their final destination, to eventually finding a parking space and paying.

As most drivers know all too well, parking can be quite a stressful experience when you’ve travelled a long distance to find out that you cannot park your car or have to pay an absolute fortune to do so. With JustPark we eradicate this stress by providing drivers with an easy to use app that finds available parking spaces depending on their location and distance settings. The app will also tell you whether space is going to be available and how much it will cost (if applicable). You can register via your Google or Facebook login and pay using Apple or Android Pay saving you time and taking less than one minute to log in, pay and have your parking space confirmed.


2. JustPark has proven to be a huge success in the United Kingdom. Do you have any plans to expand internationally?

Yes, we do! The aim for us was to test the market in the UK and ensure that we had the right product and service before entering the international market. Since JustPark was founded, we’ve been able to develop a product that is efficient and really does solve a pressing problem for drivers across the world.  However, we strongly believe that the UK is one of the best markets for our service and therefore wanted to cement our position in the UK first before going anywhere else.


3. Did the idea for JustPark originate from a bad personal parking experience, or did you just spot an obvious gap in the market?

I would say both. It really stems from a frustrating experience I had driving with a friend in San Francisco when travelling to watch a baseball game. We arrived in good time for the game but ended up wasting a lot of time searching for a parking space. After searching high and low for space and not having too much luck doing so, I thought about asking a homeowner who lived nearby to the stadium if we could pay $10 to park in their driveway. I didn’t do it but the idea for JustPark had been born.

I knew that this was a common theme at events in the UK, especially focused on major events such as Wimbledon, where people would rent out their underused parking spaces. The big difference for me is that the gap was really in the online transactions market, which would make life much easier for drivers, taking away the hassle and guarantee a stress-free experience.

Anthony Eskinazi - JustPark

4. With the tech industry constantly evolving at an incredible speed, how do you ensure JustPark stays ahead of the competition?

In an industry like ours, it is very important to continuously invest in research and development. We make sure that the team are up-to-date with the latest technologies and able to learn and develop their understanding of what is happening in the technology and parking industries. It is vital that all of us are involved in this process as it allows us to share knowledge and continue to be at the forefront.


5. Having founded JustPark and seen it grow into a huge success, could you see yourself doing it all over again with a new company?

As things stand I am really enjoying the work I’m doing with JustPark and haven’t thought too much about what comes next. I’ve started investing in interesting high-growth tech start-ups to help me understand different sectors.  It would be exciting to try something new but we’ll just have to wait and see.


6. If you could give a young Anthony some advice, what would it be and why?

My first piece of advice would be to have fun and make sure you don’t miss out on life’s enjoyable moments. I think it’s easy to get caught up with your business and forget that a new feature or opportunity is likely to still be there tomorrow. Relationships with close friends and family are important. These are the people who will build you back up and give you a hug after a knock-down and cheer you from the rooftops when things are going well. It is important to find a work-life balance that works for you. Becoming an entrepreneur is a lifestyle, not a career choice.

The second piece of advice would be to work with other people. It makes the entrepreneurial experience much more enjoyable and although you may have to share a piece of the pie, you will benefit from the shared knowledge, experiences and ideas. You don’t have to do it alone!

If you’d like fire some of your own questions to some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs during Global Entrepreneurship Week, don’t forget that the Business & IP Centre will be hosting Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time on Thursday 16 November. See you there!

30 October 2017

Monday Motivation: what can mentoring do for your business?

With it being Monday we have a #MondayMotivation article based off last Friday's National Mentoring Day.

Sascha benson cooper 2

Sascha Benson-Cooper Director of a company called Accipio is one of our Innovating for Growth Mentors.

Accipio is a leading global agency for next-generation digital learning, accredited leadership development and performance consultancy. Headquartered in Central London, they use enabling technology and deep insights to embed and sustain solutions. 

As part of being a successful and well-rounded business owner, giving back can be a rewarding and beneficial aspect. Becoming a mentor, or mentoring those who want to follow in your steps of being a business owner can sharpen your expertise and credentials.

Sascha share's his insights on mentoring;


What drew you to become a mentor?

I had some fantastic mentors through the early stages of my career and this had a very positive impact on my life. So, naturally, I wanted to do the same for someone else. It was also a chance to share my passions, challenge my own thinking and learn from others


What benefits have you seen from mentoring, from both sides - yourself and the mentee?

I have seen personal and professional growth on both sides. My first exposure to being mentored made me realise the ambition I was chasing was not the one I was really after, and that my plan to get there was a long way off. Rather life changing really. As a mentor, I have been equally fortunate to have had a visible positive impact on the lives of others.


Have you ever been mentored yourself?  (If so what was the experience like)

Yes. This has been through a more formal arrangement and on an ad-hoc basis. Any chance to learn from others and have an expert sounding board and insights for your ambition is not to be missed. I also enjoyed having someone to hold me to account for the things I am chasing.


What is your top piece of advice for someone looking to become a mentor?

Just go for it.


How important would you say mentoring others within the business realm is?

Personally, I feel a well-structured mentoring and coaching programme is a key ingredient to unlock performance improvement in the workplace. What is not to gain from sharing knowledge, experiences and helping people to become better versions of themselves? Grow people, improve organisations. It is very simple.


What was your experience with the I4G programme like and how did it help you with your business?

The I4G programme was a brilliant experience. Since the programme, our revenue, operating profit and workforce has more than doubled in a short space of time. It helped us put in place some important fundamentals (especially around intellectual property), changed the way we thought about the business and made us hungry for growth.

National Mentoring Day offers the chance to celebrate mentoring and appreciate the fantastic work that mentors do throughout the world. We hope you take part in the array of international events and networking that will be taking place.

You can learn more on the Innovating for Growth programme from the wide variety of resources available to the many workshops and events held by the Business & IP Centre to enable your business to grow. 

National Mentoring Day – Ken J Davey speaks about his experience on mentoring


Ken 2


In light of #NationalMentoringDay last Friday 27 October -  we reached out to our network of successful business owners who have tried their hand at mentoring others within the business and corporate realm. Mentoring has many benefits to all involved, and Managing  Director, Ken J Davey shares his first-hand experience of being a mentor and gives some insight into the benefits of mentoring.

Ken is the Managing Director of  Smarter Business Mentoring -  which draws on extensive commercial and financial knowledge and experience from Corporate and SME operations, to support and encourage business managers and owners to grow, develop and succeed in their sphere of business.

In addition, he is also the Managing Director of Original & Distinctive Limited and  a company that specialises in providing quality, niche premium artisan drink products from small producers to up-market hotels & restaurants, wine bars & private member clubs; select wine merchants & specialist shops as well as private clients

We share some insight into Ken’s experience as a mentor;


What drew you to become a mentor?

Mentors can provide answers to questions and suggestions that can make a big difference when it comes to navigating the business world. Having benefited on several occasions from being mentored, I was keen to return some of that value and, mentor bright and determined people on their journey through the world of work, from Start-ups to Corporates.


What benefits have you seen from mentoring, from both sides - yourself and the mentee?

Sharing my business experience to support and encourage a mentee to grow, develop and succeed, was critical to building trust and giving a mentee confidence and encouragement because someone else had ‘been there before’! This meant that without being a subject expert, I could legitimately challenge the mentee on any aspect of their thinking or strategies, thus opening their mind to a wider view of both themselves and their business. It also gave me, as the mentor, greater insight into the value of my anecdotes and business experience as valuable tools to help others.


Have you ever been mentored yourself?  (If so what was the experience like)

On several occasions, I have had the benefit of being mentored. This challenged my thinking and my business strategies, which allowed me to have a wider perspective on issues, while also encouraging me to have a better understanding of ‘why’ I pursued certain strategies and, what the consequences of the various outcomes might be.


What is your top piece of advice for someone looking to become a mentor?

If you are looking to become a mentor, then having the willingness to share your business experience (good and bad) to support and encourage individuals to grow, develop and succeed, will be key to a successful mentor/mentee relationship.


How important would you say mentoring others within the business realm is?

Mentoring others within the business realm is considerably important. At KPMG, I was often responsible for developing teams in virtual and entrepreneurial environments. This would include both business development training and mentoring key individuals, including making valuable connections in the business world. Networking is vital for climbing the corporate ladder, so seeing individuals ‘grow and shine’ through mentoring was very satisfying, while it also contributed to the development of the Firm’s professional resource pool.


What was your experience with the I4G programme like and how did it help you with your business?

The Innovating for Growth programme provided a wealth of expertise and advice for my business, Original & Distinctive Limited, which otherwise would not be available to me. The programme covered nearly every aspect of running and business and the combination of 1:1 and group workshops enabled a balance of views and discussions, which were most helpful. I was able to take a helicopter view of my business while also having experts challenge the status quo of, and provide incisive advice for, my business.

Shortly after undertaking the Innovating for Growth programme, when our brand was Smarter International, we rebranded to Smarter Grower Champagne - as a direct result of the Programme.  A year or two later, and building on incredible depth of learning from the Programme, we undertook an in-depth strategic exercise that not only led to our third rebranding to Original & Distinctive, but also, building on the new ideas and objectives from the Programme, put in place an innovative and disruptive approach to the UK drinks market, that is underpinned by a strategy to manage the supply chain as a single entity, in order to generate: lower costs, higher quality, better customer service and, higher returns for the organisation, its suppliers and, its investors.

National Mentoring Day offers the chance to celebrate mentoring and appreciate the fantastic work that mentors do throughout the world. We hope you take part in the array of international events and networking that will be taking place.

The Business and IP Centre runs daily workshops as part of the Innovating for Growth programme from an array of expert industry leaders who offer some insightful knowledge and brief mentoring session at the end of their workshops.