THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

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

Introduction

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

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.

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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

 

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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. 

29 October 2017

A social media trend to help your business grow

In 2012, Franck Jehanne and Brijesh Patel joined the Innovating for Growth programme with the hope of taking their then fledgeling business, Kalory (a London-based photo and video studio) to the next level. Courtesy of the specialist support provided, which focused on everything from maximizing their Intellectual Property to refining their business model, Kalory has gone from strength to strength and now counts huge brands such as Rolex, Cartier and Habitat as some their clients

With such an impressive client-list it’s probably not too surprising that they’ve been able to amass a wealth of knowledge that has helped them to stay ahead of the game. In this article, co-founder of Kalory, Franck, talks about an important trend that he’s noticed in recent years and it’s one that all business owners should not ignore.

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 Changing trends

Approximately 87% of British consumers have made an online purchase in the last 12 months, and the United Kingdom only comes after Norway for buying online in Europe. 

With the increase of e-retailing, the photography needs of a brand or a retailer have changed. Advertising campaigns for print media, point-of-sale displays, billboard advertising and TV commercials are now sharing their budgets with the increased needs for a stronger web presence both on the website of the business and on its social media networks.  

At Kalory Photo & Video Studio, we have seen a marked change in our client’s requests since the beginning of the year. This trend has been seen across all the different industries we are working with, from multi-brand e-retailers, jewellery, watches, cosmetics, chocolates, drinks, furniture, and sports brands too.  The same trends seem to be valid for both start-ups and very established businesses. This is an empirical analysis of our field experiences in the last 12 months. 

Qualitative packshots

The first trend, which seems extremely strong, is an increase in the quality of product photography. For many, a packshot is a packshot, but there are actually different levels of quality possible and the quality of lighting and retouching can vary tremendously for the same product, and so does the final image. The camera used has an impact too. Since the beginning of the year, we have noticed a real change in the way clients approach packshots. Budget allocated to this important visual section of the website has been increased and even outside the luxury industry, brands are upgrading the attention to detail for all their e-commerce photography: positioning, colour correction, control of the reflections, visibility of the branding, etc. 

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Professional Instagram pictures 

The development of Instagram stories allows businesses to keep in touch in a more relaxed and spontaneous way with their customers, while they are paying more attention to the quality of photography posted on their main feed. Instagram stories are perfect for quick snapshots taken by the communication teams to keep their audience posted on what is going on.  The feed is increasingly becoming a visual platform showing what the brand’s values are. The colour tones (cold or warm), the type of images posted (lifestyle, architectural lines, etc.) are key elements to consider in order to create a consistent feed that attracts followers.  Posting again and again about your products is not enough. The trend we have observed since March is to organise short photo shoots of one to four hours with a selection of products and props and to shoot a series of creative images with a basic to medium level of professional retouching. This enables us to create a large number of images on a reduced budget. The images are controlled and professionally lit, but still natural and not overly airbrushed which is the perfect blend for Instagram. This is especially effective when a mood board and a shooting list and schedule have been carefully prepared; it can be interesting for example to create a series of images with a certain colour-tone followed by another series with a slight change in colours to create waves on the feed. 

Fine jewellery photography services in the UK

Videos & moving images

The use of video is also a trend that has been growing fast in recent years; product videos and event videos mostly, but we have recently seen a surge in social media videos (which are usually around 15 seconds), as well as cinemagraphs.  They are mostly visuals without interviews or any sound takes and with a simple story, but need to be efficiently edited to get the right social media interactions.

An increased involvement and commitment from brands.

An increasing number of clients are more involved, prepared and put more thought in their photography brief.  This is a clear sign of the importance photography and video has gained in the marketing and communication conversation. PR and marketing teams are also more involved and have become very hands-on, using mood boards, stories and precise creative ideas and angles, as well as a good analysis of what the competition is doing to convincingly convey their messages.

The use of photography is definitely changing quickly. Everyone is taking pictures.  The life of a picture is both very short, almost instant, and very long: the image itself has to be impactful immediately, but it is also part of an overall visual display (Instagram feed, Facebook page, etc.) that will remain online, so the thought process when creating it, is definitely key. 

Knowing how fast visual communication and social media are changing, there is no doubt, that new trends will emerge soon, and brands and retailers need to keep a close eye on what is happening in this field of communication if they want to stay on the top of their game. 

Franck Jehanne is the co-founder of Kalory Photo & Video, which offers professional photography services in London and all over the UK. The studio is located in London Bridge, SE1, but the team also shoots on location at clients’ premises. If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of Franck and believe your business has what it takes, why not apply now for Innovating for Growth and take your business to the next level?

Find out more and apply.

15 October 2017

Innovating for Growth: London tours with a tasty twist

Jennifer Earle, with her enticingly named Chocolate Ecstasy Tours, founded her business back in 2005 by doing the things she loved best; learning, discovering London, meeting new people and tasting delicious food, especially chocolate! We caught up with Jennifer, a recent graduate of the Innovating for Growth programme, to find out how her business started and to learn about an exciting new development that is underway.

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What was your background before starting Chocolate Ecstasy Tours?

I ran the Chocolate Ecstasy tours business alongside full-time work, including a role as a Food Buyer at Marks & Spencer and a Food Developer at McDonald’s. I was already writing about food part-time and, from 2006 I started to get invited to speak on the radio and TV, as well as judge food awards and speak at events.

I finally began working fulltime on Chocolate Ecstasy Tours in 2013 and added more tours, more dates and more workshops and events – including teaching chocolate workshops in schools and running food innovation days for companies. The tours gradually became premium as the experience and knowledge of my guiding team increased and we reduced the maximum number of guests on a tour to eight.

This commitment to quality was always going to restrict how large I could grow the tours business. I really wanted to make something that could reach more people and promote more of the amazing food businesses we have in London, but in a way that still hit the core values of quality, discovery, effortlessness and fun. I’d been mulling over the options for years, but the idea for Taste Tripper didn’t all click into place until one evening in 2015. I shared the idea with my husband who was so enthusiastic about it he wanted to get involved.

What makes Taste Tripper unique?

Taste Tripper is the world’s first self-guided tasting tour business. Our Explorer Packs are a really effortless and flexible way to discover part of London’s amazing food scene. The partner locations in the Taste Tripper Explorer Packs all offer something delicious for you, just for turning up! And, like a VIP, you get a special deal on any extra purchases, too. 

What we hope will keep us unique is our commitment to quality. We will only ever send people to places that we believe are fabulous.

What challenges has the business faced along the way?

Being a new concept meant that we had to convince businesses to work with us. In principle this has been easy but, as we mostly work with small businesses that have a lot on their plate, it can take time to get them to send us the information we need and approve things.

We had some dire printing errors which were quite expensive. I don’t think we could have done anything differently to have avoided them.  We also had our trademark challenged by a big company which meant thousands on legal fees before we’d even made a hundred sales. There were tough decisions to make but we are proud that we stood our ground and won!

Through the British Library Innovating for Growth programme we had fantastic, honest feedback and we called our first customers for more of the same. It’s been so enlightening and inspiring and made us go back to the drawing board on quite a few significant things. It’s been quite frustrating that it has taken us some months to get the changes ready, but they are finally live!

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What advice would you give to any small business owners thinking of developing a new product?

The most valuable thing for us was contacting customers and asking them to speak with us and give us feedback. The sooner you can do this, the better. Trying to sell as soon as possible will show you if there’s a market. But then you need to ask those people who parted with money if they are happy and how they could be happier.

We probably would have benefited from discussing our ideas with more people and listening harder for their suggestions. But people will tell you different things so try to focus only on the things that keep being mentioned. It’s important to have the courage of your convictions over the smaller stuff, especially if you think you know your market well. 

I would also advise anyone that good products don’t happen quickly.  Whatever time span you had planned for launch or growth: double it. And maybe double it again. 

You grew the business with the help of our Innovating for Growth programme. What specifically did the programme help you achieve?

The honest feedback from experienced people was invaluable. It forced us to really look at what was working, what wasn’t and what was important. We got clearer on what we wanted the business to stand for, how we could communicate that and what changes we needed to make.  The technical advice for ensuring we have a watertight business was also brilliant and so useful.

During the three months we decided to change the redemption from tear-off paper strips on the cards to online redemption, whilst still keeping the attractive giftable Explorer Pack (it all seems so obvious now!) and we also decided to add a map to the homepage so customers could create their own London Explorer Pack. We’ll eventually offer neighbourhood Explorer Packs, too.  It really feels like we have a much more solid business with real potential for growth. I’m so excited!

Are you an ambitious business owner looking to scale up, like Jennifer? If so, 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.

13 October 2017

Business & IP Centre Norfolk opens its doors to the county’s SMEs

The British Library is thrilled to welcome the latest addition to its network of Business & IP Centres – located in the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library.

The Centre was officially launched yesterday on the 11th October 2017 and is now the eleventh city in this network across the UK – with free intellectual property and business information, training workshops and one-to-one advice available to local entrepreneurs; the launch of this new Business & IP Centre has been extremely well received.

At the launch event, start-ups from across Norwich heard from a special panel of the region’s successful food industry founders led by award-winning chef and founder of Charlie's Norfolk Food Heroes, Charlie Hodson. Questions were put to chef and restaurateur at Benedicts, Richard Bainbridge, Candi Robertson, founder of Candi’s Chutney, and Mike Deal, founder of Wildcraft Brewery, and were left inspired to develop their own enterprises.

BIPC Norfolk

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said: “The success of the Business & IP Centre model is evidence of the strong connection between libraries and business, and I’m thrilled to see this link reinforced again with the opening of a new Centre for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Norwich.

“Our vision is to create 20 such Business & IP Centres by the end of the decade, and I look forward to working with our city library partners to achieve this goal and to spearhead business growth and innovation in cities across the UK.”

Each Business & IP Centre provides an inspirational space for entrepreneurs to come together to network, attend events and access a wealth of resources including business databases such as Mintel market research reports, plus consumer data, trendspotting for the UK and worldwide as well as information on patents, trademarks, designs and copyright.  

The Business & IP Centre at the British Library opened in London in 2006. Since then it has helped more than 700,000 entrepreneurs and helped create an average of 550 businesses and 1,200 jobs every year.

Find out more about the services on offer at www.norfolk.gov.uk/bipcnorfolk, or follow Business & IP Centre Norfolk on Twitter @BIPCNorfolk

09 October 2017

Growing your business without burning yourself out

Starting and growing a business can be exciting and very rewarding, and at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre we can help you to achieve all of your entrepreneurial goals. However, there are factors that aren’t often spoken about when we talk about the life of a business owner. Entrepreneurs typically dedicate long hours and lots of energy and effort to building their company and there is a risk that this can lead to burn-out unless care is taken. As today is World Mental Health Day, we would like to take the opportunity to challenge the assumptions about mental health and equip ourselves with the necessary tools to maintain balance.

Tom Costley, Operations Director for Mind in Camden, explains why he thinks entrepreneurs are sometimes at risk of developing poor mental health and suggests some practical tips and strategies that entrepreneurs can employ to protect their mental wellbeing and maintain a work-life balance.

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Why might there be a risk of an entrepreneur experiencing issues with their mental health?

Entrepreneurs typically have a high sense of purpose, meaning and drive in their lives, and this is actually great for positive mental health.  However, there can be a downside to this if the drive to succeed comes at the detriment of other things which help keep us in balance.  For example, if building the business becomes the only focus of the entrepreneur’s world and they pour all their energies into it, then they risk neglecting some other important factors which help sustain their good mental health, such as our personal relationships or downtime for relaxation. Often entrepreneurs can feel so driven to succeed that they imagine they are immune to the consequences of neglecting their wellbeing and ignore tell-tale signs and symptoms.  Lack of sleep, for example, can lead us to feel irritable and frustrated and affect our decision making.  Business owners may feel we can ride through this and carry on working, but ultimately it will negatively impact on how effective they are in their business and on their chances of success.  For example, they might unintentionally be snappy with an important client, forget an important deadline or experience ‘brain fog’ and lack of clarity when making an important decision with long-term implications.

Entrepreneurs can also be emotionally high-risk takers, investing 100% of themselves in their business to the extent it becomes an extension of their personal identity and it is difficult to see where the business ends and the person begins.  We see this a lot currently as the trend for social media and video content creates an expectation for business owners to be more visible than ever before, which creates additional pressure.  This may not be a problem when the business is working well and experiencing success, but should the business then take a dip that entrepreneur can find that their self-esteem is so closely entwined with their work that they experience a disproportionate reaction and fall into a ‘slump’.  This is why preserving a sense of self which is separate from the business is vitally important in enabling us to ride through challenges and maintain perspective.

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For an entrepreneur, having their identity very closely connected to their business can also compromise their emotional honesty.  This may be particularly true for people who are at the early stage of building a business when the appearance of success and confidence is everything and we are taught to ‘fake it until we make it’.  Of course, there is an element of this that may be necessary as part of a business strategy.  However, to safeguard against becoming disconnected from reality it is important to have someone who you can be more revealing with, and share what is really going on: your fears and anxiety as well as your hopes and ambitions.  This might be a great friend or partner, or perhaps even a mentor figure or a counsellor.  Whoever it is, make sure you allow time in your busy schedule to connect with them.

What are the warning signs of poor mental health that entrepreneurs should look out for?

It’s important to remember that mental health is personal: it’s about understanding ourselves. We all have different warning signs which may indicate to us that we are heading out of balance.  One useful way to approach this is to be aware of how we are when we are feeling ‘ok’ and then to consciously monitor ourselves if we feel some of these things are noticeably worse. Typical warning signs that things are tipping in the wrong direction might include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Altered sleep pattern or lack of sleep
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of confusion or compromised ability to make decisions
  • Levels of sociability
  • Sense of connection to those close to us
  • Ability to see the ‘bigger picture’ and maintain perspective

It’s important to take account of our individuality when monitoring our mental health; we need to compare ourselves to what is healthy and normal for us rather than for other people.  For example, whilst social contact is important for good mental health, we all thrive off different levels and types of social engagement depending on our personalities.

Do you have any tops hints and tips that you could recommend to help entrepreneurs/business owners look after their mental health more effectively?

Again this is personal, so knowing yourself is essential.  Identify what keeps you resourced away from your business and ensure you build in time to do this with full presence and commitment.  Preserving time to switch off and be with the important people in your life, or simply spending time doing something which gives you joy and helps you connect with life beyond work, really can make all the difference.  This could be a sport, gardening, walking, reading or just being with friends and family.  Because they don’t keep set working hours, business owners can have a tendency to feel tremendously guilty about taking time out for themselves. In order to commit to doing this, you may need to keep reminding yourself of the benefits:  switching off from your business every once in a while will increase your creativity, give you renewed energy and ensure you are keeping fully charged in order to make your business a success.

27 September 2017

The top questions asked on Start-Up Day 2017

As well as 18 different events available in London, last week The British Library’s Business & IP Centre’s Start-up Day, 2017 took place across the entire network of libraries across the country, including in Leeds, Manchester, and Liverpool. Plus, events held in The Knowledge Centre in London were part of a live webcast, so you could tune in from anywhere in the world to listen.

As you might expect, our speakers had a lot of advice to share with the eager audiences. Notebooks were being scribbled in left, right, and centre and, of course, people had plenty of questions.

In case you have a question or two of your own, we found the most popular and relevant ones from the Twitter feed and Q&A portions and put them here for you (with the answers too).

Do I really need a business plan?

We’ve all heard the old saying ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ and it’s definitely a good idea to have a business plan in terms of goals and finance. The Business & IP Centre is bursting with resources that aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners alike can access for free to help plan and grow a business, including downloadable tools that help you to work out exactly where the gaps in your plan might be.

However, Julie Deane, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company reminded budding entrepreneurs to “not be constrained by a business plan. By all means, have one – but be flexible.” After starting her business with only £600, Julie came up against plenty of setbacks that weren’t part of the plan she had, but nevertheless, she kept going and changed course to reach her ultimate goals.

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How do I know my idea for a business will work?

Nigel Spencer is Research & Business Development Manager at The British Library. He gave a condensed version of his regular workshop ‘what next for my business idea?’ and this covered the basics of making sure your idea for a business is a viable one. He recommended imagining your business as a success, then working to test three assumptions;

  1. People need what I am offering and it is different
  2. People are happy to pay for my service/product
  3. I’m successfully delivering my service/product

Once you have these, you can begin to test them using some of the resources from the Business & IP Centre such as published studies, statistics and analysis. Nigel also stresses the importance of customer development, actually getting out there and talking to potential customers about your business. He recommends a book entitled The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank to help guide you through this process. Market research will help you to make insight-driven decisions and find out if your business is something your customers actually want.

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How do I go about financing my business?

So, you have an idea for a business or it’s time to grow your existing one, but you’re finding the finance part tricky? Don’t worry, a lot of people had questions about this important part of getting started and help is at hand. From our workshops ‘how to attract the right investors’ and ‘get cash flow confident’ you will learn vital financial knowledge to help you navigate this area and make sure you stay on track. A popular option is a government-backed start-up loan of up to £25,000 from Virgin StartUp. Along with the financial backing, applicants will also receive lots of advice and will benefit from a designated advisor to help with your business plan and the application process too.

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How do I stay motivated when it all feels too much?

The world of business is an ever-changing one and Tim Campbell MBE led a rousing event called ‘staying alive: how to get motivated when growing your start-up’ to discuss the issues of finding motivation when the rules of the game feel like they’re shifting all the time. He feels that now more than ever the world needs entrepreneurs and encourages people to turn a passion into a business if they can.

Although it can be stressful at times, remembering why you started out in the first place can be hugely motivating. “It will get hard, but remember why you’re doing this… business is about being uncomfortable” Tim says. Staying motivated is a fine balance of staying true to your reasons for getting started and constant innovation.

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How do you cope with negative feedback about your business?

“You’re allowed to make mistakes, as long as you don’t die!” Powerful advice from Tim Campbell MBE there on being able to face the pitfalls of starting a business and carrying on anyway. But how exactly should you deal with a negative experience? Jessica Huie of Jessica Huie PR gave her talk on ‘how to get your business in the media on a budget’ and the Q&A portion proved incredibly enlightening on this topic.

“we aren’t always going to get it right but we must be accountable,” Jessica said. Sometimes your business may receive negative press or won’t be something that everyone wants. By always being authentic and doing your research, you will be more likely to speak to your chosen audience and build their trust in your brand and what you can do for them. “It takes a certain amount of bravery, you have to put yourself out there for the opportunities,” says Jessica. You can learn all about how to make your business appeal to the media and get positive coverage in her two-part workshop at the Business & IP Centre.

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I’m nervous of networking, what advice can you give me?

There are some do’s and don’ts of business networking that will certainly set you off on the right foot, but it’s not always easy to stay confident when it comes to meeting and connecting with people at the best of times, let alone when you are also attempting to share your business ideas and build contacts.

Rasheed Ogunlaru, a leading life coach, got his audience doing just that all in the space of his 45 minute talk ‘how to network for business success’ by getting people to turn to their neighbour and simply find three things they have in common – it was surprisingly easy and got everyone talking in no time. Here are some handy tips on presenting your business to give you more guidance, but remember that making connections will give you and your business countless opportunities, so it’s well worth the time.

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Should I hire staff based on their skills or whether or not they fit the company culture?

For many businesses, there will come a time when it is necessary to take on extra staff. When this topic came up in the Q&A part of ‘profit with purpose: how can you make money and still make a difference?’ Paul Singh of Equal Education gave an interesting answer. He had spoken at length of how important it is in any business, but especially one that is designed to make a difference in the world, that someone fit in with company culture.

Of course, the skills are important for specific roles, but Singh’s point was that if someone gets hired but doesn’t understand what the company is trying to achieve, or fails to follow the guidelines because they don’t believe in them, they probably won’t be giving their best to the role, regardless of their ability.

 

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How can I build my company profile and brand?

A common theme of the day was building brand awareness. Jessica Huie suggested starting small – “talk to the local press first and find out who it is that writes religiously about the kinds of thing your business does.” They are far more likely to pick up your story and the attention It gets at first could lead to bigger and better things further down the line.

Use social media wisely. Keye Oduneye from Google Digital Garage kicked off the day with his talk on ‘how to build a social media strategy’ with a reminder that “once what you share is out there, it’s out there” so carefully curate your content. Decide who your audience is before you share and stick to sharing the things that they will want to read and share. Everything from your profile picture to tone of voice and the language you use will become a part of your business brand, so make sure you’re happy to put it out there in the first place. There’s a whole host of advice and information on social media from the Business & IP Centre here. And, If you'd like to see what more the Business & IP Centre can do for your brilliant idea, you can also check out our list upcoming of workshops and events

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Start-up Day was sponsored by Virgin StartUp, Google Digital Garage, and The European Union Regional Development Fund.

25 September 2017

10 things we learned from Start-up Day 2017

Last week The British Library's Business & IP Centre held Start-up Day 2017.

The day was filled with inspiring events and engaging workshops from speakers who share their well-earned wisdom with a crowd of budding entrepreneurs and business owners.

This year we held 18 different events, each filled with information and advice on how to turn an idea into a business, covering every topic you might need, from how to write that all-important business plan, to tips for managing your cash flow.

Hopefully, you managed to pack in as many of the talks as possible and just in case you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the information you absorbed over such a small amount of time. We’ve got just the thing to help:

Here are 10 things we learned from the day which we believe are vital takeaways for anyone looking to make a start in business.

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Anything is possible

Julie Deane OBE founded her company The Cambridge Satchel Company with just £600. It’s all she had spare to get started and she’d made a promise to her daughter that she wouldn’t have to go back to her old school that September. It was already June. Julie had plenty of hints and tips for the audience and although she has a firm belief that “your life is more than what you wear or the bag you carry,” she has created her brand based on a passion for British manufacturing and a product that will last customers a long time, making it a cost-effective purchase.

Julie’s talk on how she started her business from her kitchen table was not only moving but demonstrates that almost anything is possible when you’re as determined as she is.

Pic 2 - Julie Deane

Test your ideas first

You don’t have to immediately pack up your 9-5 and risk all your savings when you have an idea for starting your own business. In fact, many of the speakers encouraged staying comfortable while you plan and test your ideas first. Nigel Spencer, Research & Business Development Manager at The British Library, gave an insightful workshop, based on a regular offering at the Business & IP Centre, on where to take your business idea next and how to plan for its future.

Nigel recommended some of the fantastic tools available for free from the Business & IP Centre such as a Business Model Canvas that you can download, and then tailor to your business model revealing any gaps you might not have addressed yet.

Pic 3 -  Nigel Spencer

Know your worth

Anis Qizilbash’s entire talk focused in on this important reminder for start-ups and people who are venturing out into the world of business. She encourages people to employ her strategies and challenge their fears around charging the right price for their services or product. “Don’t think about the money you’re going to make, think about the impact for the customer… make it about the difference you can make.” Believing that you are charging a fair price and remaining confident in the face of a difficult sales pitch is no mean feat – but this talk left everyone feeling empowered and ready to charge their worth.

Pic 4 - Anis Qizilbash

Find people who believe in you

“If I’d have told my mum that I was going to Mars on a rocket ship she would have replied “oh, how interesting, when?”” said Julie Deane. She used this as a great example of finding people who will truly support you as you make your idea into a business reality.

Neil Daly of Skin Analytics echoed this in his panel discussion on Profit with Purpose. When he asked his wife if he should work a normal 9-5 that brought in enough money but made him miserable, or follow his passion to diagnose skin cancer earlier, but run the risk of money being tight, she reminded him that “you’re a miserable bugger when you’re unhappy at work, so go for your passion.”

A common theme across the day was a need for self-confidence and belief in your ideas, but equally important is finding the people you can rely on when it isn’t going perfectly. Having someone who thinks your ideas are worth fighting for is crucial.

See your competitors as free research

Keye Oduneye from Google Digital Garage kicked off the day with his talk on How to Build a Social Media Strategy with an interesting take on how to view your competition. “see them as free research. They’re either doing something you should or doing something you shouldn’t. Learn from them and be inspired by them.”

When there’s someone out there doing something similar to you, or trying to reach a demographic that you’d like to tap into, keep a close eye on what they get up to online. Use it to decide what you might do with your next campaign on social media and keep the creative juices flowing.

Pic 5 - Keye Oduneye

Social media is a powerful tool

As demonstrated by the live Twitter feed that had #BIPCStartUpDay trending by the afternoon of the event – social media is a force to be reckoned with. Keye Oduneye’s talk highlighted just how many customers use it to reach brands for swift responses to customer service queries, get the latest news from their favourite companies, and ultimately decide where they might spend their money.

Keye gave a thorough breakdown on the sort of things you should be sharing with potential customers and how important it is to see social media as a powerful influence to build a brand and reflect the kind of business you want to be seen as from day one.

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Networking is key

Life coach, author, and speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru led an interactive workshop on ‘How to network for business success’ that was full of useful takeaways for everyone. “If I don’t meet, I don’t eat” was one such important reminder – although networking might seem nerve-wracking, meeting people and promoting your business is key to earning money from your product or service.

It certainly helped to be surrounded by people that have already started or are thinking about starting their own business all day, and plenty of business cards were exchanged throughout the event, but networking is more than just a brief connection we learned. Even if you connect with someone who might not seem like they can help you with your business, they might know someone who can. Rasheed urges people to “collect good people” that you can share values and ideas with to help grow your business and make it a success.

Pic 7 - Rasheed  Ogunlaru

You won’t always get it right

Setbacks are part of life and business. We can plan ahead, but sometimes we make mistakes and that’s natural. ‘How to get your business in the media on a budget’ was less of a how-to workshop than it was a lesson in how to face the potential pitfalls when you’re promoting your company. Jessica Huie runs an award-winning PR company and knows a thing or two about how to get your business into the media spotlight and create a positive buzz around what you do, but she also reminded us that it’s ok for it to not always go your way. “you are not for everyone and everyone is not for you” was the mantra, and setbacks ultimately teach us something in the long run. You will attract the right audience if you are authentic, do your research, and always seek to understand your customer better.

Pic 8 - Jessica Huie

Focus on pleasing your customer and you’ll always make money

There is a lot to consider when you’re starting out in business or working out how to turn a great idea into one. Budgets, planning, PR, social media campaigns, and networking are just a few of the plates you’ll be juggling – and sometimes all at once. The topic of Tim Campbell MBE’s talk could not have been more appropriate for the day as he shared his thoughts on ‘Staying Alive – How to get motivated when growing your start-up’. How exactly do you stay motivated and keep cash flow steady with everything else going on?

His advice was simple – focus on the customer. Don’t chase the materialistic aspects of the business as much as you concentrate on delivering what your customer expects and more. By focusing on providing the best service and product, always innovating and “delivering with quality” Tim promises you will always make money.

Pic 9 - Tim Campbell

The Business & IP Centre is a fantastic resource

Julie Deane not only inspired with her story of setting up her business with minimal funds, she also shared some interesting stats. She revealed that businesses that engage with the Business & IP Centre are 4 times more likely to succeed than the ones that don’t, and as we learned from Nigel Spencer, there is a whole host of tools at your disposal to help plan and test your business. From free or low-cost workshops to online guides that cover numerous topics, it’s in your (and your businesses) best interest to check them out.

Days like Start-up Day are just a small taste of what you can achieve with the British Library’s Business & IP Centre. So, if you have a great idea and want to set up your own business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team. You can also check out our list of upcoming workshops and events to get even more great advice and support for your great business idea. 

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Start-up Day was sponsored by Virgin StartUp, Google Digital Garage, and The European Union Regional Development Fund

20 September 2017

Start-up Day 2017 live webcast: find out what you can tune in to

Over 20 master class talks are set to take place at Start-up Day tomorrow, Thursday 21 September, with over a thousand aspiring entrepreneurs joining us at the British Library to take the next steps to launching a business. If you won’t be able to join us, some of the sessions will be webcast live for you to watch from home.

Here are the times to look out for:

9.30 – 10.15
Google Digital Garage: How to build a social media strategy

Learn from Google how to optimise your online presence using the power of social media.

You’ll get a run-down of the best social media platforms to use in 2017, plus your trainer will explain how to create a social media strategy that delivers the right goals for your business. We’ll cover the importance of defining a set of marketing guidelines too, so you can always stay on brand and on message. You'll learn about:

  • Making your business's social media presence known
  • Developing rich, engaging content for social media

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10.45 – 11.30
UK2: How to get your business online

In this workshop, Sara Rego, Marketing Director at leading web hosting and internet services company UK2 Group, will take you through some practical tips for maximising your online presence and raising the profile of our businesses with a great site. He will share common pitfalls to avoid and also explain how making some small changes to your business’s online presence can deliver tangible results. Content includes:

  • Getting started online
  • How to get a website that works for your business
  • 5 Common Web Design Mistakes
  • Website optimisation

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12.00 – 12.45
Julie Deane OBE: How I started a business from my kitchen table

In 2008 Julie Deane – the Business & IP Centre’s ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ – started a business at her kitchen table with a budget of £600 budget and the aim of paying her children's school fees.

Fast forward eight years and the Cambridge Satchel Company is a multi-million-pound business that has five stores and sells products all over the world. Hear this incredibly inspiring story from Julie herself, and pick up some hints and tips that will help you grow your start-up idea into a global brand.

 

1.15-14.00
Virgin StartUp: Losing my entrepreneurial virginity

In less than four years Virgin StartUp has helped 2,000 people change their LinkedIn profile to read ‘business founder’. In that time over £24m has been distributed to help each one of them turn their great business idea into a reality. These people are now running businesses the length and breadth of the UK, from the toe of Cornwall to the tip of John O’Groats in the Scottish highlands. In the session you will learn:

  • How to apply for a Virgin start-up loan of up to £25,000 at a rate of 6% fixed p.a.
  • What you need to know before you apply
  • How to ensure you write a great application
  • The unique package of support that you can get alongside the cash
  • Plus the opportunities that might come your way from being part of the Virgin StartUp community

 14.30 – 14.50
Margot James MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility  will share a keynote address on ‘The Importance of Start-ups to the UK Economy’ followed by Q&A with the audience


14.50-15.25
Tim Campbell: Staying Alive: how to keep motivated when growing your startup

Nobody ever said that starting and growing a business was easy! Whilst the rewards can be great, new businesses inevitably must face and overcome numerous obstacles and setbacks on their path to success, some of which they couldn’t ever have predicted when they set-out.

Winner of BBC’s The Apprentice and Founder of Bright Ideas Trust Tim Campbell shares his insight on how to stay focused on your endgame when you’re traversing the trials and tribulations of business start-up, and gives some top hints and tips on how to stay positive and motivated throughout the highs and lows of your own personal business journey.

 15.45-16.30
Expert Impact Panel: Profit with Purpose

Big business doesn't have to be 'bad', and a successful start-up can still make a big social impact

This event, in partnership with Expert Impact’s ‘Human Lending Library’, will give you hints and tips for unlocking the ethical impact of your start-up and balance profit with purpose. The session will benefit those wanting to start or grow a social enterprise, or those that want to improve the social impact of their existing businesses and for those interested in the topic. Our panel comprises:

Neil Daly, Founder of Skin Analytics

Paul Singh, Founder of Equal Education

Jo Godden, Founder of Ruby Moon

16.45-17.45
Start-up Stars: How I bit the business bullet

Our panel of business owners will talk candidly about taking the plunge from an employee, to self-employed, to employer, what they’ve learned along the way, what they wished they had known before they started, and why it was all worth it in the end. You’ll leave armed with practical insights, and feel more inspired than ever to turn your business idea into a reality.

The panel comprises:

Zoe Watkins of Livewire Kitchen

Rob Pitman of Tinderflint

Frankie Fox of The Foraging Fox

 To join in with any of these inspirational and practical talks simply register for our webcast. We will also be live tweeting as the whole event unfolds so be sure to follow us on #BIPCStartupDay to add your own comments and questions for the speakers.

Start-up Day 2017 is being held at the British Library in London as well as across 15 other city libraries in the country from Norwich to Newcastle. It is being run with support from our Event Partners the Google Digital Garage and Virgin Startup.

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15 September 2017

The three tech steps every start-up business should know

With our national Start-up Day events on Thursday 21 September fast approaching, we are working with our specialist staff and many of our external partners to pull together the best advice and practical know-how to help make your jump to becoming a business founder as easy as possible.

Most start-ups are likely to have a website before their first customers and as such will need to think about delivering a secure and compelling online experience for those precious new clients. Written with help from our partner Lucidica, here are our top 3 factors to consider as a start-up, alongside choosing your brand name, fundraising, and staff.

  1. Make sure your data is safe and secure

As a start-up, data is crucial to the growth and development of your business. The idea of losing your data could cause long or irreplaceable damage to a business of this size. However, it’s had to find the right data backup solution for your business with so many options on the market and also with the need for it to be cost efficient. Intermediaries such as Lucidica can advise you and tell you which applications we’ve used and found to be effective and we will also implement these systems and ensure your data is safe. It’s always best to talk to an expert and find out what options you have, especially when it’s a technical subject you may find intimidating.

One such example is Cerberus who is a firm of commercial investigators specialising in assisting clients to protect their businesses and brands. They received help on how to share contacts, calendars, files, tasks and other company data not just within the London and the international offices, but also available to investigators on investigations from worldwide sites. They also needed to ensure that all data was backed up off-site.

  1. Get the best efficiency out of our tech equipment and systems

In your start-up years, technology solutions need to save your business time and also be cost effective. Whether it’s your email provider, technology equipment or other technical applications, they need to be scalable, adaptable and affordable for your business. A lot of retailers offer small businesses and start-ups special rates, even if they are run by an individual.  Lucidica is a Microsoft gold partner and reseller and also a Dell partner meaning they can give you the best deal on technology solutions.

Mango Logistics Group is a London based logistics company handling courier and storage needs for customers from consumers through to FTSE100 enterprises. They have eight computers and have been a client since 2009. Lucidica provided a virtual web server along with managed email hosting within a split Linux and Exchange environment.

        3. Have a plan to fend off cyber-crime and attacks

With more than 70% of cyber-attacks targeting small businesses, it is crucial that your start-up is protected. Cyber security is constantly on the rise and is becoming a profitable business for hackers. This means that businesses of all sizes are increasingly placing more priority on protecting their business and data. Not only can an attack cost you a substantial amount of money to fix, it can also lead to hours/days unable to work and files that cannot be reclaimed.

Make sure that you seek advice on what security best practices will help your business without making your work processes convoluted. Some of the questions you could plan to ask are:

  • How to identify the potential security flaws in the company and whereabouts it is likely hackers may penetrate to
  • How to create a practical data recovery plan
  • How to get a template to run a security audit
  • Where can you relocate important data

Quite often, the biggest cyber security breaches could have been prevented by the smallest changes. However, thanks to the Business & IP Centre’s new partnership with Tech experts Lucidica, we will pass on the advice you need to make the changes before anything can happen. Look out for upcoming workshops held in the British Library.

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Lucidica is really well placed to offer this advice as they started small themselves – with Thomas Jeffs helping out businesses as a one-man-band in 1999. Thomas discovered he loved empowering businesses to use technology more effectively to help them grow and turned his passion into a business. Since then, Thomas has amassed an enormous amount of experience in helping over 1000 small and medium businesses solve their IT problems.  He’s gathered a team of expert engineers and support staff to help him deliver his vision. You may have even taken part in a workshop in one of his popular training sessions in the Business & IP Centre.

We are really pleased to say that some of the Lucidica team will be with us for the London Start-up Day, at the British Library on Thursday 21 September 2017. They will be on hand to answer any IT and technical questions you may have and offer their expertise advice on getting your business online and optimised.