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

14 August 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Product Innovation

Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. You can see Haroun's last post about customer personalities here.

In this post, Haroun talks us through a one-on-one session he had with an advisor about product innovation and staying on your toes in a competitive field...

After the series of workshops I started on my first one-to-one sessions with individual advisors. This is has been helpful in really digging down into our specific business needs. The session was taken by an advisor from Newable, a government-linked for-profit that specialises in sustainable business advice and professional support.  We discussed the following areas:

  • Payments, which are a very important area for us. We talked about optimising the online payment workflow to enable as easy a consumer experience as possible.
  • The importance of differentiation in order to ensure we stay ahead of the competition. We have to avoid becoming stagnant or comfortable in order to grow and, instead, continue to provide new services and expand our offering.
  • Expansion to new territories e.g outside Europe.

One way of testing workflow changes and new products online is through A/B testing where you offer different versions of your offering to half of your visitors. You can then compare conversion rates and take up. As you can see in the screenshot, we have done this recently in offering mobile wifi devices. We used A/B testing to ensure that there was no adverse affect on the main Japan Rail Pass purchase in the customer payment workflow.

Japan Pass Pocket WiFi, an example of A/B testing

 

The session finished with the adviser offering to help us approach other organisations, e.g the Department for International Trade, who may be able to help us with our objectives. That would be pretty amazing and a connection I will definitely make the effort to cultivate!

Remember applications for our next round of Innovating for Growth are open now. If you want to follow Haroun and take part in the programme, click here to read more. 

 

07 August 2019

Celebrating International Cat Day with Rose Hill Designs

Rose Hill is a graphic artist who has garnered renown for her personal commissions and her 'Make Your Pet Famous' series. She trained as a textile designer at the Chelsea University of Arts and took part in the BIPC's Innovating for Growth programme in 2015. Here, in celebration of International Cat Day, she shares how furry friends have shaped her work and business. 

What is your business? 

I'm Rose, a graphic artist. I create award-winning Pop Art designs - from painted murals to my personally commissioned 'Make Your Pet Famous' artworks which are now sold in Harrods. My 'Make Your Pet Famous' collection is where I illustrate your pet in my Pop Art style. Each piece is lovingly designed in North London and made in England. 

What inspires your work?

I love creating art and am particularly keen that my work brings people joy and pleasure. The art I create is fun and approachable and it aims to reflect what you like best about the world around you, which, let's face it, more often that not, is your pets! The colour palettes I use are very bright, which is important because of the effect that colour can have on your mood. 

1b Rose Hill Designs Mural Make Your Pet Famous JAPAN

Pattern and texture is also a big inspiration in my work. Each piece of artwork has 64 geometric patterns layered into it. I hand draw every pet using a Surface Pro laptop. It allows me to draw straight onto the computer screen as if it was a pen and paper. Using a variety of drawing techniques including line drawings, I assemble together every element of their face and body and then insert the different colours and tones of patterns in each feature and change the opacity of each of them to give depth and tone. All have at least 10 layers and most have considerably more. I love mixing the modern technology with the traditional style of craftmanship. To add to that, each work is printed onto brushed paper to make it look like it is on fabric.

Seeing the customer's reaction after I've taken them on the creative journey with me from start to finish is also very inspirational.

How did you put your offer together and find customers?

The process of getting customers for Make Your Pet Famous was very organic. A customer commissioned me to draw their dog, Lola. At that time I had 11 dogs in my card and stationery collection and needed 12 for my first Trade Show. So I asked if I could use Lola in my collection. They loved the idea and so did everyone else! When I was at trade shows and would explain about Lola, people would ask if I could draw their dog too and add to my next collection. This continued to happen and after five more commissions I thought there was something in this. They would say ‘You’ll make my dog famous’ and so that's how the name came about.

I got some lovely recommendations and positive feedback and the word began to spread more. Word of mouth has been a big part of me finding customers because normally when people get their works, they are so delighted they immediately tell their friends about it! This led to my 'Make Your Pet Famous' exhibitions which built on this relationship between humans and pets at a live event. And of course, social media is a wonderful way to meet people and connect with people. 

3 Rose Hill Designs Make Your Pet Famous Aria exhibition

How did the Business & IP Centre fit in to your business journey?

I completed the Innovating for Growth program which was incredible and would 100% recommend it. When doing your market research at the Business and IP Centre you can look at the Mintel and Keynote reports - which are normally hugely expensive and filled with important data - completely for free. They are an incredible tool and you can even send 10% of them to yourself for free, which is so helpful for continuing your research. Irini and all the staff at the Business & IP Centre are a fountain of knowledge and will help you with any question you may have. There are other great search tools for funding and other valuable information!

What advice would you give someone trying to find their niche?

Try stuff! Experiment and play. It’s really important to enjoy what you are doing. When you work for yourself and/ or have your own business it can be incredibly tough and it’s so important to truly LOVE what you are doing otherwise you may as work for someone else and know the income you will get each month. Create something you're passionate about and there are other people who are passionate about it too. Resilience and grit are key qualities to have.

Rose Hill Designs Rachien Smoothie Mural - Rose at Private View

How have you been able to grow the business?

Growing the business is really important but the most important thing is how you want it to grow! It’s very easy to go down the garden path of what is selling the best and where you're making money which is of course very important. But more important, I believe, is to go where you will feel satisfied creatively, financially and mentally. It’s a great idea to keep checking in with yourself regularly to see if your goals are still your goals. Artistic freedom has always been number one for me! So in my case, it meant letting the cards and stationery side of the business go so that I could concentrate on the creative side and personal commissions. I licensed my designs and got others to sell products for me so that I could concentrate on that.

What's been your best/most rewarding/most surreal moment in business so far?

Probably doing my ‘Make Your Pet Famous’ exhibitions in the last year, one in Warren Street and another in Japan. The private views for these were so special and among the best nights of my life. 

I've also been so lucky to have done so many amazing commissions and collaborations, for example getting a commission from Charles Saatchi (to illustrate and make his daughter a dress) straight from my degree show. I feel very proud to have drawn two artworks for Sadie Frost which has been featured in magazines like Red. There was also a commission to do a portrait for Robert Webb and his family. As I'm such an animal lover, doing a collaboration with ZSL London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo was wonderful, as was a collaboration with the British Museum. Finally, having Harrods as a stockist to many items including the 'Make Your Pet Famous' range and designing a print and accessories especially for them under their own name has been incredible. Being able to sell my art and stationery across the world, places like Japan, America and Australia is an amazing feeling! It's an honour to be able to create a life and business that people love and want to be a part of.

How did cats start becoming a key part of your work?

When starting the 'Make Your Pet Famous' collection it began with dogs but very soon after everyone wanted cats. I was always asked 'where are the cats?' because everyone loves cats! They became an integral part of my offering from that point on, with Tupac as the first #MakeYourPetFamous cat.

Trio of cats

Do you have any notes about intellectual property and your work?

The Business & IP Centre are very helpful in this area and would recommend you go and speak to them if you have any questions on intellectual property! They can direct you to specialists. They have all the details on copyright, trademark and registered designs and can help you to get protected, which they certainly did with me. 

You can find Rose's work at https://www.rosehilldesigns.co.uk/. She has recently put on another #MakeYourPetFamous exhibition in Islington and will be doing another one in October 2019 in Hackney. You can find all the details on her website. 

05 August 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Creating a Marketing Strategy

Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. You can see Haroun's last post about brand archetypes here. Today, he talks us through what it's like to flip the focus from your values to those of your customers....

Last week, during our Innovating for Growth journey, we started on branding which, as we mentioned, is about positioning, assessing your values and what you want to communicate about the company itself. This week we took part in the workshop on marketing. In marketing the spotlight is turned 180 degrees. Suddenly, it is about your customers, who they are and how you reach them. We discussed how you connect with your customers, convey your value proposition, and which channels are most suitable for which purpose. For this task it helps to define your market; the overall size and how much of that is within reach with your current business model. In the previous blog we mentioned seeing your business through character archetypes, this time we ran through an exercise on defining your customer personalities. For JRPass, we decided on three just a starting point for analysis:

 - 'Helga in a Hurry'  - She is a twenty-something business analyst from Frankfurt. She is time poor, and wants an invigorating escape from their normal day-to-day life. She wants an efficient online experience with lots of advice. She will buy a 2 week ticket, possibly with a Wi-Fi add-on. She does a lot of research and may find us using via word-of-mouth, a forum or search.

- 'Mary Millennial' - Student from Middle America. Cost aware and wants freedom and flexibility. She is looking for unique experiences and moments to share on Instagram. She will buy the cheapest ticket possible. She may find us via social media recommendations.

- 'Teddy Bear Todd' - He is a family guy from Manchester. Works as an Insurance Manager. Looking for a hassle-free buy that he has full confidence in, because he is taking his family. He wants a stress-free experience and preferably a one-stop-shop for his travel so may buy Wi-Fi and other services such as meet and greet. He will look for first class tickets to have more space, and would be reachable via pay-per-click e.g. Google AdWords.

It’s another entertaining and seemingly abstract exercise but it helps you focus on how to target your various customer segments and have the best chances of gaining a positive response.  It also helps move the conversation away from your technical offering and benefits and towards what your customer wants to, and should, feel after experiencing the purchasing journey with you. Because of this it really makes you respectful of you customer and focused on them. You can see the cards we used in this exercise in the photo below (forgive my scrawls!)

Pic from Haroun - p3

Remember applications for our next round of Innovating for Growth are open now. If you want to follow Haroun and take part in the programme, click here to read more. 

The next entry of Haroun's diary, on product innovation, is available to read now at this link