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

08 November 2021

Meet the sustainable speakers of Start-up Day 2021

With Start-up Day 2021 just around the corner, we wanted to introduce you to some of the eco-conscious entrepreneurs taking part! 

This year, we’re focusing on the importance of sustainability in business. We believe sustainable businesses play a significant role in encouraging more sustainable behaviour. Through collaboration with consumers and government businesses and their owners will help accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis and make a positive impact in society. 

Natasha Steele, founder of Urban cordial

Natasha Steele

Bored of working in the city, Natasha started to forage for ingredients in her allotment and turn them into cordials. To let the fruits’ true flavour shine, she used very little sugar and soon perfected her recipes. It wasn’t long until she found herself selling them at her local farmers market and demand grew. Over a third of global food does not reach our plates, often because of the appearance of the item, even though it is perfectly safe to eat. Natasha, being aware of this issue, contacted local farms to source their surplus food produce and to date, Urban Cordial has helped to save over 100 tonnes of fruit from landfill. Urban Cordial’s production process is also zero waste with all fruit pulp going to the local farms to become animal feed.

Jane Riddiford, co-founder of Global Generation

Jane Riddiford

Jane co-founded Global Generation in 2004. She has more than 30 years of experience in delivering environmental, arts and vocational training projects in New Zealand and the UK.

She managed a City Farm for Framework Trust and developed an Inner City Forest in Auckland New Zealand as a learning resource for the Dept of Education, set up and ran an NVQ Horticulture programme for Camden Job Train and co-ordinated Camden's Environmental Education Network. She also managed Rise Phoenix, a community arts organisation that worked with children and young people in the war torn areas of the Balkans, in Tanzania and in London. Her interest in young people and projects that bring different parts of the community together has been a consistent thread throughout her working life. Her love of the outdoors began as a child growing up on a farm in New Zealand.

In 2016 she was awarded a Dprof in Organisational Change from Middlesex University and Ashridge Business School. Through an action research approach her inquiry drew on experiences within Global Generation and focussed on how the living story of ecology and the wider cosmos can support collaborative approaches to leadership within an organisation. Jane invites engagement with the rhythms and patterns of nature through a combination of storytelling, hands on and reflective experiences.

Sheila Akinlabi, founder of CocoBean Giftbox

Sheila Akinlabi

Sheila Akinlabi is the founder of CocoBean Giftbox, a themed subscription box aimed at multi-faceted, diverse and consumer conscious women who enjoy discovering new brands and products. CocoBean giftbox combines well-established lines with exciting and emerging black owned brands. Catering mainly to a female audience, the brand supports women-led initiatives and products, particularly ones founded from women of black and ethnic minority heritage.

CocoBean has worked with corporations such as Spotify and Warner Music to supply luxury gift boxes for their workforce. The company continues to be committed to championing Black owned businesses whilst working with established brands and curating high end gift boxes which are truly diverse.

Khalia Ismain, co-founder of Jamii

Khalia Ismain

Khalia Ismain is the co-founder of Jamii, an online marketplace and discovery platform for black creators and makers in the UK. Launched in 2016, Jamii is home to more than 250 makers and has organically grown a community of more than 38,000 people keen to align their purchase with purpose. Named as one of HSBC's Top 25 Black Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2021, she is on a mission to make shopping with community-owned businesses as easy as possible. Khalia is also a member of the Lloyd's Bank Black Business Advisory Committee and a mentor on the Virgin Start Up programme.

Tonisha Tagoe, founder and CEO at Apples and Pears Holdings

Tonisha Tagoe

Tonisha Tagoe is a certified business development strategist, enterprise educator and the CEO of Apples & Pears. She leads a team of talented individuals tasked with helping people of all nations to expand, scale and make their businesses sustainable. Having achieved a global reach, Tonisha has helped to transform the lives and careers of entrepreneurs from all walks of life. Carrying almost fifteen years of industry experience, she is bursting with knowledge and techniques for building a successful company from the ground up, and is now bringing her expertise to you.

BIPC Glasgow

BIPC_Glasgow

Supporting entrepreneurs and innovators from that first spark of inspiration to successfully launching and growing a business. Whether you’re looking to start, grow or run a business, Business & IP Centre Glasgow, based in The Mitchell Library can help.

They have trained staff to assist with one-to-one sessions and workshops on a range of topics including business planning, marketing and intellectual property. They also host regular talks and events delivered by our partners.

Business & IP Centre Glasgow is being developed in collaboration with the National Library of Scotland.

 

To explore more about our speakers and enjoy a day of free talks and practical advice sessions designed to get your business idea off to a flying start, register your place here. It’s free to join and open to everyone. And for over a year, it has been fully available online.

04 November 2021

Sustainability in business

With 61% of Mintel’s Sustainability Barometer respondents saying they were meal planning to prevent food waste and 58% are buying fewer clothes, sustainability and going green are at the top of people’s agendas. Inventors and entrepreneurs around the world are finding new, innovative, environmentally friendly ways to do things and help nurture our planet. This year’s Start-up Day will feature more than 45 speakers who have sustainability at the heart of what they do, all available to watch online, wherever you are and for free. Until then, let’s hear from some of our other BIPs, that’s bright and inspiring people to you and me, who have led the eco revolution.

From initial purchases, processes, marketing and right down to their uniform, Becca and Charlotte are making sure that running a business doesn’t have to cost the earth. The two co-founded North Sky Yurts, based in Yorkshire, which offers a unique venue for weddings, parties, or corporate events, surrounded by nature.

For Becca, having a sustainable business has always been important, ‘for years I’d dreamed of owning my own business. I knew I wanted it to be in glamping, be outdoors, and be something that also contributed something good to the world.’ They do this by planting a tree for every booking and the tent furnishings used are sourced responsibly or second hand where possible. 

Attending events and one-to-ones at the Business & IP Centre Leeds helped Becca and Charlotte with their marketing, writing a business plan and access funding. ‘The free advice was so valuable, and it was so great to meet other people wanting to start businesses. It also gave me the confidence that I had a credible idea and could do something with it. Having like-minded people and cheerleaders around your business is vital and working with other small businesses to recommend each other will really help your business along. Make sure you talk about your business in every conversation you have, you never know who that person might know that could help grow your business.’

Becca and Charlotte, Co-founders of North Sky Yurts. Photo by Elly Ball
Becca and Charlotte, Co-founders of North Sky Yurts. Photo by Elly Ball

Another business, who took part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-up programme earlier in the year, wanted to change an industry from the inside. Amarachi who founded Lucocoa in 2015, after teaching herself how to make chocolate in her home, learned that the bean-to-bar quality chocolate could be much better than that available in the mass market, even than perceived luxury brands.

‘I started Lucocoa Chocolate to change how unsustainable the chocolate industry is. Chocolate is one of those things that we eat so much of and know little about – dark chocolate isn’t supposed to be bitter, milk chocolate isn’t supposed to be that sweet and white chocolate is actually chocolate.
Amarachi Clarke, Founder of Lucocoa Chocolate

Large chocolate companies exploit cocoa farmers, resulting in serious consequences. Farmers are unable to invest in technology or equipment to help them grow the best beans or meet the corporation's demands. This can lead to them to exploiting their workers and using child or slave labour. It is important that farmers are paid a fair price to help stop these harmful practices and it is our commitment to do that.’

Since 2015, Amarachi has rapidly driven the business to production capacity, having secured keystone customers and thriving online sales. ‘Innovating for Growth has been so useful to me, I have spent a long time trying to work out answers to certain questions alone and this course gave me access to experts that could answer the questions I had and give ideas on how to scale the business.’

Lucocoa Chocolate

If you live locally to Southwark, you may recognise our next business, Bottle Farm, who took part in the Start-ups in London Libraries programme. With everyone spending more time inside their houses over the last two years, Bottle Farm is now more relevant than ever. Co-founders Charlie Francis, Daniel Taylor and Emil Schneider, really put sustainability at the heart of their business, they manufacture in the UK and offset 100% of their carbon footprint by funding forestry and decarbonisation projects. In addition to this, the Bottle Farm kit is made from over 95% recycled material. The Bottle Stands and Grow Baskets are made using waste material from the factory floor.

'We are the kit that turns any used plastic bottle into a beautiful indoor farm. Grow delicious vegetables, fresh herbs and even houseplants on your window. Good for you, good for the planet.

The Start-ups in London Libraries programme has been really useful for us. Dean's specialised crowdfunding expertise was invaluable when we were developing a plan for our Kickstarter campaign. Some of the strategies he suggested were hugely effective. The marketing workshops were also great.'

With help from Dean, the SiLL Business Champion for Southwark, Bottle Farm were able to raise £30,000 through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, so keep an eye out for big things coming from them.

Bottle Farm

If you want to find out more about how you can be eco-concious in your business decisions from the start, join us for our biggest free event of the year, Start-up Day. You can also access Mintel reports and over £5m worth of other online resources for free at BIPCs around the UK. Turn your brilliant idea into a business.

Start-up Day is in partnership with Santander

Red Santander logo

15 October 2021

How Do We Sell Sustainability to Consumers?

In 1969, John Lennon said, “we’re trying to sell peace, like a product…like people sell soap or soft drinks”. That same approach is needed today to sell sustainable goods and services and we need data to help us figure out how to get them to resonate with people.

Some of the most popular sustainable behaviours according to Mintel’s research are driven by frugality, led by meal planning to avoid wasting food (61%) and buying fewer new clothes (58%). The sustainable consumer groups we have identified are more likely to agree with the statement ‘I have a budget that I try to stick to as much as possible’. It is this ‘return on investment’ mentality we need to appeal to when pushing solar panels and EVs, not just environmentalism.

Sustainable products and services should also appeal to people’s sense of well being and self-preservation. A sharp indication of just how seriously UK consumers are taking climate change and pollution is shown by the proportions interested in buying air conditioning (30%) or air purifiers (32%) to make their homes cleaner and safer. Health also informs the growth in greener transport behaviours seen this past year and those who have walked (45%) or cycled (17%) more often. 

Sustainably-minded consumers have stronger peacock tendencies, being more likely to agree with the statement ‘I like to stand out from the crowd’. Refurbished tech reseller Back Market appeals strongly to these values, addressing the growing problem of e-waste by selling products 70% below their new price, all delivered in a Freedom campaign that celebrates being ‘different’ from the sheep who line up en masse to pay more for the latest phone.

iPhone advert by Back Market, with the campaign tagline "Buy Different."

There’s still time to make a personal difference

The good news is that a small majority (54%) still believe we have time for redemption, and slightly more (56%) believe that their personal actions can make the difference. For brands, the opportunity here is to become the chosen partners of those consumers looking to make a difference. The challenge thereafter is for brands to maintain that relationship by proving what difference they’ve made and reporting back on that impact. So how can they do this?

Bar chart showing consumers' sense of optimism and impact in the UK - 54% believe we still have time to save the planet and 56% believe their personal behaviour can make an impact

1. Don’t cross consumers’ ‘red lines’

When asked to choose their top five considerations when purchasing coffee, socks or soap, consumers typically select two or more sustainable features, but they won’t sacrifice product quality, efficacy or brand familiarity for sustainability. We should never forget that a sustainable coffee must first and foremost deliver pleasure, taste and quality before anything else. These rules apply to packaging too: its primary role is to protect the product within to ensure that the energy and other resources that went into its production are not wasted. Their footprint will be much higher than that of the packaging itself. Patagonia is one of the very few brands to have had the courage to explain its reasons for using plastic in these terms.   

Mintel barometer showing most important factors when choosing one at home coffee product over another.

2. Educate on and disclose impacts

Consumers are fixated on ocean plastic (62% say it’s a top three environmental concern) yet even accounting for its production using fossil fuels, its incineration and disposal it generates less than 4% of annual GHG emissions. More consumers prioritise ocean plastic than a loss of biodiversity in the oceans as a concern, but Sea Shepherd’s revelation that 46% of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is actually fishing nets, confirms that fishing and food have a far greater impact than packaging when it comes to damaging the ocean and the role of its biomass in storing carbon. It’s the duty of brands to be transparent on their business’s biggest areas of impact when it comes to releasing carbon or methane. 

3. Offer tangible, local solutions

When it comes to accepting the reality of climate change, it’s a case of ‘seeing is believing’, with national levels of concern around climate change grounded in what people experience in their own countries. The visibility of ocean plastic is one of the reasons why it resonates so highly and this element of tangibility will also be key in whether people engage on issues. This may hardly seem an earth-shattering insight, but it signifies the importance of tangibility and localism when it comes to delivering sustainable solutions, confirmed in characterisation studies showing ‘sustainably-minded consumers’ to be distinguished by the high emphasis they place on values like ‘community’ and ‘localism’. This means that corporate initiatives – wherever possible – must deliver local visible benefits like cleaner local air from brands using EVs or investing in urban tree planting schemes.

Mintel Sustainability Barometer showing consumers' attitudes towards climate change. 51% in the UK are concerned about climate change and 42% believe that the UK is suffering from climate change

4. Sell in the science

Just 45% of UK consumers agree that “science can provide solutions to the climate crisis”, which is pretty disappointing when we consider how intrinsic available technologies (solar panels, batteries, fuel cells, hydroponics) and those still in development (carbon capture, climate engineering, zero-carbon manufacturing materials, chemical recycling and lab-grown foods) are to us achieving emissions reductions. The pandemic has afforded us a zeitgeist moment to seize upon the speedy and spectacular successes in RNA vaccine development and trust in science needs to be built up by brands to help us achieve progress to net zero. Brands need to be brave enough to explain the benefits of science and synthetics instead of taking the easy option of celebrating ‘natural’ for all of its’ supposed purity. Palm oil, beef and coal are all “natural” resources, but they are finite and threatened and release GHGs in their production.

Mintel Sustainability Barometer showing percentage of consumers agreeing that science can provide solutions to the climate crisis. Only 45% of people in the UK believe this compared to the lowest 25% in Japan and highest 58% in Canada and China.

5. Use clear metrics and language

What will convince consumers to purchase products that claim to have environmental or social benefits? 

To build belief in science and to convert potential into actual purchases, companies need to offer a new sustainability lexicon and use simple data and metrics that consumers can understand. Some 44% of UK consumers want labelling that shows a product’s environmental impact and 40% want this communicated in terms they can understand (eg litres of water used or km travelled). Mondra has developed colour-coded on pack “eco scores” that will go on trial in the UK this autumn and go some way to meeting that need.

Naked Bacon packaging with colour coded packaging on "eco-score"

Richard Cope is a Senior Trends Consultant at Mintel and author of the Sustainability Barometer. Join Richard at our Start Up Day 2021 event on 11th November. He'll be hosting a session on understanding sustainability trends in the UK right now - an unmissable and informative event for all small businesses wanting to start up sustainably.