Category Archives: entrepreneurship

Calling all dyslexic entrepreneurs

The Business & IP Centre is hosting a research placement for Sally Ann Clarke, an MA student from the University of Brighton. She is looking to find entrepreneurs and business people who are dyslexic. Below is her blog post about the project:

Sally Ann ClarkeMany thanks to the British Library for agreeing to host my research project.

First of all, something about me. I started my career as a qualified librarian in Manchester Public Libraries, and since then I have had a variety of roles including managing an independent bookshop. This gave me retail and business experience but also an interest in business information. I decided to return to the library profession and I am now studying for an MA in Information Studies at the University of Brighton.

For my dissertation I am researching dyslexic entrepreneurs and business information. My choice of research topic came from bringing various ideas together. I read the Cass Business School’s research by Dr Logan that entrepreneurs have a significantly higher incidence of dyslexia than in corporate management and the general population. I also visited the Business and IP Centre and noticed that many of their services are aimed at entrepreneurs. I then wondered if dyslexic entrepreneurs had specific business information needs.

I also have an insight into some of the issues dyslexic entrepreneurs have, as I am dyslexic myself. I understand that many people do not realize they are dyslexic although they may have an inkling that they are ‘different’. I didn’t find out myself until I studied for a part-time University Certificate in Creative Writing eight years ago. I am now aware of the difficulties I have, and have learnt some strategies to try and overcome them, but now I am becoming aware of some of the ‘advantages’ such as good verbal communication, lateral thinking and creativity. These ‘advantages’ are perhaps why someone with dyslexia becomes an entrepreneur in the first place.

Richard_Branson

And there are many examples of successful dyslexic entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Kelly Hoppen,  Duncan Bannatyne from Dragon’s Den and Tom Pellereau, winner of last year’s The Apprentice.

However, I need your help! If you are dyslexic and have used the Business and IP Centre, if you think you may be dyslexic or if you know a dyslexic entrepreneur please do get in touch. I would love to hear from you. My email is SallyAnne.Clarke@bl.uk

The ingenious Tapsell gates of Sussex

Tapsel_gate_at_St_Andrew's_church,_Jevington

Image from Wikipedia

On one of my regular wanderings up on the South Downs, I recently chanced across an intriguing type of churchyard gate.

For my undulating perambulations I often carry a day-pack filled with waterproofs, extra layers and ‘emergency rations’ (in my youth I was a Boy Scout, so ‘Be Prepared’ is my motto). So conventional gates are an unsatisfactory ergonomic experience.

The most common obstacle is the stile, which often involves an unsteady climb and descent on frequently wobbly and slippery planks of wood. Kissing gates appear more straight-forward, but the hinges are often rusty, and half the time your rucksack gets snagged as you squeeze through the narrow gap. Then there is the traditional five-bar gate, which if new, requires Herculean strength to prise the spring-lever open, or once old, has collapsed on its hinges and has to be lifted out of the mud and dragged open and closed again.

As you can see from the photo above the Tapsell gate is a much more ingenious device, as it balances on a central spindle. The gate opens with the slightest of touches, and can be pushed right round so it comes to rest on the fixed stops of the gate posts in a closed position. In effect you only ever have to open the gate, and you never have to wait for someone coming the other way as they can pass by on the other side simultaneously.

According to the little leaflet I picked up in Jevington church written by Rosalind Hodge, the Tapsell gates even allow coffin bearers to comfortably pass on either side without breaking step. Apparently, the bearers could even rest the coffin on the gate if they needed to pause before entering the churchyard.

Sadly, very little seems to be known about who invented this style of gate or when. The most likely source seems to have been a branch of the Tapsell families of Sussex, some of whom were carpenters.

For me, the most intriguing thing of all about these gates is just how few there are. Currently only six examples survive, but it seems not that many were made even at their peak.

This brings me neatly back to a regular discussion I have with inventors. So often they assume that their great idea must be entirely new because they haven’t come across it before in the shops. I explain that of the seventy million or so patents registered in the UK, only a tiny minority ever actually became commercially successful.

The sad truth about inventing (or any innovation come to that) is having a good idea is not nearly enough. I fact I would say it is the easy bit. The hard part is proving the commercial viability of the idea (usually to understandably cynical investors), and then find a way to market it successfully.

Too many follow the path of Ray Kinsella the character played by Kevin Costner in the film Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come”. And this proves to be very much the exception rather than the rule.

Mad Jack Fuller of Brightling and his Follies

Jack_Fuller_pyramidOn a recent walk in the Sussex country-side I was rather surprised to come across a 25 foot high pyramid in the corner of a traditional village church graveyard.

Wandering around the area near the village revealed a range of further follies ranging from a fake castle tower to a false church spire.

Jack_FullerIt turns out they were all the creation of John Fuller the squire of Brightling village, better known as ‘Mad Jack Fuller‘.

Fuller’s pyramid mausoleum was built in 1811, twenty-three years before his death, and local legend had it that Fuller was entombed in the pyramid in full dress and top hat seated at a table set with a roast chicken and a bottle of wine. This was discovered to be untrue during renovations in 1982. My theory is that Fuller might have read about the mythological preservative powers of pyramids.

Mad Jack inherited the family fortune in 1777, at the tender age of 20. Their wealth had been built on the manufacture of iron goods, such as cannons, as well as a substantial income from sugar plantations in Jamaica.

The family was heavily involved in politics, both nationally and locally, and  John served several terms as Member of Parliament during his life.

He seems to have fostered an image of eccentricity, and never married, but enjoyed supporting good causes, including funding the first lifeboat at Eastbourne, and helping the building of the Belle Tout Lighthouse on the cliffs near Beachy Head.

Fullers Follies:

Brightling Needle, an obelisk over 65 feet (20m) high was built on the second highest point in East Sussex and was erected around 1810

The Sugar Loaf, which is sometimes known as Fuller’s Point, is in a meadow and stands 35 feet (10.7m. The name comes from the conical shaped loaf that sugar was sold in at that time. It was apparently built to win a bet that Mad Jack made whilst in London. He claimed he could see Dallington Church (a nearby village) from his house in Brightling. When he returned he discovered that he couldn’t as a hill blocked his view, so the Sugar Loaf was hastily erected to win the bet.

The Tower or Watch Tower built by Fuller in the middle of a field, stands 35 feet (10.6m) high and 12 feet (3.7m) in diameter.

The Temple or Rotunda was built in the grounds of Brightling Park perhaps to add a classical element to the gardens.

The Observatory, now a private residence was completed in 1810. It was equipped with all the equipment of the time including a Camera Obscura.

More information and photos of Fullers Follies.

Going for gold with our Inspiring Entrepreneurs – preview

Stephen_FearIn keeping with our exciting new Innovating for Growth Programme, our next Inspiring Entrepreneurs event next Wednesday is Going for Gold.

It’s for people who want to take their business to the next level but aren’t sure how. Come along and hear from serial entrepreneur Stephen Fear, Mandy Haberman, inventor of the Anywayup Cup and Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at Insider Trends.

Stephen is an experienced and skilled entrepreneur, his first business was for a cleaning formula made in a garage at the age of 16. He opened his first ‘office’ in a red phone box and has gone on to work on 64 different ventures across the globe.

The evening will also give you the opportunity to learn more about our exciting new business support programme, Innovating for Growth. If you are a London-based small business looking to grow, but aren’t sure how to take the next steps, we can help provide expert advice and support on business strategy and sustainability, branding, intellectual property, developing your product and getting it to the right markets.

Stephen Fear
Stephen is an experienced and skilled entrepreneur, his first business being a cleaning formula made in a garage at the age of 16. He opened his first ‘office’ in a red phone box when he heard on the news that new laws would force food manufacturers to change the way they clean ovens. The Bristol-born businessman hung up an ‘Out of Order’ sign outside the phone box, charmed an operator into pretending to be his secretary, persuaded a US firm to sell its oven-cleaner product to him, and was soon dealing with the world’s biggest food brands.

He an his son, Leon Fear, now run a multinational trading juggernaut incorporating 64 companies with interests in everything from hotels to manufacturing.

Mandy_HabermanMandy Haberman
Starting out with no experience in product design or business, Mandy Haberman came up with the revolutionary design of the ‘no spills’ Anywayup® cup for babies, which has gained turnover of £10m per year since launching in 1995. Mandy can also give invaluable insight into more practical entrepreneurial skills such as dealing with the legalities and patenting of an invention, having fought through a court battle with a major corporation, who used her patented technology for their own range of non-drip cups.

Cate TrotterCate Trotter
Cate is the Founder and Head of Trends at Insider Trends, a London-based trendspotting consultancy. Since graduating in Design from Goldsmiths, she has worked as a marketing consultant for brands such as Lloyds TSB, Tesco and Unilever. She set up Insider Trends in 2008, specialising in demonstrating how trends are coming to life in the world around us. Clients such as Philips, Nokia, Marks & Spencer, Absolut Vodka and American Express have used its trend tours, presentations, reports and workshops to gain a tangible understanding of otherwise abstract trend theories.

Cate regularly runs workshops at the Centre and is one of our success stories.

Fixies re-inventing the bicycle

I never cease to be amazed at the products and services being re-invented for the modern market. I’ve already mentioned the bare-foot running movement and it’s breathtakingly expensive equipment.

Adam rides a Tokyobike Classic © Horst Friedrichs

Image © Horst Friedrichs

However, since my bicycle was recently stolen (UK bike crime figures), I have been on the lookout for a replacement, and intrigued to discover the fixie bike phenomenon. I have to admit I was half-aware of a different and simpler kind of bicycle from my lunch-time wanderings around the Kings Cross area, particularly in the vicinity of the University of the Arts, inhabited by trend-setting students.

My eye was drawn to the almost Nietzschean purity and strong colours. One bike was all-white, even including the drive chain, another was mat black and gold with painted tyres. A recent article in the Evening Standard about Horst Friedrichs‘ new book London’s most stylish cyclists, seemed to only show examples of fixie bikes.

The point is that once you remove the complex Derailleur gears and forget about heavy suspension, bike designers can let the minimalism of the two wheels and frame come to the fore. The fact that these bikes tend to be hundreds of pounds cheaper than their more sophisticated siblings is another attraction.

However, there is just one fly in the ointment, and that is the hilly nature of the geography around my local area. Bicycles developed gears for a reason, and that was to get their riders up hills without having to get off and push every time the slope got steep.

I’ve been assured that in London they work just fine, but I certainly haven’t seen any up on the South Downs on my walks.

Then there is the question of true fixed wheel fixie, or the softy version with a free wheel bearing. I have to say the thought of being thrown over the handlebars because I forgot to keep pedalling when going downhill, does worry me somewhat.

So I have a dilemma, choose a beautiful two wheeled retro bike that harks back to the early days of cycling – and suffer, or go modern for an easy ride.

velosolo_jamgal

image from http://www.velosolo.co.uk/pictures/jamgal.jpg

The Apprentice hits the mark with gourmet street food

Lucky_ChipThis evening’s Apprentice shows the show’s researchers have their ears to the ground with regard to the latest trend in street food retailing.

Pop-up shops selling gourmet fast food is all the rage in the trendier parts of London these days.

Luckily the Kings Cross development area is just one such place, with its Eat Street, just up the road from the updated eponymous station, and literally across the road from the recently opened University of the Arts.

I have been lured over to this new venture on numerous occasions, despite the relatively high prices compared to traditional fast food outlets. But the food has always been worth it, with a notable spicy burger which had a real bite to it.

As was pointed out during this weeks Apprentice episode, branding is a key element of any enterprise, and some of the stalls in Eat Street certainly have memorable names. My favourites are Daddy Donkey, Well Kneaded Ltd, Yum Bun, Hardcore Prawn, and Eat my Pies.

tongue-n-cheekHowever, I think that Tongue ‘n Cheek needs to find a way make its delicious sounding underrated meat cuts and Italian inspired street food treats, such as Ox cheek with caramelized onions and polenta, a bit more accessible given the queue size I observed the other day.

These names certainly compare favourably to the Apprentice team’s choices of Gourmet Scot Pot and Utterly delicious Meatballs.

Update: August 2012: I’m now a regular at Eat Street as their days and stalls expand all the time. I’ve just had probably the best burger I’ve ever tasted from Tongue ‘n Cheek. It was their Heartbreacker Original burger, made from Ox heart and dry aged beef burger, spicy chimichurri sauce, water cress, cheddar and sour cream. And it tasted amazing.

The law of unintended consequences and e-books – Fifty Shades of Grey

50_shades_of_greyThe law of unintended consequences is an interesting topic in its own right, with perhaps the most well known example being the unexpected use of text messaging on mobile telephones.

The latest example according to David Sexton in the Evening Standard is the way e-book readers have allowed more women to read adult fiction. Apparently the lack of a racy cover and give-away title when reading a discretely packaged Amazon Kindle or Apple iPad, allows more and more women to indulge their tastes in public. No longer do they need to fear the snorts of derision or disapproving looks as they plough their way through the latest Bodice ripper.

Apparently the growth in e-books (one in eight of adult fiction books is now purchased digitally) has allowed for a rapid growth in what some call ‘Mommy porn‘, or literotica.

The UK market leader in this genre is E L James and her début adult romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey. According to her official website;

E_L_JamesE L James is a TV executive, wife and mother-of-two based in West London. Since early childhood she dreamed of writing stories that readers would fall in love with, but put those dreams on hold to focus on her family and her career. She finally plucked up the courage to put pen to paper with her first novel, Fifty Shades of Grey.

It is claimed 250,000 copies have already been sold in different formats, and has topped the New York Times Bestseller list.

So, the next time you see a fellow commuter looking a bit hot and bothered, it may not be due to the faulty heating system on the train, but caused by something hot and steamy in her e-book reader.

Another great Inspiring Entrepreneurs with Mothers of Invention

Another fantastic event this evening with a range of inspiring women entrepreneurs and their stories.

Jones_EmmaThe event was chaired with great warmth, energy and humour by Emma Jones  who launched her first business at age 27, and successfully sold it two years later. In 2006 she launched Enterprise Nation as a website to help anyone start and grow a business from home. The company has since expanded to offer online services, publications, events and finance to small businesses across the UK. Emma is also co-founder of StartUp Britain, and currently acting as the campaign’s chief executive.

Sophie_CornishAs co-founder of shopping website notonthehighstreet.com, Sophie Cornish has won many prestigious awards including the ECMOD Direct Commerce Award for the last three consecutive years and the Online Retail Award Prix D’or 2010. They now host over 2,500 businesses on notonthehighstreet selling 40,000 different products.

They came to the British Library Business & IP Centre early on to look at trends in Internet retailing. And worked hard on their business plan to the extent that they new their numbers inside out. Sohpie emphasised that creating a brand is the key challenge for any business.

Her tips were:

  • Own your mistakes
  • There is no silver bullet
  • Hard work is your unique selling point
  • Cash is king

Kamal_BasranFrom helping her parents prepare samosas for the English pub they ran, to setting up her own food business The Authentic Food Company in 1985, Kamal Basran indulged her passion for cooking authentic Indian food and opened a small business supplying local catering establishments with hand-made samosas and other Indian snack food.

Today, the company has over 240 employees and has a turnover of over £31 million. The company are supplying many of the UK’s top hotels, pub chains, restaurants and retail outlets with the range of quality international cuisine.

When Kamal started out in business, she was a full-time teacher, settled in a comfortable lifestyle, married with two children. While out shopping she saw some ready made samosas, but once home discovered they tasted horrible and threw them into the dustbin. This was the trigger for starting her own business. She had no idea how to start, but wonders in retrospect if this is perhaps the best way.

She began making 600 samosas a week, and grew the business to over a million meals a week.

Her tips were:

Number one priority was to organise her children.
Then, learn how to do everything yourself (nothing is too menial).
Finally, don’t listen to other people (especially your parents!)

Her reasons for success were:

  1. Target your market
  2. Grow gradually
  3. People – 25 nationalities
  4. Products – are the best quality
  5. Customers – we love our customers

Rosie_WolfendenRosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine are the founders of Tatty Devine whose distinctive fashion designs have made them brand leaders. In 2011 they had a boom year, with a £1 million turnover and kick started 2012 with opening a Selfridges pop up shop which launched their new silver label. The two London Tatty Devine boutiques are located in Brick Lane and Covent Garden.

Harriet_VineThey are independently run and design every piece, 99% of the jewellery is made by hand in their workshops (based in London and Kent). Their custom-made jewellery has been worn by everyone from Claudia Schiffer to Jessie J.

They are very proud of producing their own book on How to Make Jewellery.

In the last two years they have started letting others in to their business, such as developing a new website, to enable them to concentrate on the jewellery.

Christina_RichardsonChristina Richardson is founder of The Nurture Network the UK’s first on-demand marketing department for start-ups and entrepreneurial growth businesses. Christina has spent much of her career managing and growing FMCG brands worth in excess of £100 million.

Now she and her blue-chip trained team, work flexibly across multiple businesses – being their marketing expertise, part time or for specific projects – calling in creative specialists from their network as and when they are needed.

Her tips for new businesses:

  1. You need to give yourself the strongest foundations you can. Be distinctly different by playing a different game.
  2. Define your brand by being clear on your ‘onlyness’. Think about who your brand would be if it were a person.
  3. Test your brand out with real people.
  4. Have a vision, but with numbers. Know the future you want to create.

And for existing businesses:

  1. Marketing is everything that touches your consumer.
  2. Always think consumer first. Choose which group will be your most valuable customers. This will inform your marketing chooses.
  3. Plan with the end in mind and be objectives driven.
  4. Use everything you can do to spread your brand
  5. Bootstrap and collaborate

The evening closed with a lively question and answer session followed by some serious networking until closing time.

Our Spring Festival has sprung

British_Library_Spring_Festival_creativeIn January I blogged about our Spring Market competition for designers and makers. From the 80+ applicants, the 12 lucky winners got the chance to set up shop in the British Library Piazza last Thursday.

This was all part of our Spring Festival week of events which ran from 1 to 5 March, as a five day celebration of fashion, design and creativity. Highlights included the Spring Market, ‘Make it, Sell it’ speed mentoring sessions, talks from Quentin Blake and Jamie Hewlett (Gorillaz), a pop-up exhibition, Vintage Knitting and a pecha-lecture with Neville Brody.

I have to admit I was a bit worried about the Spring Market as we have had some very mixed weather recently (it is cold and wet as I write this), so we were very fortunate to have a warm sunny day for the market. I popped down to have a look and say hello, and ended up buying some of the wonderful items on display.

history_mugsThe first stall I visited was Cole of London founded by Sarah Cole. Sarah designs colourful mugs that are a contemporary take on age old themes. Featuring figures from history and illustrations. Her mugs feature English monarchs, great writers and the wives of Henry VIII. She has used the Business & IP Centre to learn about copyright and research the ceramics market.

Next was SquidLondon, who I have mentioned before (SquidLondon brighten up a rainy autumn day). Rather than go for one of their best-selling line of colour changing umbrellas, I plumped for a ‘Miss Squidolette’ Shower Curtain which comes to colourful life each time the shower is turned on. It makes a great gift for anyone with young children who might be reluctant to ‘get wet’.

Miss_Squidolette-Shower_Curtain

BathSoak-200x200Next came Ruby Red Cosmetics founded by Martine Burford who is passionate about ethical cosmetics, and her skincare range contains no synthetic chemicals, fragrances or dyes, and has not been tested on animals. She makes all her products locally in London and they are beautifully packaged .

The idea for Ruby Red grew and grew during the 18 months sabbatical Mike and Martine took in 2005. We had given up our high flying jobs to travel around South East Asia and spent a lot of that time with the locals, discovering effective natural apothecary remedies for keeping skin looking healthy and glowing.

The happy ‘punters’ at the fair, seemed to be a mix of British Library staff (showing what good taste they have for innovative products), and visitors to the library who got a nice surprise on their way in to do their research.

All the stall holders I spoke to said they were getting a lot of interest, and sales, so I am hoping this might be first of many such events at the Library. Congratulations to Fran Taylor our Marketing Manager for Creative industries, for masterminding the Spring Festival.

We were also lucky to have Buzz Films present during the week and posting several excellent short clips onto Vimeo.

Fran_Taylor

Fran Taylor Marketing Manager for Creative Industries

Summly founder Nick D’Aloisio @British Library

Summly_logoI couldn’t see how my colleagues could top the speakers at our first Digital Library Conversations @British Library. Internet pioneers Vint Cerf (known as one of the fathers of the internet) and Ted Nelson who founded Project Xanadu, the first hypertext project in 1960. There is a video of the meeting if you are interested.

However, I was wrong. As a result of Stella Wisdom (one of our Digital Curators) reading an article in the Metro newspaper, we were privileged to hear from 16-year-old ‘internet genius’ Nick D’Aloisio, the founder of Summly.

This iPhone app has made international headlines and attracted backing of an investment company controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing..

Summly is an iPhone app which summarises and simplifies the content of web pages and search results. Currently it can condense reference pages, news articles and reviews but according to Nick,  has the potential to go a lot further.

Nick_D'AloisioNick has been profiled in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Wired and FastCompany for his entrepreneurial success and interest in Artificial Intelligence. Before founding Summly, Nick created Facemood, a service which used sentiment analysis to determine the mood of Facebook users, and SongStumblr, a geosocial music discovery service.

Did I mention he was 16 years old?

According to an interview with the BBC, Summly came from his frustration in researching for his exams.

“I was revising for a history exam and using Google, clicking in and out of search results, and it seemed quite inefficient. If I found myself on a site that was interesting I was reading it and that was wasting time,” he said.

“I thought that what I needed was a way of simplifying and summarising these web searches. Google has Instant Preview but that is just an image of the page. What I wanted was a content preview,” he says.

What impressed me most from our meeting with Nick at the British Library (which you can get a glimpse of here thanks to Reuters), was his intelligence and modesty.

I’m sure he has had plenty of practice, but his ‘elevator pitch’  (which is something of an obsession with me), was superb.

And when I asked him if he was planning to pursue an entrepreneurial path or go on to university, he talked enthusiastically about studying philosophy after his A levels. This is from someone just back from a series of meetings with high powered investors and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

I came away with the impression that he was quite possibly the most confident and mature person in the meeting.

Addition 28 March 2012:

The video of this event has now been posted onto YouTube, and the interview with Nick starts 34 minutes in.