Category Archives: growing business

The safest thing on my bicycle is my Mirrycle

mirrycle_logoDuring my year of cycle commuting across the capital (15 learnings from a year of Brompton cycle commuting in London) I have become increasingly safety conscious.

My first step was to buy a cheap and cheerful cycle helmet, mostly to placate my concerned partner. At that point I was still doubtful about its value as there was some evidence to the contrary (Cycle helmets are useless, says brain surgeon). However, after a few months mingling with cars, buses, lorries and other cyclists, I started to appreciate the fragility of the human head. Especially when it has the potential of coming into contact with any of these solid metal vehicles, or even just a patch of hard tarmacadam road. So recently I upgraded my helmet to an ‘urban’ model with more protection, and hopefully a tad more style.

giro-sutton-helmet

My Giro Sutton bash hat

Next came a choice that drops me off the bottom of the fashion scale. My fluorescent orange and yellow safety vest may be a faux-pas from a style perspective, but it certainly gets me noticed – which is the point of wearing it. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen car drivers and pedestrians glance in my direction, then doing a double-take and stopping their imminent move into my path, as the bright colours of my vest hit their brain receptors.

I spent my formative years riding a motorbike on London roads, so I know that anything on two wheels is effectively invisible to most other road users. I still remember the “I’m sorry – I didn’t see you” from when I was knocked down by a car in the Walworth Road in 1989. And I really want to avoid hearing it again.

In those days it was the engine driving the wheels rather than my legs, and the two rear-view mirrors were something of an irrelevance. The acceleration of my motorbike meant I needed to focus on what was in front of me, not behind me.

Mirrycle-Barend-Mirror-MTB-2

I can see behind with my Mirrycle mirror

On a pedal powered bike it is more of a fifty-fifty front and rear. I still need to concentrate on the road ahead for rogue pedestrians and cars pulling out in front of me. But I also need to be aware of what is coming up behind me. Is it a taxi who is going to squeeze me into the kerb, or a bus desperately trying to get the stop in front of me, or a monster truck who’s air draft is going to blow me over.

I am even at risk from young Lycra clad cyclists, who I’m sure see an old codger like me riding a Brompton in a suit, as someone they can whiz past. So the ability to see them bearing down on me at speed, and so give them space to pass, is very helpful to both of us.

I still look round behind me quite a bit too, using what the Police call the lifesaver. This tends be before a manoeuvre, or to make eye contact with a driver who is about to cut me up.

Knowing what is going on behind me gives me choices and avoids dangerous surprises. So that makes my Mirrycle perhaps my most valuable investment in terms of safety on my trusty Brompton. In fact based on my experience I would recommend that every bike should be fitted with at least one mirror as a standard safety feature.

Update November 2015

Interesting to see Garmin have now come out with a radar system for detecting vehicles sneaking up behind you. I still think my mirror will do for now.

Anorak – now a cool brand and a Success Story

anorak_logo I have blogged in the past about the importance of using a ‘made-up’ name for your trademark, but there are other ways to establish a distinctive but protected presence in the market place.

I was recently helping a couple of customers in the Centre find some useful market research reports on home wares. In conversation I discovered they were the founders of Anorak, a company who make and sell ‘functional products inspired by the great outdoors’. I also learned that we had helped them along their journey to success over the last four years, so they qualify as one of our Success Stories.

For me, the story here is the ingenuity of taking a widely used slang term with negative connotations, and subverted it into something cool and trendy.

trainspotter

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Mattbuck

According to Wikipedia the term anorak came from the Observer newspaper’s description of UK trainspotters, based on their preferred form of clothing. Allegedly members of this group often wore, the by then very unfashionable anorak jackets, when standing for hours on chilly railway station platforms noting down details of passing trains.

However according to the Guardian Newspaper’s Notes and Queries column, the term was was originally created by Radio Caroline Disk Jockey Andy Archer in the early 70′. He used the word anoraks on air, to describe the boatloads of fans who came out to visit the pirate radio ships anchored off the Dutch coast.

During the 1980’s it became a general derogatory term for a someone with an obsessive interest in unfashionable and largely solitary interests. 1980’s UK rock group Marillion called one of their albums Anoraknophobia, referring to the long running in-joke that Marillion fans were sometimes called freaks or anoraks.

isle of wight computer geek iow

www.theisleofwightcomputergeek.co.uk

In the United States the term geek or nerd is often used instead, but is not associated with a particular item of clothing as far as I am aware. The exception might be the wearing of large unfashionable glasses. The US based company GeekSquad have also attempted to exploit the label to their own advantage.

The word anorak is derived from Greenland Eskimo ‘anoraq’, used to describe a waterproof jacket, typically with a hood, of a kind originally used in polar regions.

I am aware that this post may be in danger of straying into anorak territory itself with this level of obsessive detail, so I will stop here.

 

Anorak_fox_mugAbout Us

Introducing Anorak. A British brand with its heart planted firmly in the great outdoors. Inspired by childhood camping adventures (in a bright orange campervan), Anorak’s founder and Creative Director Laurie Robertson uses striking silhouettes to bring a touch of fun and whimsy to homewares and outdoor lifestyle accessories.

From Kissing Rabbits to Proud Foxes, Anorak’s animal designs are bold, bright and a good deal less timid than their real life relatives. But looks aren’t everything, so the entire Anorak product range has function at its heart. The wash bags are wipe clean, the sleeping bags have leg room a plenty, the picnic blankets are light enough to carry on the longest of country strolls. So if you’re a fan of the great outdoors (even when you’re indoors) and think fun should follow function, remember to pack your Anorak.

Innovating for Growth – the video

My colleagues in the marketing team have just posted a great new video onto our YouTube channel explaining our exciting Innovating for Growth programme.

Spring Market 2103 competition winners

In January we ran a competition to find designers and makers who have used the Library to develop their ideas, the prize was a day selling their products at our at our Spring Market on Monday 4 March 2013.

The winners of the competition also get training in running a market stall, free business advice through the Business & IP Centre, as well as marketing support from the Library.

I bought some great presents at last years Spring Market so am really looking forward to this one.

Spring Market winners 2013

Ali Miller
Ali’s handmade and UK produced homewares have a traditional, nostalgic feel with a twist of British quirkiness. Her vintage inspired work has been featured in the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes series as well as in notable publications such as Elle, Financial Times and The Telegraph. Ali has attended the Library’s ‘Make it, Sell it’ event and used our Business & IP Centre for research.
www.alimiller.co.uk

ali-miller


Anthropoid Clothing
Using her training as a scientific and natural history illustrator, Abigail Lingford creates bags, home wares, clothing and shoes inspired by her love of science. She was shortlisted for the BBC wildlife artist of the year in 2012 and has been featured in Time Out and The Guardian. She is inspired by our exhibitions, including ‘Out of This World’ on science fiction. She is also a user of our Business & IP Centre which helps her to commercialise her work.
www.anthropoidclothing.com

anthropoid-clothing


Boodi Blu
Upcycling has become increasingly popular in recent years. Boodi Blu’s Sarah Marafie has utilised this to create beautiful bespoke pieces of china and porcelain jewellery. The china she uses has been found buried or washed up on river banks, building an historical story to the jewellery. Sarah has used our Business & IP Centre to better understand intellectual property, copyright and to attend our ‘Knowing your Market’ workshop.
www.boodiblu.com

boodi-blu


Euan Cunningham
A professional artist, Euan has applied his ink and watercolour drawings of London landmarks to items such as greeting cards, mugs, t-shirts and prints. Euan was featured in the Sunday Times and his card designs are now sold in Fortnum and Mason. The Library’s building has influenced his work – watch out for the British Library print!
http://commissionahouseportrait.com/

euan-cunningham


Josie Shenoy Illustration
Josie is an illustrator and designer who is inspired by storytelling and has a passion for fusing hand-made and digital approaches. Josie’s success is growing; she has recently sold her work with Topshop and ASOS. Josie attended our ‘Make it, Sell it’ event and has enjoyed our exhibitions such as ‘Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire’.
http://josieshenoy.com

josie-shenoy


Lisa Edoff
Swedish graphic designer Lisa Edoff creates beautiful products inspired by folk tales, nature, pop culture and the surrounding environment. She was directly approached by notonthehighstreet.com to become a partner and her products have been recommended by The Independent Magazine. Lisa has used our Business & IP Centre to attend our ‘Beginner’s guide to IP’ workshop, get one-to-one business advice and to network with other makers.
www.lisaedoff.com

lisa-edoff


Lucy Alice Designs
Lucy Porter has been creating gifts, cards, jewellery and homewares since 2011, all of which are influenced by her love of illustration and the British outdoors. Lucy was Runner up in the New Design Britain Awards in January 2012 as well as an exhibitor at MADE 12. Lucy has used the Library’s Business & IP Centre to research intellectual property and to create her business plan as well as researching British wildlife in our wider collections.
www.lucyalicedesigns.co.uk

lucy alice designs


Motties
Environmentally friendly Motties, are cosy and stylish slippers handmade from recycled leather materials. Alexa Mottram, the designer and creator of Motties, donates £1 from every sale to the homeless charity Emmaus. Alexa has received notable press coverage from The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian. Her focus is on ethical fashion and she used the Library’s collection to research her MSc in Sustainable Architecture and Energy Studies, which has influenced her design work.
www.motties.co.uk

motties


Nette’ Leather Goods
Talented Californian turned Londoner, Johnette Taylor produces high quality leather goods such as purses, iPad cases and bicycle accessories. Her hand crafted accessories are made to last as well as being designed for functionality and attractiveness. In 2010, Johnette won a start up grant from the Prince’s Trust, and is currently a finalist in the Brand Amplify competition. She attended our creative and fashion meet-ups and training sessions on copyright and registered designs.
www.netteleathergoods.bigcartel.com

nette-leather-goods


The English Tee Shop
Alia Qadir designs and makes a range of luxurious printed t-shirts for women. Her emphasis on Englishness is central to the brand and can be seen through her use of the English language on the t-shirts as well as manufacturing her line solely in the UK. Alia has used the Library’s Business & IP Centre to do market research and has attended a trends workshop with our partner Insider Trends.
www.theenglishteeshop.com

the-english-tee-shop


Wonderhaus
Wonderhaus is an urban jewellery brand created by Julia Roy Williams. Julia gathers inspiration from urban environments, looking at architecture, music and other sub cultures and transforms this into beautiful jewellery made from materials such as bronze, leather, perspex and rubber. Julia’s jewellery has been recommended by The Sunday Times and Grazia as well as being seen on celebrities such as Erin O’Connor. Julia has been inspired by our exhibitions, including ‘Magnificent Maps’, our online gallery of images and our St Pancras flagship building.
www.wonderhaus.co.uk

wonderhaus

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time for Entrepreneurs 2012

GEW_UK_logo

Tonight we hosted another of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs evenings as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). This time we had successful entrepreneurs from a diverse range of business sectors, from home wares to plumbing.

Once again our moderator and all round business expert was Matthew Rock,  Real Business Co-founder and Editor.

Charlie_MullinsFirst up was Charlie Mullins who said he wanted to be a plumber from nine years old. And from very early on was out on the road working with plumbers. He doesn’t believe in a magic formula for business success. He didn’t have any set plans when he started out, just hard work and dedication to be successful. The harder you work the luckier you get.

His is a family business with children and in-laws employed. Pimlico plumbers is now the largest independent plumbing company in the country, and the most recognised in the country. And they now employs 200 people, but the hardest thing is finding the right staff.

orla_kielySecond was Orla Kiely who knew by the age of twelve that she wanted to work in fashion. She applied to the one good art college in Dublin and there discovered textiles. She left Ireland in the late 1980’s as there wasn’t much going on there at the time. After four years working as a textile designer she went back to college at the Royal College of Arts which she considers essential for creatives.

orla_kiely_logoFrom there she started making a few hats and bags with fax orders from the UK to Monaco. On moving back to London to expand the business with her partner Dermott Rowan she began by freelancing for M&S and creating her designs at weekends. Their first office was their flat which became crammed with boxes. The move to prints was the way they were able to differentiate their brand, and since then they have grown organically.

.

 

Sam_HargreavesNext was Sam Hargreaves who credits his sister with starting his business when she turned down an iPod he had bought for her as a present. At 16 Instead of spending £5,000 on a car as agreed with his parents, he bought 50 iPods from the USA and doubled his money overnight, but was grounded by his mum.

His Gadgets 4 Everyone now has eleven staff and a million pound turnover, and recognised as the number one gadget recycler. Sam puts his success down to a personal touch, following up with customers over the phone and making use of social media. He tests his ideas on his friends who are brutally honest and will throw any bad ideas back into his face.

Stephen_FearFinally Stephen Fear who grew up with virtually no education, and used to read the newspapers he was delivering. At fourteen years old he began using his local phone box to contact American suppliers with help from a friendly phone operator. He settled on trainee salesman as his job title after rejecting Chairman and President, in order to get in the door at big companies who wouldn’t see a teenage child.

The evening ended with a lengthy question and answer session:

How to grow your business?
Spend your profits on your business not on holidays or expensive presents for yourself. Find the right partnerships who can help your business grow. Partner with your customers and your suppliers and ultimately with your financier.

Mistakes
Mistakes are how you learn, and you come out a lot stronger. You always have to watch your own business regardless of who you employ to look after it for you. You have to keep focussed on your business at all times. Plan ahead. Example of a five year plan to choose between menswear and home-wear for Orla Kiely.

Funding
Finance means everything must have a margin (40% in the case of Orla Kiely). Stephen Fear covered the funding options of Crowdfunding, personal investors who will take a percentage of the business, BBA website for grants. Charlie reckons friends and family can be the best source of funding for startups.

Business plans
Don’t need to be too detailed, but must be a credible road map for your business.

New markets.
Sam is expanding into European markets through connections and other people’s successes. The UK DTI help exporters expanding into new markets.

All of the speakers stayed on well after the 8pm close for some serious networking in the bar of the conference centre. It was great to be able to chat to Orla Kiely, Stephen Fear and Charlie Mullins over a glass of wine and nibbles.

Guy Kawasaki ‘Enchants’ SLA Chicago 2012 conference

Guy_KawasakiGuy Kawasaki was the keynote speaker at the recent SLA annual conference in Chicago, and here are my notes from his talk.

Kawasaki started by talking about his time at the Macintosh division of Apple Inc. He described them as the largest collection of egomaniacs ever assembled in the US, until the creation of the Facebook development team.

In hindsight he realised that enchantment was a key part of his life, dating back to his first job in the jewellery trade.

His two recommended essential reads are:
How to win friends and influence people, published in 1931 by Dale Carneigie, and Influence – The Psychology of Persuasions by Robert B Cialdini.

Kawasaki has observed many hi-tech speakers over the years, and with the exception of Steve Jobs, they all ‘suck and go long’.

He always uses the 10 point model for presenting. So he told us if he ‘sucks’ today we will be able to tell.

1.    Achieve Likeability
–    Have a great smile – not just using the jaw, but also the eyes. So crow’s feet are good. Needs to be a Duchene smile
–    Accept others for what they are
–    Default to ‘yes’ – How can I help the person I just met

2.    Achieve Trustworthiness
–    Trust others first
o    Amazon – have a policy of returning an ebook in 7 days if you don’t like it
o    Zappos – buy the shoes online, if you don’t like them we will pay the return postage
o    Nordstrom – you can return anything to them at any time
–    Become a baker not an eater – a producer not a consumer
–    Find something to agree on with customers – it doesn’t have to be a big thing
o    Example of a dislike of Opera

3.    Perfect what you do
–    Do something DICEE
o    Deep
o    Intelligent – they understand my pain / my problem
o    Complete – the totality of the service you offer
o    Empowering – they make you more creative and productive
o    Elegant – someone has thought about the user interface

4.    Launch
–    Tell a story – a personal one, not a marketing one
–    ‘My girlfriend wanted to sell Pez dispensers online’ – the story behind eBay
–    Plant many seeds
–    The key to bottom up marketing – make them available to everyone
–    Use salient points when you talk about your services
o    Calories vs Miles to burn them off
o    Dollars vs Months of food for a family in Eithiopia
o    Gigabytes vs X thousands of songs on portable player

5.    Overcome resistance
–    Provide social proof of success – the white ear-buds that came with iPods were a visual indicator in the streets
–    Use a dataset to change a mindset
o    Gapminder.org – review of number of children and longer lives across the world
–    Enchant all of the influencers in the family not just the ones with the money, e.g. children.

6.    Make your enchantment endure
–    The Grateful Dead provide a space for people to tape their concerts for free
–    Build an ecosystem of the totality of your service
–    Invoke reciprocation
o    Don’t say ‘you are welcome’ say ‘I know you would do the same for me’
o    Enable people to pay you back in their own way
–    Don’t rely on money (e.g. price offers) – it is not the core of enchantment

7.    Great enchanters are great presenters, so:
–    Customize your introduction
–    Sell your dream
o    iPhone = $188 of parts manufactured in a factory in China, but is more than the sum of its parts
–    10 is the optimum number of slides
–    Delivered in 20 minutes at most
–    A 30 point font size is optimal – so you don’t read your text out to your audience

8.    Use technology
–    Social media is free and ubiquitous so use it
–    Remove the speed bumps for your customers
–    Capta reduces the number of customers
–    Sungevity.com – Uses your home address to mock up installation using satellite imagery
–    Provide added value
o    Information
o    Insights
o    Assistance
–    Example of Alltop.com website – aggregates information by topics
–    ‘Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant’. i.e. take little – give a lot
–    Use a lot of sources and spread the information.

9.    Enchant Up
–    When your boss or partner asks you to do something – drop everything else and do it.
–    Prototype fast
–    Deliver bad news early

10.    Enchant Down
–    Book by Daliel H Pink – Drive
–    Provide a MAP
o    Mastery – if you come and work for me …
o    Autonomy – if you come and work for me …
o    Purpose – if you come and work for me …
–    Empower action
–    ‘Suck it up’ – be a boss who is willing to do the ‘dirty job’

Kawasaki summed up Enchantment as having;
The Quality of Apple – the trustworthiness of Zappos – and the likeability of Richard Branson.

Enchantment-Cover

Inspiring Entrepreneurs event – Going for Gold – report

Stephen_FearMany thanks to my colleagues Michael Pattinson and Gail Mitchell for reporting on this successful event.

Last Wednesday evening the British Library hosted the latest in the series of Inspiring Entrepreneurs events called Going for Gold which featured an audience with the Business & IP Centre’s new entrepreneur in residence Stephen Fear.

Stephen has 50 years of business experience and is involved in our new Innovating for Growth Programme which nurtures existing businesses and helps them grow over a 12 month period. He was joined on stage by two of the participants in the programme, Mandy Haberman, inventor of the Anywayup Cup and Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at Insider Trends.

Following a brief introduction from Frances Brindle, Head of Marketing at the British Library, chair Matthew Rock started proceedings by asking Stephen about the origins of his entrepreneurial spirit. He talked candidly about his early childhood spoke about his first business venture as a teenager which involved sourcing the formula for an oven cleaning solution from the US and enlisting the help of friends on the estate where he grew up to make up the product. He famously used a telephone box as his office and managed to charm the telephone operator to pose as his secretary.

After much deliberation about which job title to award himself on his business cards, he finally decided that trainee salesman was more appropriate than president or chairman considering he was so young, he set out to make his first sale. After being ejected by the receptionist at Hovis he managed to convince one of the managers who was outside having a cigarette to see a demonstration of the product. He was duly impressed and placed an order. How did he convince him? He told him that he would lose his job if he didn’t get to demonstrate it to someone.

There were several lessons to the story. Always believe in your product and make sure it works; use whatever ‘guerrilla’ tactics you can to market the product; and make sure you approach the decision makers, don’t waste your time trying to sell to the receptionist.

Stephen proved to be a very engaging speaker, down-to-earth and keen to share his entrepreneurial know-how with the audience.

Mandy_HabermanMandy Haberman joined Stephen on stage and spoke about the initial success of her Anywayup cup. She has some new products in the pipeline which she is going to manufacture herself with the help of funding including a baby feeder which emulates breast feeding. After talking about how difficult it was to secure funding Stephen told the audience that businesses will always face such challenges but it’s how you react to those challenges that matters. Matthew Rock asked him if he had any tips for businesses looking for funding. He recommended the British Bankers Association’s Business Finance for You website as a good starting point.

Cate TrotterCate Trotter from Insider Trends was up next. Cate runs a trend spotting service which includes trend tours and talks for clients ranging from large corporations like Marks & Spencer to SMEs. She is currently expanding from being a sole trader. Stephen made the point that this can be a dangerous time as you need to entrust parts of the business to other people who may not share your passion and commitment.

Stephen urged the audience to spend carefully when you are building up a business and to avoid what he called unnecessary fixed overheads such as an expensive office space or a company car. If you put a set of BMW keys on the table people assume you have a BMW, so just get a set of keys!

Mandy pointed out that you can mock up packaging to save money. Stephen came up with a very useful tip called “tacking on.” Some packaging companies may be prepared to package your products cheaply at the end of a run for another client, especially if they think you might be putting more business their way in the future.

Matthew Rock thanked the guests for their insight and then asked the audience if they had any questions. Somebody asked if having a limited company was preferable to operating as a sole trader. Stephen felt that aside from the issue of liability, the legal status of the business was not that important because it was the individuals involved that were important.

Someone else asked for advice about trading overseas. Pick an English speaking country or at least a country where you are familiar with the language and culture, said Stephen. Mandy suggested using international distributors who know the market and have the infrastructure in place already.

Nick Nair at the back of the auditorium told Stephen that if he didn’t use this opportunity to give him a bottle of his product, Flavour Dash, his boss, (ie his wife) would give him the sack. To applause from the audience, he ran down the steps and presented Stephen with a free sample, employing the very same guerilla marketing tactics that Stephen had recommended earlier in the evening.