The Ass Saver that stops you getting a wet bum on your bike

Ass Savers logoSo many entrepreneurs I meet want to have a name that describes what their product does. But ironically the UK IPO may not allow you to register a name as a trade mark if “it is a descriptive word or term.”

For example Apple Inc would not be allowed to register their trade mark for fruit, as it would block everyone else from using the word apple. Much better is come up with a clever play on words that gets across what your product does. Even better if it achieves it in a fun way.

Now that autumn is here in London, it is time to think about trying to stay dry when travelling around the city. I wrote about Dry Patch – A BIPC success story with a great sense of humour a while ago. But more recently have spotted quite a few of these on my commute to work.

Ass saver

The name Ass Savers may not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly is short, simple and memorable – the most important aspects of a trade mark.

So far the owners have only registered the name under Nice Class 12, Vehicles and Conveyances for Bicycle mudguards. So it looks as though they aren’t ready to take over the world with their brand just yet.

Update! 24 October 2017

One of our clients designer Roderick Brosse at the Business & IP Centre has just won the the top award at this weekend’s British Invention Show with a minimal mudguard. His “Mud Bug” won the Diamond Award for British Invention.

Roderick has yet to find a manufacturer for his impressive invention, so watch this space.


Launch 22 – a charity business incubator in Silicon Roundabout

Launch22 logoI first met David Hardman the General Manager & Co-Founder of Launch22 back in August 2014. I was immediately impressed by his enthusiasm, and the service offered to business start-ups in the heart of Silicon Roundabout in East London.

Many of our customers in the Business & IP Centre ask where they can find incubation space for their business. And although other incubators exist in London, I’m not aware of any that are run on a charitable basis and offer scholarships. Also, I like the way they offer a mentoring service and help finding finance in addition to the work space.


Launch22 is a charity business incubator dedicated to growing early-stage startups and connecting entrepreneurs with industry experts as well as like-minded businessmen. We work mostly with disadvantaged entrepreneurs for whom a social co-working space with constant access to professional advice, networking and industry-related events is vital.

Our space runs on a membership basis with scholarships available for entrepreneurs who have a great business idea, but are struggling to launch it.

Many incubators are exclusive and expensive. We are turning that on its head so that every new entrepreneur can access great workspace, regardless of their economic or social situation.

We know from experience that starting a business is not easy. Any start-up will face challenges and difficulties on the road to success. That’s why at Launch22, we are not just providing a great workspace, we’re creating a community, a place where people can offer advice and guidance to each other, where they can collaborate on new or existing ideas, and of course make new friends along the way.

Mentoring on three levels
Entrepreneurs-In-Residence have been carefully selected because they have themselves experienced the challenges young entrepreneurs face when building a new business, and are always on hand to provide assistance when problems arise.

Allocated mentors provide vital one to one feedback, and are here to go that extra mile when it comes to understanding every facet of your business, and what it needs to succeed.

Specialist mentors are experts in their field, all giving up part of their day jobs as successful lawyers, accountants, and many more to share their wealth of knowledge with our startups.

When your business needs a kick start we’ll be there to make sure your getting the right help, at the right time, from the right people

Introducing social media for small business

Last year I gave a workshop about my blog as part of our Web in Feb month of activities.pinterest_logo

This year I have been asked to turn it into a regular workshop by extending the coverage to social media.

Using the tried and trusted ‘Ronseal’ approach we came up with ‘Introducing Social Media for Small Business’ as the title.

So far I have the run the workshop twice, with more to follow on 15 and 29 May. It has proved popular, but I am struggling to fit everything in to the two hours available. Social Media is such a big topic and the platforms continue to grow, with Pinterest being the latest hot topic.

Here are my top twelve tips for Social Media success:

  1. Try to limit to 30 minutes a day
  2. Keep it professional – you might go viral in a bad way
  3. Keep an eye out for new services
  4. Try to measure results
  5. Cull any activities that don’t help your business
  6. Try to stay focussed – keep away from the Lolcats
  7. Be a person online – but not too personal
  8. Always try to add value
  9. Don’t just lurk – contribute
  10. Try to be ‘marketing lite’ – avoid spamming
  11. Have a consistent brand / name across your social media platforms
  12. Have fun with it

I recently posted my workshop slides onto Slideshare and was surprised to discover that I already have had 127 views there.


Eat Street has sold out… of food

As last Friday was a lovely warm day I decided to pop over to Eat Street (now KERB) for lunch.

Unfortunately I had left it a bit late and by the time I got there everything had gone.

However, I did have a a nice chat to the staff on the Bell and Brisket stand about their non-Kosher hot salt beef bagels, and how they had to struggle through the miserable winter months until the rewards of the late spring weather brought out the customers.

Next week I will make sure I get out nice and early before they run out of supplies.

Just looking at the photos makes my mouth water.


Answer our questionnaire and win £50 worth of John Lewis vouchers

866529_feedback_form_excellent by Dominik Gwarek - kilashi

We would love to hear from you about the difference the British Library Business & IP Centre has made to you and your business. Your participation is crucial in helping us secure future funding and ensure that we continue to meet your needs.

I would be grateful if you would spend five minutes to complete this survey. The information you supply will be kept strictly confidential and will only be used for this purpose. As an incentive, your name will be entered into a price draw and you could be one of three people to win £50 worth of John Lewis vouchers.

The survey will be closing on 19 March 2013.

Many thanks in anticipation.

Spring Market 2013 competition: Made with the British Library

spring-market-comp-web-pageOur Spring Market in 2012 was such a success, we decided to run it again (surprise).
So if you are a designer or maker and you have used the Library to develop your idea, why not apply?

The prize is a stand at our Spring Market on Monday 4 March 2013 on the British Library Piazza in London. The Market is part of our Spring Festival and will show off the work of ten of the most innovative jewellery, fashion, homeware and craft designers who have used the British Library. If you have attended an event, used our Business & IP Centre, seen an exhibition or have a Reader Pass you are eligible to enter.

We have up to 5,000 visitors at any one time. You’ll be able to exhibit and sell your products to our visitors for the day, get experience and training in running a market stall, gain free business advice through our Business & IP Centre, plus lots of marketing and press exposure.

See the winners of last year’s Spring Market competition

Your prize

  • A market stall during the Spring Market. We will provide a stand, fabric covering and basic staging.
  • A workshop on how to dress your stand and gain the most out of the opportunity.
  • Your work featured on the British Library website.
  • We will promote your products via the British Library’s marketing channels including Twitter, Facebook, blogs and our website.
  • You’ll be included in a British Library press release sent to major national and local publications.

Competition criteria

We are looking for designers and makers who:

  • Produce fine art and photography, graphic art, jewellery, crafts, home-ware, fashion or other products.
  • Have been trading for at least six months in the UK.
  • Have a product range which has potential to make a fantastic visual display on a market stall.
  • Can sell the majority of products for around £30 or less (so that it is affordable for passing trade). Although it is fine to have a small range of high-end products to show the full range of your work.
  • Are able to attend the workshop for competition winners on Friday 8 February 2013.
  • Have used the British Library e.g. for events, exhibitions, our collections and Business & IP Centre.

How to enter

Complete our word document form and email it to by midnight on Sunday 27 January 2013.

Download the application form

Read our competition terms and conditions

Key dates

Midnight on Sunday 27 January 2013: Deadline for the competition
Friday 1 February 2013: Winners announced via email and on our website
Friday 8 February 2013: Workshop for the winners
Monday 4 March 2013: ‘Made with the British Library’ Spring Market

Making your website mobile friendly with Telnames


Once again the Business & IP Centre had a stand at the Business Startup Show (this year bigger than ever and moved to Olympia). Although not quite the same draw as Caprice Bourret or Brad Burton, the session I ran with Julie Hall from Women Unlimited was full to bursting.

I always try and find some time to get around the exhibition and see what catches my eye. This year it was Telnames, a new service that claims to ‘create a mobile site that you own and control within minutes’. With the rapid take-up of mobile internet use, I can see the potential for a service like this. According to their website, by 2013 more people will use mobile phones than PCs to get online, and research indicates that 6 in 10 visitors will leave a mobile-unfriendly site.

The man I spoke to was an ex Yell employee, and explained that Telnames has ambitions to become a big player across Europe. I wondered how they would convince small business to pay for an additional service. His answer was simple – £14.95 a year all inclusive. My response was at that price it is a ‘no-brainer’, which by coincidence is the term they use on their home page.

It will be fascinating to see if this service really takes off in the way the salesman predicted.


St. Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance – Entrepreneurship: Starting from point zero

finec_logoRecently twenty students from St. Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance (FINEC) came to visit the Business & IP Centre. This was a follow-on from a smaller group who came to see me last year, led by Elena Orlova, Associate Professor and Project Coordinator at FINEC.

Her aim is to create a centre for entrepreneurship within St. Petersburg, based in part on our Business & IP Centre, and inspired by several UK universities’ enterprise support activities.

I was happy to have Elena back, as I had strong memories of her enthusiastic students, and this larger group proved to be equally passionate about introducing enterprise to their university. This year their programme of visits has been expanded to include London Metropolitan University, London School of Business & Finance and University of East London Knowledge Dock. They also travelled outside London to Judge Business School Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (part of the University of Cambridge), and Manchester Metropolitan University.

Entrance to the university, with Bank Bridge in the foreground
Entrance to the university. Source Wikipedia

As well as giving the students a tour of the British Library and the Business & IP Centre, and a talk about how we help start-ups and growth businesses, they also gave presentations to me about their projects.

Not only was their grasp of English excellent, their plans to create a University Centre for Entrepreneurship and an interactive map of entrepreneurship opportunities in St. Petersburg were impressive.

It came as something of a surprise to me to discover their biggest challenge is not finding financial support, as they already have sponsorship from SBERBank. But is the cultural challenge of persuading fellow Russians to consider starting their own business as a realistic life choice. Although traditional state Communism ended many years ago, it seems the attitudes that went with it are harder to shake off. Individuals remains cautious when it comes to investing their time and money in a business venture.

One encouraging sign was the fact that just two of the twenty students on the programme are men. If this is representative of the rest of the population back home, then we can expect to see plenty of female entrepreneurs in St. Petersburg over the next few years.


Today I received this lovely letter from the students:

To Neil Infield.
“You need to be pathological optimist”

Dear Neil,
We’ve returned to Russia, to Saint Petersburg from London and Manchester. And we are still excited by our visit to the British Library, especially to Business and IP center. Thank you so much for organising such an amazing meeting. We’d like to share the most interesting moments from our visit.

First of all, your library impresses by its extensive collection of rare books, recordings and other sources of information. We loved Jack Kerouac’s 120-ft-long manuscript exhibition. The book “On the road” and the movie are really popular in Russia.

Secondly, you gave us a really good presentation of your business and IP center. It is the right place for every person who wants to get help in starting their own business. There are no barriers to be involved in the centre activities. Besides you encourage young entrepreneurs by using swap skills desk. And now we are more enthusiastic on creating our own center. We’d like to include the following services to our center as well as you do: consultations about intellectual property, networking with start-ups and mature entrepreneurs. But there is one thing that’s not common to Russia – exchange of business ideas. That’s why it is necessary for us to make a platform for trainings, workshops and meetings for peers. Entrepreneurs-to-be need a place where to go and the right people to talk to.

You told us about the cultural challenges we would face while implementing our project – we will try to forsee them. Thank you very much for this advice.

The diversity of opportunities and ideas that can come from one particular thing is another idea that you discussed with us. The way you introduced it – with your “Water presentation” – is a brilliant idea how to tell people not about “water things” but very, very important issues.

So, we want to thank you for all your patience and interest that you listened to us to.

We hope we keep in touch with you and continue our collaboration.

Best wishes, students of FINEC.


Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time for Entrepreneurs 2012


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 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.

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.

University College London Enterprise, Camden Council, Citrus Saturdays and Circalit

An interesting event this evening at University College London Old Refectory for a talk about the partnership with Camden Council business support and UCL Enterprise.

Timothy Barnes, the Director of Enterprise Operations at UCL gave an energetic talk about a selection of UCL activities to support entrepreneurs from within their 25,000 student body as well as entrepreneurial Camden residents.

Perhaps the most surprising and certainly the most youthful project is Citrus Saturday, which from small beginnings has spread across several European cities:

Citrus_Saturday_logoAround sixty 11 to 14-year-olds, drawn from a range of schools in the borough, will run stalls selling lemonade and other citrus products such as orange smoothies and lemon ice cream. The stalls will be located in ten prime locations, for example, Euston Station, Tavistock Square Park and Brunswick Centre. The children will be supervised by a trained volunteer drawn from the UCL student body, who will have acted as a ‘business mentor’ throughout the training programme.

Citrus Saturday is designed to infuse children with a spirit of enterprise. It aims to teach them the basic business and, indeed, life skills necessary to become successful, contributing members of their communities.

It’s also an opportunity for families, schools, businesses, students and even members of the public, to unite for a common purpose – to train the next generation of entrepreneurs through a free, enjoyable, engaging activity. Children will learn how to set goals, create budgets, secure investors, select a site, purchase supplies, serve customers, make a profit and repay investors.

Citrus Saturday offers many of Camden’s young people their first experience of these life lessons. It may be some time before they are thinking about going out into the world and making a living, but in the meantime we aim to boost their confidence and instil self-esteem – all while making sure they have fun, of course.

By chance I found myself sitting next to Raoul Tawadey the founder of one of UCL ‘s success stories Circalit.

Circalit is the best place to discover new authors and share stories online. You can read thousands of fantastic stories on Circalit for free by visiting the hot reads section.

Circalit aims to be the YouTube or SoundCloud for new writers. As Raul pointed out to me, there are many more writers in the world than video or music creators, but they don’t have a place to get exposure as the traditional publishers are swamped with manuscripts. The website also includes writing advice from professionals such as Sopranos scriptwriter Nick Santora. Circalit looks like a really interesting service to aspiring writers.