Category Archives: Success Stories

How Deborah Sim is turning our sexual history into objects for your home

Sex+Objects_logoI met Deborah Sim a few months ago in BIPC St Pancras, researching the market for sex objects. Not having come across this concept before, I wanted to know more.

After studying the history of sex for a masters degree, using the British Library’s vast collection which I wrote about in 2013, (Private Case – Public Scandal – The secret books in the British Library), Deborah wanted to bring some of the amazing stories to life.

Gabriel Lawrence figurineA perfect example is this Rococo style figurine of Gabriel Lawrence. For  £550 you can purchase a 27cm high, hand decorated figurine of the famous cross-dressing milkman hanged for sodomy in 1726.

“This traditional figurine depicts Gabriel Lawrence, a burly milkman, who frequented the infamous molly houses of London in the early 1700s.

He was arrested during the infamous raid on Mother Clapp’s in Field Lane, as part of a movement by The Society of the Reformation of Manners to eradicate lewd, profane and immoral activities throughout the city.

Gabriel, and two companions, William Griffin and Thomas Wright, were convicted of sodomy and sentenced to death. All three were hanged on the gallows at Tyburn in the spring of 1726.”

Other opportunities to “Buy curious” on Deborah’s Sex Objects website include lampshades and cushions in her Soho Illuminations collection which document the iconic neon signs. I remember some of these garish lights from visits to 1970’s London, trying to lure in ‘punters’ from the Soho streets.Soho-neon

Or, how about this set of napkins sure to start a dinner party conversation…

“Based on an original design from London’s infamous Thélème Club the map is a thinly disguised guide to cottaging in 1930’s London. On them, public lavatories are marked alongside popular tourist attractions, such as London Zoo and Westminster Abbey. The toilets are charmingly represented by what appears to be jousting tents, perhaps intended to invoke a suggestion of two knights coming together wielding their erect lances. Mirroring this theme, two lavatory attendants, brandishing toilet brushes, can be seen reclining in the foreground.”

napkins

 

I was curious about how Deborah was going to test out the market for these intriguing gifts. Following the Lean Start-Up approach we are so keen on in the BIPC, she turned her flat into a museum shop. For the two weeks of the annual Heritage Open Days event in September she welcomed visitors into her home and tested the market for her Sex Objects.

Selling out almost all of her stock, it is safe to say the results were positive. Now she needs to move on to promoting her website sexobjectslondon.com to interested customers across the country.

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.

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

866529_feedback_form_excellent by Dominik Gwarek - kilashi

Source http://www.sxc.hu/photo/866529

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.

Success Story – Rachel Kolsky and Go London Tours

Rachel_KolskyI have known Rachel Kolsky for many years prior to my starting here in the British Library Business & IP Centre.

So it was great to be in a position to be help with her growing business Go London Tours. As a prize-winning Blue Badge guide, Rachel certainly didn’t need any tips from me on how to give tours. However, marketing (as is so often the case) was not her strong point, so we worked on reaching a wider audience.

One of the best ways to demonstrate your expertise and passion to the world, is to publish a book. And this is just what Rachel has done, along with co-author Roslyn Rawson. Jewish London is already on its third print-run, with great reviews on Amazon. I am hoping as a consequence tourists will start flooding onto Rachel’s website and book onto her tours.

I have read Jewish London, and endorse those positive comments. It is clearly laid out with a great  many colour photos of the sights. It includes several walking tours of different parts of the city  showing off their Jewish heritage, and discovering hidden gems. Rachel’s enthusiasm shines through the text and makes you want to take a look. And I love the way she always includes suggestions for places to eat on route. In my view there is nothing worse than exploring on an empty stomach.

Kiratiana Freelon has kindly given me permission to reproduce part of an interview Rachel gave to kiratianatravels, and which appears in full in Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Multicultural London.

If you had to describe Jewish London in one sentence, what would you say?

Jewish London offers tourists, as well as residents, a wealth of experiences: cultural, religious, artistic and gastronomic.

How did you first develop your signature Jewish Tour of Brick Lane? When did you start? About how many people have you taken on the tour over the years?

My first public tour of the Jewish East End was in September 2000, the year I earned my first guiding qualification.

However, the Jewish East End remains the classic tour. You can begin at the edge of the city or you can, as I now prefer, start within the Jewish East End at Aldgate and weave your way in and around Brick Lane. That way, you uncover the stories of the Jewish community for whom this area was once their home and workplace.

The tour continues to develop as more stories come to light and my groups share their family experiences with me. What was once a street of houses is now a filled with tailors and banana ripeners, furriers and synagogue caretakers. Their memories, together with the ever changing nature of Brick Lane, is what makes this a continuing fascination for me. I never tire of leading the Jewish East End tours in Brick Lane.

Literally thousands of people, whether Londoners or tourists, whether on foot or in vehicles, have been on my tours, and here’s hoping there will be many more.

The Jewish East End was larger than many imagine, and many groups, once they have rediscovered Brick Lane, want to explore further. I have devised a series of Jewish East End tours that cover areas such as Whitechapel, Mile End, and Stepney, or specific themes such as Radicals & Revolutionaries and Women of Worth.

Why did you finally decided to write the book?

Roslyn, my co-author, and I love travelling. Wherever we are in the world, we seek out Jewish heritage, synagogues, and try and meet members of the local communities. Amazingly, there was no guidebook to Jewish London. Despite a growing interest in London’s Jewish heritage, vibrant cultural centres, literature festivals, music and dance, no guidebook existed to ensure visitors and residents have all the information they need in one easy-to-read format.

Roslyn and I volunteer at Jewish Book Week and, two years ago, after one of our shifts, she asked me if I had ever thought of writing a book based on the tours I lead around London.  Roslyn’s knowledge of the Jewish community, particularly the synagogues and food, matched my knowledge of the history of Jewish London. iI seemed that we must write the book!

The book covers both walking tours around key areas of Jewish interest, but also includes features about historic cemeteries, Jewish art and artists, important Jewish personalities such as Disraeli and the Rothschilds, areas off the beaten track, and suggested days out. Holocaust memorials are all listed, and museums and Judaica are profiled. Several sites are relatively unknown, so we hope the book will encourage greater number of visitors.

Jewish_London_cover

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 springmarket@bl.uk 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

Playback Rewards, a success story in the making

playbackrewards-logoMost of the inventors and entrepreneurs we help in the Business & IP Centre realise that it takes hard work and patience (and some luck) to become successful.

For Alistair Kelman the man behind Playback Rewards it has taken three years of seven day weeks with no holidays.

I have often seen him working in the Centre, and for the past couple of years he has been giving me regular progress reports on his patented invention. These updates have been an alternating mix of positive and negative news, as hurdles appear and then are overcome. Or amazing opportunities arrive, but then disappear again.

Alistair_KelmanThroughout this roller-coaster of events, Alistair has remained positive, and bounced back from setbacks (an essential ingredient for an entrepreneur). He has also taken a flexible and pragmatic approach to commercialising his invention (another necessary requirement – but sadly rather too rare for inventors).

For the last few months I have been waiting for permission from Alistair to talk about his invention on my blog, and now he has given me the green light. I am excited because Playback Rewards has the potential to be our biggest success story so far, by far.

Alistair started working on his ideas for revolutionising television advertising at the Centre at the beginning of 2009. He filed his first patent later that year, which was granted in February 2011. He then worked for months, almost on a daily basis at the Centre, developing, researching and refining the commercialisation of his invention.

In late 2010 Alistair ran out of money for his patent. But managed to persuade Stephen Fry to put in a little to keep the project on the road. As you can see from the video Stephen recorded ???, he liked Alistairs’ ideas and wanted to help. Then on Christmas Day 2011 his company was mentioned in an article in the Sunday Times.

Five months later Playback Holdings Ltd won a place in the semi-finals of the CISCO BIG awards, where it stands the chance of winning $100,000 for the business. Alistair feels that which everyone should know about this amazing programme.

As part of his entry for the CISCO i-prize competition Alistair has made a video Magic in your pocket which explains how the service would work.

On 6 July Playback Holdings Limited starts its Series A  fund-raising via an Financial Services Authority (FSA) approved crowdsourcing  platform called Seedrs. This innovative investment method allows ordinary people to invest between £10 to £100,000 in any of the start-ups on its platform.

The full story behind Playback Rewards, and where they are going is on their website www.playbackrewards.com.

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.

Could you be our new Jewellery Designer in Residence?

artquest-on-whiteWe have had our wonderful Inventor in Residence Mark Sheahan pretty much since we opened in 2006, and he has personally helped over 400 inventors.

More recently we have had our Entrepreneur in Residence Stephen Fear.

And now we are looking for a Jewellery Designer in Residence.

TattyDevine_Crystal_Crown_Necklace

Tatty Devine Crystal Crown Necklace

Together with Artquest we have just announced a new research residency for a mid-career London-based jeweller with at least five years’ practice.

This paid opportunity will help a designer take their work in a new direction, be inspired by the Library’s collections and gain business support.

The successful applicant will receive:

  • A bursary of £3,000 to develop (and potentially commercialise) a new body of work using material from the British Library collections.
  • Access to British Library collections and curators.
  • Access to business and intellectual property advice in the Library’s Business & IP Centre, which helps people to set up, run and grow their own business.
  • Marketing support in relation to their activity undertaken on the residency.

The deadline for applications is Monday 9 July 2012.

Maybe you could be the next Tatty Devine?

You can also contact Frances Taylor if you want to be involved in this, or our other projects targeting the library’s creative audiences.

Could you be the next Business & IP Centre Success Story?

I love hearing and writing about our Success Stories, so it is great to hear that we have created a web page to find even more.

Like all good marketing, becoming a Success Story is a win-win. We get to show how our customers have benefited from our services, and they get great publicity for their business.

To apply, you just need to visit our Success Stories web page. And don’t forget to visit our BIPC YouTube channel to check out the rest.

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBq8JROD0VA]

Success Story: Sheila Holdsworth, Know Knockers

Benefits of being a Business & IP Centre success story

  • Extra promotion for your business and product or service to a wide network
  • Increased exposure for your brand
  • Increased web traffic to your site
  • Opportunity to use promotional images or video for your own advertising purposes
  • Invitations to networking events to meet other like-minded entrepreneurs and key stakeholders
  • Regular contact and updates with Business & IP Centre staff and business partners
  • Highlighted internally at the British Library through internal communications channels such as the staff Intranet or newsletter

Success story guidelines:

  • You must be a registered user of the Centre
  • You should be able to demonstrate that the Centre has played a significant role in the development of your innovation, product or service. Ie. illustrate specific practical advantages from using the Centre and its services.
  • You should have attended at least one workshop (run by either British Library or one of our external partners).
  • Your innovation, product, service must have been launched successfully and your company trading for a minimum of 12 months.
  • You must be able provide evidence of ownership of the IP (e.g. a patent) in the case of a new product or process.
  • The story of your innovation, product or service is likely to be attractive to the press/media in the opinion of the British Library press office.
  • Your product or service displays the best of UK entrepreneurship and innovation in the opinion of the British Library
  • The case studies cover a wide range of different business sectors.
  • The case studies are representative of all entrepreneurs, including women and BAMEs.

Totseat – our Scottish Success Story

totseat logoIt was great to hear from Rachel Jones the inventor and founder of Totseat who are based in Edinburgh.

She told me how the first Totseat was created from her wedding dress (with an understanding husband watching while she chopped it up). This followed on from a disastrous meal out with a small child – and various filthy high-chairs being proffered from the downstairs loo.

Totseat-DenimThe purpose was to create a safe haven from any adult chair for a small child – i.e. replacing a traditional high-chair when none was available, or they are too filthy to use. Rachel created a cotton Totseat from the original silk version, and enlisted the help of a friend to make it child safe. Soon lots of her friends wanted one too.

Being somewhat neurotic, Rachel took safety to heart and enlisted help of BSI test house, paediatricians, physiotherapists and the Child Accident Prevention Trust. With the safety attributes firmly embedded, she made 20 prototypes, with slight variables, (all by hand) and lent them to 20 families – along with a disposable camera – requesting as many testing experiences as possible.

Rachel then visited the British Library Business & IP Centre to see what other brands were ‘out there’ on international basis. As well as looking at trademarks, names, patent and design rights.

Several months and 900 testing experiences later Rachel had a ‘final prototype’, and managed to secure an appointment with John Lewis for a ‘reality check’. But it turned out that John Lewis loved it. Her reaction was, ‘yikes’!

She continued to use the Business & IP Centre for Mintel and Keynote research papers on state of ‘the nation’ (Childcare industry, nursery industry, accessories etc). She found this invaluable, as access to these reports are otherwise totally out of financial reach – and this sort of information remains a key part of their business planning and strategy.

Since going into production four years ago UK growth has been strong in high street stores, and now export growth is surging ahead with 40 plus countries. Totseat is now the leading product in its class, with multiple award wins, recognising its design, and safety attributes.

And now Totseat has been joined by Oobicoo, which was short-listed for Best Soft Toy 2012. The adorable, cuddly, soft toy tot Oobicoo is made from gorgeous soft plush and, at 60cm tall, is the perfect size to be an instant baby brother, sister or best friend.

Rachel describes the British Library as a ‘magnificent mind-space’ whether exploring, befriending or nurturing information for both day to day and strategic business.