British Library’s business centre launches new growth programme for small firms | City & Business | Finance

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Its Business & IP Centre’s Innovation for Growth initiative is a three month programme for entrepreneurs and comes with £10,000 worth of specialist advice for the firms selected to take part.  

The project is match-funded by the British Library and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Over the past five years the 300 plus businesses who have completed it now have a combined turnover of over £125 million.

Applications (deadline December 8) are now open for the next session which runs from January to March next year.

The 20 chosen businesses need to have been trading for over a year and ideally employing staff either full or part time or on contracts. 

The topics featured include developing growth and marketing strategies, refining your business model, product and service innovation, building a brand, maximising your intellectual property and using business and market intelligence profitably. 

Each participant will also have access to an information professional who will help them use the Business & IP Centre’s research resources, which amounts to £5 million of global business databases and market reports, to identify new opportunities. 

Firms become an automatic member of the Growth Club where budding entrepreneurs can exchange ideas, advice and find future business partners as well as take part in meet-the-buyer events, where topics also include how to tender and get into the British Library’s shop. 

During the course of the programme every small business owner develops a growth plan to direct their company’s commercial strategy and plot expansion opportunities.  

Lavinia Davolio, founder of confectionary boutique Lavolio, recently took the course and recalls of her time: “When I first entered the programme I did not know what to expect. My three-year-old business had enjoyed a very fast growth period; I was selling to Fortnum & Mason, Ocado, on Amazon Launchpad and in more than 200 premium independent stockists across England, Scotland and Wales. 

“With hindsight, I can now see that joining the programme could not have come at a better time. With our business foundations built, and our products receiving some incredible early feedback, the next question was ‘how do we scale up?’ 

“As a founder, I faced many challenging decisions on our operations, marketing, branding and product innovation, and I felt that every aspect was covered in the programme, helping me to make more informed decisions in order to move the company in the right direction. 

“We have learned how to keep doing what we do really well and to maintain our values and strengthen our business model to ensure we are ready for such steep growth. In turn, we have seen a tangible effect on our strategy and on the way that we now prioritise different activities.”

For Richard Sinclair, founder of ski travel company SNO, said: “Innovating for Growth was the lens which helped focus our plans.  When you’re starting out the very specific coaching in discrete areas such as product development, branding and marketing helps to crystalise your often amorphous BHAGs (big-hairy-audacious-goals) into more practical and immediately actionable insights… 

“One of the key markers of success in an entrepreneur is to “execute” again and again, all day, all week, month in and month out.  Innovating for Growth gives you the tools to keep delivering on your vision. I would recommend this programme to any entrepreneur, but especially those less experienced in leading and growing a business, as it gives you the know-how and tools in a short space of time, which are usually garnered through a lifetime of trial and error.”

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