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Start or grow a business with the help of your local library

06 January 2021

The Business & IP Centre (BIPC) Norfolk, run by Norfolk County Council’s Library & Information Service, is giving the county’s business community a much-needed boost.

At a particularly challenging time for businesses, your local library isn’t necessarily the first place you’d think of to go for support but that’s exactly what BIPC Norfolk can offer start-ups and small businesses, with most services being free of charge.

BIPC Norfolk is one of 15 regional centres in the British Library’s BIPC Network. Set up initially as the business library, it partnered with the British Library in 2014, and in 2017 became a member of the national network of Patent Libraries (PATLIB), enabling the centre to offer intellectual property (IP) advice.

A survey carried out by the British Library indicated that using the BIPC Network gives businesses a better than average chance of success; on average, of those who had used a BIPC, only one in ten had failed after year three, compared with just under four in ten across the UK.

The main BIPC Norfolk centre is housed on the second floor of the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library with hubs in King’s Lynn, Thetford and Great Yarmouth libraries - and plans for opening three more hubs in the county this year.

Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, Cabinet Member for Communities at Norfolk County Council, said: “The pandemic has had a significant impact on businesses in the region, the extent of which still remains to be seen. It’s often the case that we focus on the big businesses as being the cornerstones of our economy, but it’s the small businesses - which may only generate modest sums - which have a key role in boosting productivity.

“Because our main Business & IP Centre and hubs are based in libraries, it means they’re very accessible to people looking to start or grow a business. We have enhanced our online offering during the pandemic, but we look forward to welcoming back face-to-face advice sessions, workshops and networking sessions when possible.”

Each site has resources to enable you to research initial ideas, reach new customers, consider and research competitors and suppliers, and check whether your IP - including copyright, trademarks, designs and patents - is protected. Expert staff are on hand to guide you to the resources you need, and the sites offer space to work with free access to PCs and the internet. While libraries are closed, many of these services are still available online.

From your home or office, you can search for business books on the library catalogue and download a wide range of business eBooks or, when restrictions allow, reserve items to collect at your nearest branch. BIPC Norfolk also provides access to a great selection of free online subscriptions with up-to date-business information. These include COBRA (Complete Business Reference Advisor), IBISWorld (expert industry market research and FAME (Financial Analysis Made Easy).

Although Covid-19 has triggered the economic challenges which have sadly resulted in many job losses, people are now much more open to the idea of self-employment - and that’s where BIPC Norfolk can help.

Find out how BIPC Norfolk can help you start or grow a business at www.norfolk.gov.uk/bipcnorfolk or email bipcnorfolk@norfolk.gov.uk.

Case study - Evie-May Ellis, founder of Heart Street

You’d never believe that Evie-May Ellis never used to like cooking. The founder of Heart Street, a vegan street food catering company in Well-next-the-Sea, explains how she launched the business in 2019:

“I always knew I wanted to run my own business. From the garden tours of Mum’s flowerbeds to my Open University Business Degree, I loved to organise and execute plans and to learn about the processes of ‘business’.

“Working my way through several jobs, I fell in love with hospitality and worked my way to management. During this time, I became vegan and started triathlon training. This combination fuelled my love for food as I saw how it could make me stronger and fitter.

“The natural development was to quit my very well-paid job, take all my savings and get into debt to launch a very niche street food business in rural Norfolk.

“Although I run Heart Street by myself, I never would have been able to get this far without the amazing support of my friends and family and the resources available to me through organisations including NWES and BIPC Norfolk.

“I was provided with information on BIPC Norfolk and the amazing services they offered. There was a wealth of support and contacts to offer advice, and many courses available. I specifically participated in any social media focused training. The most beneficial interaction came from a one-on-one with an accountant during my first year of trading. Without that meeting, which was completely free through BIPC, I would never have financially survived my first year, let alone ended with some sort of profit!

“In 2019 I was lucky enough to speak at the BIPC King’s Lynn hub about my experience as a budding entrepreneur - a truly lovely experience and just one of the many amazing opportunities I have had. I cannot express enough the importance of organisations like this for hopeful entrepreneurs, especially in such rural areas.

“Starting your own business is not something to be taken lightly. Freak global pandemics aside, there are so many hard times involved, far more than I ever imagined, but it’s one of the best things you will ever decide to do.”

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